‘Do the Right Thing’: Hanover Brothers Keep Their Father Close to Them
The Geraghtys lost their father, Peter, to a heart attack four years ago, but he is remembered on helmets decals and the team's warmup shirts. Valley News - Tris Wykes
Hanover High lacrosse players George, left, and Teddy Geraghty rest at halftime of their team's April 14, 2014, game against visiting Champlain Valley. George, a freshman, and Teddy, a senior, lost their father, Peter, to a heart attack four years ago but he is remembered on helmets decals and the team's warmup shirts. Valley News - Tris Wykes
Hanover — When the Hanover High boys lacrosse team takes the field today in an NHIAA Division I quarterfinal playoff game against visiting Nashua North, the Marauders will be a man up from the opening whistle. No penalty will have been called and the hosts will, per rule, send nine field players and a goaltender into competition. But many Hanover players will take with them a memento of Peter Richard Geraghty.
The late father of Marauders Teddy and George Geraghty, Peter died of a heart attack on Jan. 14, 2011, while skiing with his boys in Maine. The 54-year-old Baltimore native is survived by four other sons and Norah, his wife of 30 years. Ever since, most of Hanover’s lacrosse helmets have borne small shamrock decals with “PG” in the middle. Those same initials have often graced a sleeve of the player’s shooting shirts.
The Geraghtys had lived in the Upper Valley for only 18 months when Peter died, but the man described by his wife as “a force of nature” left an indelible impression on almost all he met in the region. That he continues to be memorialized is even more impressive given the fact that, as a Wall Street banker, he was often able to spend only a few days a week with his family at their Etna home.
“He was the hardest worker I’ve ever met,” said Charlie Geraghty, the family’s fourth son and a former Hanover standout who continues to play at St. Anselm College. “Whenever we had a tough decision to make or we got in trouble, he would tell us ‘Do the right thing.’ It was such a simple and powerful statement, and it’s the way we’ve all been raised.”
Peter rarely rested when home. In the winter, he rousted the boys in the early morning to go skiing and snowboarding. In the summer, at the family’s house on Cape Cod, the drill was the same, but for fishing expeditions. Any player on the boys’ sports teams knew they could pile into the Geraghtys’ car for rides to practices and games. The more the merrier, especially when the alleged old guy at the wheel could needle you and take a joke like he was a teenager himself.
“He had such a zest for life, and he found fun in everything,” Norah said. “He always had a plan for the next thing and although he was very good at his job, it was a means to an end so he could be home. He was hoping to retire soon and be with his family, but unfortunately, he didn’t get to live out his plan.”
The eldest Geraghty son, Ciaran, is 29 and working with his mother to open a bed and breakfast later this year on Norwich’s Main Street. Second is Brendan, 27, a former U.S. Marine who’s studying at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Danny, 24, and the next in line, currently serves in the Marines and Charlie, 21, recently completed his junior year at St. Anselm.
Teddy, 18, is a Hanover senior headed to St. Lawrence University, an undersized defenseman whose intensity and diligent improvement on his agility and speed made him a college prospect.
George, 16, is a Marauder sophomore, a bit of a dreamer but a wickedly skilled and quick attackman who occasionally brings practice to a halt with the ridiculous plays he executes.
Peter and Norah met when she left her native Leeds, England, to spend a year in Columbia, Md., as an 18-year-old exchange student. A connection was made during a school field trip to a maze in Virginia and the two sustained a long-distance romance that saw them each spend time in the other’s country as college students, marry in England and initially settle in Boston. That was followed by five years in England, where their two older boys grew up and competed in soccer, rugby and tennis.
Upon moving to suburban Washington, D.C., and spending 10 years there, the family discovered lacrosse and dove in. Danny was the first player, Charlie was a mid-level performer on a standout youth team and Teddy and George had sticks in their hands before they started elementary school. So from a sports perspective, news of a 2010 move to Etna brought a lot of questions.
One of Peter Geraghty’s graduate school friends lived in Cornish and the family had often visited the region. But moving there meant making new friends and fitting in to a different scene. Charlie, 15, was especially unhappy, but he took his father’s advice that he go out for football, so that he’d know some of his peers before school started. Despite having never played the sport, Charlie was on the team for three years. But, as it is for he and his two younger brothers, lacrosse always came first.
“I knew we had struck gold when I first met them, because they were obviously a lacrosse family,” said Hanover High boys lacrosse coach Jeff Reed. “They’d all been exposed to a lot of high-level lacrosse and their stick skills were excellent.”
Peter got Charlie involved in the Tomahawks club program in southern New Hampshire and worked to make the Hanover youth teams better. Teddy and George used those squads as a springboard to the Tomahawks. At the same time, their father urged many of their friends to do the same, providing encouragement and transportation for summer and fall workouts and games. Attending the NCAA Division I semifinals and finals in Baltimore became an annual excursion.
“You see Peter’s commitment to the game in his boys,” said Bishop Guertin High coach Chris Cameron, a Tomahawks and youth coach outside of the high school season. “There are people who don’t want to make a 20-minute drive to practice, but he’d be willing to make the trip from Hanover to Derryfield in a blink. His kids never missed anything.”
Cameron has coached Bishop Guertin to four consecutive NHIAA Division I titles and despite that success, has encountered his share of parents complaining about playing time or their boy not getting the ball. He connected with Peter Geraghty, not just because of lacrosse and because they were both Lehigh University graduates, but because the older man was relentlessly upbeat.
“It was refreshing to talk to him because he didn’t just want his own kids to get better, but all the kids from the Upper Valley,” Cameron said. “Hanover’s youth program is not what it was a few years ago, and that’s because you’re seeing the affect of losing Peter.”
Peter’s last day found him on the slopes at the Sugarloaf Mountain ski resort in Kingfield, Maine, about a four-hour drive from Hanover. He didn’t feel particularly well and was sweating profusely as he readied his gear in a hotel room, causing Norah, who doesn’t ski, to ask him to reconsider. But Peter had promised the two youngest boys he’d go and didn’t want to disappoint them.
Teddy and George were with him at the top of a trail and took off on the last run of the day, assuming they’d meet their father at the bottom.
When their father didn’t show up, the boys went back to the hotel, showered and were watching television.
Norah, guessing Peter was at the lodge, called his cell phone. A policeman answered and asked that she come to the resort’s health clinic. From there, events began to blur. Peter had suffered a fatal heart attack before ever embarking on that last run.
Norah was gone for what seemed like hours when a priest came to bring the boys to her. They suspected something had befallen their father, but hadn’t fully contemplated that it could be death.
Norah didn’t know how to break the news to the boys. “I could tell something was very wrong and it almost felt like a dream,” George said. “I was almost expecting it, but I didn’t think she’d actually say the words, and then she did.”
Charlie, a Hanover High senior, was back at the Etna house and called Norah that evening to check in. Teddy answered the phone and would say only that he, his mother and brother were coming home a day early, and then ended the call.
Frantic, Charlie called back for hours, but there was no answer. As horrible as it was to leave him hanging, Norah and the boys had decided they couldn’t break the news of his father’s death over the phone.
A nearly endless night ensued. George cried himself to sleep, but Teddy made his distraught mother cups of tea as the hours crept past. Part of his mind waited for his father to walk through the hotel room door, part of it grappled with the realization of how suddenly life can change.
“You have no control and nothing to do and there’s just silence,” Norah recalled.
A helpful couple volunteered to help drive the Geraghtys home, where Charlie had spent his own sleepless night, a dark premonition forming in his mind. Ciaran had come home from work and tried to reassure his younger brother, but Charlie knew their lives had changed.
“I was always a worried, cautious kid and everything ran through my head,” he said.
The next morning, a strange van pulled into the driveway, followed by Norah’s car. Teddy and George walked into the house, but didn’t look at Charlie. Norah gathered the boys in the living room and broke the news to Charlie and Ciaran. The three youngest boys didn’t attend school for a week.
The outpouring of support the family received was overwhelming. Two months later, friends were still showing up with prepared meals and to clean the house. Peter not only had connections to Hanover’s youth and high school football and lacrosse programs, but had worked tirelessly with the Whaleback Ski Area to try and keep it financially afloat. Even those who had met him only once or twice were deeply touched by his passing and how it affected his family.
A few months later, Reed and assistant Chris Carroll decided to decorate their players’ helmets and shooting shirts with Peter’s initials and to make “Family” the 2011 squad’s slogan. The players shouted the word at the end of each practice and game, but more importantly, they lived its meaning with unwavering support for Charlie and Teddy.
“Usually, it would be parents asking if they were OK, but in this case the kids made sure they were never alone,” Reed said. “Just being there and playing video games or whatever, it’s not as awkward that way.”
Teddy wasn’t so sure about the memorial decals at first. He was already dealing with his peers’ perceptions and reactions at school and opponents and fans were bound to ask about his father’s initials when they saw them.
“I didn’t really want to talk about it as a freshman,” Teddy said. “People want to sympathize with you and you don’t want them to look at you differently. But my dad and lacrosse have done so much for us that we almost owe it to them to preserve his memory.”
George and Charlie affixed patches of white athletic tape to the bottom of their facemasks and wrote Peter’s initials on them in black marker. To this day, it’s the first thing Charlie does whenever St. Anselm issues him a new helmet.
“Kids would ask me about it and I’d feel uncomfortable but not enough to take it off,” George said. “I’d just say it’s for my dad and usually they wouldn’t say anything more.”
The thing is, there’s so much more to say about Peter Geraghty, a Baltimore native from a musical family who played trumpet in the NFL Colts’ marching band as a child and who tended goal for the club ice hockey team at Lehigh. He studied at Arizona’s renowned Thunderbird International Business School, Paris’ Sorbonne University and Belgium’s College of Europe, then had a distinguished banking career as an emerging markets specialist and trader.
Peter’s best times, however, were spent in a fishing boat off Cape Cod, or hiking with friends or ferrying a carload of sweaty, silly boys and their malodorous lacrosse gear all over the East Coast. Watching Teddy, at one time an elite snowboarder, soar through the air, or teasing George to work up the courage to bounce off a trampoline and into a pond at the family’s Etna house.
“He was a ball buster, but in the best possible way,” Charlie said. “Anytime we’re down at the Cape and I look out our back bay window at the view, I can always picture him on the brick patio, working on the grill and everyone else is playing volleyball.”
It’s the American Dream, isn’t it? To be smart enough and work hard enough to provide well for your family and to be a mentor and friend to your children and their friends. To have a beautiful wife and a successful career. But it’s not supposed to end so early, and Reed tries to gently remind his players that nothing should be taken for granted.
“Every so often I bring (Peter Geraghty’s death) up to the team,” Reed said. “I’ll tie it to the importance of family and how it’s an example that life can be fleeting. I tell them to tell their parents they love them, but you don’t know how much of the warm and fuzzy stuff they retain.”
Norah Geraghty and her boys remember that they were loved and encouraged by a man who left his mark on so many people in so many ways. Norah is surrounded by a fiercely protective but seriously funny sextet, young men who have fought for their country, are dedicated students and who represent their school with class and dignity. If only Peter were here to see it all, but fate tends to distribute imperfect gifts.
“You have a part of you missing and it’s hard to function and feel you’re the same person,” Teddy Geraghty said. “It’s not something you ever stop thinking about, but it’s something you definitely learn to live with.
“As much as it sucks, I know my dad would kick my ass if he knew I wanted to feel sorry for myself all the time.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.