Bowling for Pedroli

RichKeyboard“We’ll do it all again next week.”

It was our ritual goodbye on Saturday night — Sunday morning actually by that point, since it was usually after 1 a.m. when the final  Sunday edition was finally checked to his satisfaction and officially “in bed” and rolling off the presses. I was sitting at my desk in the features department finishing up yet another health story after deadline.

It was late September and we had many Saturday nights ahead of us. Most nights he’d walk me out to my car so no late night mugger (or, more likely, a skunk or stray moose) who chose the unlikely area of the MetroWest Daily News parking lot to stake out would surprise me. We’d gab in the parking lot, even though we’d just spent a 10 hour shift doing just that, before finally getting in our cars and driving home, me to Grafton, him to Milford.

“We’ll do it all again next week.”

I don’t remember when I actually met Rich Pedroli. One day he was just there in the newsroom, a big bearded bear of a guy, hired away from the Woonsocket Call sports desk to head up the copy desk at MetroWest. He’d mock me for being from Bellingham. He’d roar with curses at seeing the news budget (“We have no space and no stories!”) and then make it work (“Sometimes you just have to make chicken salad out of chicken shit!”). Human resources probably would have had a field day with the stories he told. He’d pull new reporters aside for a pep talk; he’d be brutally honest when needed, full of praise when warranted.

He wore away the letters on more than one keyboard by typing furiously, using just two fingers. After deadline, he’d grab a Sharpie and carefully re-ink the letters, but it was a lost cause. Rich was just tough on keyboards.

“We’ll do it all again next week.”

There’s a shrine in the newsroom now, hanging in the central pod where Rich spent most of his nights. I always meant to get a picture of it. We put his last keyboard under glass alongside a photo of Rich back in 2006, just weeks after Rich, 44, died of a sudden heart attack while out walking.

(“There’s no such thing as died suddenly,” he’d fume while editing obituaries. “There are no unexpected deaths. Everyone dies. That’s expected.”)

I’m thinking about Rich this morning, as I generally do at this time of year, because my email coughed up the notice that Sunday is the 3rd annual Rich Pedroli Memorial Bowl, which his family and friends established in his memory to fund the Richard J. Pedroli, Jr. Foundation. It provides $1,000 scholarships to would-be journalists from Milford and Woonsocket high schools.

As usual, I have to bail on the Pedroli Bowl, for a reason Rich, as a longtime sports writer, would appreciate: Pedroli Bowl always conflicts with Little League opening day here in Grafton.  Should you be in a bowling frame of mind, Pedroli Bowl is Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ficco’s Bowladrome, 300 East Central Street, Franklin.  A $20 donation (adults), $10 donation (children 12 and under) includes two strings of bowling, shoes, refreshments, and a raffle entry.

Why bowling? Back in the day, Rich appeared on “Candlepins for Cash.” Last year we found a bunch of old clips of his time on the show on YouTube. It was probably the only time I’ve ever misted up watching bowling. Rich would have made fun of me for that.

“We’ll do it all again next week.”

We didn’t. The next Saturday was his funeral. I should have finished that health story earlier, walked out to the parking lot for one last gab session. How was I supposed to know? Rich always told me “sudden death” was just a sports term.

To donate to the foundation, make checks payable to the Richard J. Pedroli, Jr. Foundation, c/o Milford Federal Savings and Loan, P.O. Box 210, 246 Main Street, Milford, MA 01757.

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