Meet the Hattie Brown Award Recipient for the 228th Fourth of July Celebration -
Edmund P. “Hector” Massa
Written by Manuel C. "Manny" Correira
Everybody loves Hector. There’s not a single person on the face of this Earth who will tell you otherwise. Hector Massa is a name that has been synonymous with children and athletics for as long as anyone can remember.
Where do you start telling a story of a local sports hero who went on to become bigger than life, not only as a three-sport star and All-Stater at the former Colt Memorial High School, but later, as the beloved and well-respected athletic director at the old Bristol YMCA; director of the highly popular Camp Hess Day Camp on Hog Island; and finally, the full-time athletic director at Roger Williams University.Photo: Hattie Brown Award Recipient Hector (left) recieving a Commemorative Print from Committee Member Judy Squires at the announcement.
“I guess I’ve had a career that I can be proud of,” Hector said, in somewhat of an understatement. “No matter where I’ve worked, kids have always been the most important thing to me. I was like a second father to many of them.”
Many people probably would never recognize Hector by his real name… Edmund P. Massa. He got the nickname as a youngster from a local priest, who coined him, “Little Hector.”
Coming from a large family, Hector had to scrap for everything in life. He was a naturally gifted athlete as a youngster, and learned much by following the sports lines of local legends like John Andrade, Sr., John “Foxy” Marshall, Fortunato “Fishy” Caruso, Robert “Buddy” Congdon and Marty Biancuzzo, among others. He played baseball, basketball and football, with baseball being his favorite pastime.
While at Colt Memorial, Hector earned a then record 11 varsity letters in three sports (baseball, basketball and football) and was one of the first ninth graders to come down to the new Andrews School to compete on the varsity in 1939. He earned All-Division in the three sports he competed in, and was a first team All-State selection in baseball as a third baseman and catcher. He is a 1985 inductee in the Bristol Athletic Hall of Fame.
At graduation, Hector received the Bristol High School Athletic Council Trophy, symbolic of athletic and academic excellence. From there, he entered Springfield College and was working on a degree in physical education when World War II broke out. He decided to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard and served his country admirably.
In 1950, he got a tremendous break when he succeeded good friend, Anthony E. Agatiello, as physical education director at the Bristol YMCA. This would open up doors he never realized and start a warm and caring relationship with countless young kids in town.
Hector used the Bristol Y to his advantage in keeping kids off the streets.
“As a boy growing up in Bristol during the 1950s, I first attended the Y and quickly learned that Hector was the one person who was going to teach us about sports and respect,” said Bristol’s Manny Pasqual. “As with many other boys, it became a safe haven for enjoying sports, social life, and other table games that kept me off the streets and out of trouble. I respect Hector as much today as I did then. Every boy has a hero to look up to when growing up… Hector was mine.”
Those were such rewarding years for me,” noted Hector. “I met so many wonderful young kids. Many of them are still close friends with me today.”
In addition to spending countless hours working at the Y, Hector thrived as director of the YMCA Day Camp on Hog Island. Everyone called Hector, “Hector, Sir!” He taught swimming, led the children every day in calisthenics, and taught them to love and respect nature in a primitive outdoor environment.
The children would line up early on the sidewalk in front of the Y on Hope Street and march down regimentally to the beat of a drum. Waiting anxiously at the Church Street Dock, was the late Capt. Manny Sousa, who watched the kids board the Prudence Ferry for the trip to Hog Island.
“I enjoyed this part of my YMCA experience more than you’ll ever know,” said Hector, “I loved every one of these children as if they were my very own.”
For 22 years, Hector Massa thoroughly enjoyed his role at the Bristol Y, including the late 1960s, when he helped realize a longtime dream: the addition of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Ironically, it was this same indoor pool which helped him get a job at then Roger Williams College.
“I gave President Ralph Gauvey his first swimming lessons at the Y,” said Hector. “He enjoyed that so much and was so appreciative.” As fate would have it, Hector would become the next athletic director at the College.
When Hector got to Roger Williams as the new AD (succeeding Tom Drennan in 1972), the college campus nowhere resembled its current state.
During his 16 years at Roger Williams, Hector built the sports program to include 16 varsity sports for men and women, including, sailing, equestrian and a variety of club and recreational sports programs. He also started the Roger Williams College Day Camp.
When Hector retired from Roger Williams in 1988, he left behind a legacy which is still a part of the fabric of the University community today
Native Bristolian Michael T. Byrnes, said it best: “Bristol is a community in the true sense of that term. Our town is marked by strong families, hardworking people, numerous churches, great civic associations and concerned citizens who make worthy role models for our youth and for all members of our town. Hector Massa stands out as one of those bigger than life role models who had a positive impact of several generations of Bristol youth.”
It is my pleasure once again to present the 2013 Hattie Brown Award recipient, Edmund P. “Hector” Massa.