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WILL MCDONOUGH | 1935-2003

Loss of a legend

One of life's giants touched the lives of countless others

Lunchtime was a rumor to the nocturnal creatures who subsisted on a constant diet of caffeine, nicotine, and adrenaline while toiling into the wee hours putting out the Boston Globe back in the pre-Surgeon General's Warning days of the late '50s. So Ernie Roberts, a reporter for the Globe's evening incarnation, was somewhat taken aback while strolling through the sports department one noon when he encountered the co-op kid striding purposefully past him.

Roberts knew that Will McDonough was one of the Northeastern night owls who provided indispensable assistance on the late shift shagging coffee, copy, and telephoned tips and tidbits for the staffers. What could possibly bring him into the building at this ungodly hour?

''I'm going in to see about getting a full-time job,'' explained McDonough.

Roberts quickly surveyed the applicant. And took pity. ''Why don't you go home,'' he gently suggested, knowing McDonough lived just down the road, ''and put on a shirt and tie first?''

McDonough did a cursory self-inspection. Sweater, sans shirt. Jeans. Sneakers. Everything looked fine to him.

''I think I'll just stay like this,'' he told Roberts.

Values instilled

Joe O'Donnell cringed at the sight of the piece of filth his father showed him. Joe was an All-Scholastic football and baseball player at Malden Catholic at the start of the '60s. His dad, an Everett cop, had been searching the bench area for lost articles after a game. This ratty, tattered article - presumably a coat at one time - looked more abandoned than lost; it was on the ground only because some self-respecting trash can probably had spit it back out.

But, unbelievably, it had identification sewn in it: ''Property of Will McDonough, 326 Dorchester St., South Boston.''

O'Donnell recognized the name, for McDonough had been recording his exploits while handling the high school sports beat for the Globe. But the young athlete couldn't believe anyone would admit to ownership, let alone publicize it. Still, a call was placed to the McDonough residence, where ''he was still living with his mother,'' says O'Donnell. And before the O'Donnells could delouse or discard this ancient ruin of which they had become reluctant caretakers, McDonough was at their door near Everett Square to reclaim it.

''He took a train and a bus to get it,'' says O'Donnell, still amazed and aghast at the memory.

Unique style

The face was right out of a Southie barroom brawl. The voice belonged on a cast recording of ''Guys and Dolls.'' And the fashion sense, as Ernie Roberts and Joe O'Donnell could attest, was ... well, unparalleled. But Roberts, who went on to become the Globe sports editor and later a columnist, and O'Donnell, now a multifaceted tycoon, discovered a far more profound truth way back when:   Continued...

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