Michael T. Kearney built a legendary career in sports across multiple communities including Revere, Malden, Chelsea, and Everett.
Mr. Kearney, a popular youth coach in Revere sports, most notably as an assistant on Lou Cicatelli’s RHS staff for more than a decade, died on Feb. 25. Mr. Kearney, who had been living in Everett for several years, was 91.
A terrific football player at Malden Catholic High School and Northeastern University, Mr. Kearney above all loved coaching kids.
“We are saddened by this loss to our football program and our community,” said Cicatelli. “Mike was a staunch supporter and a coach for many years. He helped us with the running backs at Revere High School and I know he helped out coaching in other Revere sports as well. Just a nice, nice guy who was as knowledgeable about football as they come and a tremendous person to have around inspiring and being a positive influence for our student-athletes.”
Cicatelli recalled how he would call on Mr. Kearney during games for on-the-spot rules interpretations.
“Once thing about Mike, I could always lean on him if I wasn’t sure about a rule and I had a question,” said Cicatelli. “Mike knew all the rules inside and out.”
Cicatelli said even though Mr. Kearney was unable to coach during Revere’s championship season in 2019, he would show up at Revere High games and take a seat near the sidelines and encourage the players to excel and give it their best.
“He was just an all-around, solid guy,” said Cicatelli. “He loved the kids and he loved Revere football.”
A football star at Malden Catholic and Northeastern
Mr. Kearney himself was a hard-nosed and exceptionally talented player himself at Malden Catholic High School, graduating in 1947. He was a running back and what he lacked in size, he made up in heart, competitiveness and determination.
“I was kind of small, so I didn’t get any college offers,” Mr. Kearney said in a recent interview with the Revere Journal. “I went to work for a couple of years and then a guy that worked at Northeastern recommended me, so I got a college scholarship to Northeastern.”
Mr. Kearney entered Northeastern in 1949 became a 5-foot, 9-inch, 180-pound fullback for the Huskies, starring on the undefeated 1951 team.
“I was the smallest fullback in the history of Northeastern,” Mr. Kearney often told friends at alumni reunions.
A former 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound Northeastern fullback once said to Mr. Kearney, “Gee, you were awfully small to be a fullback,” to which Mr. Kearney replied humbly, “But I was awfully good.”
Mr. Kearney said he wasn’t pleased when Northeastern decided to drop its football program in 2009.
A veteran of the U.S. Army
Mr. Kearney was born at Chelsea Memorial Hospital in 1929. He grew up in Everett and attended Our Lady of Grace School on the Chelsea-Everett line. He enrolled at Malden Catholic High School and received his degree from Northeastern in 1954.
He served in the United States Army from 1954 to 1956 and was stationed in Germany. After serving his country, he went to work at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.
He returned to football with the semi-professional South Boston Chippewaws who competed in the Boston Park League. He later joined his fellow Northeastern alumni and played for the St. Paul’s team into his 30s.
Adding to his football experiences, he took the state referees’ exam and aced the test, thus becoming a certified football official.
Mr. Kearney and his wife moved to Pennsylvania for two years and he became a member of the powerful Philadelphia Flat Irons softball team.
He returned to the Boston area and lived in Medford for a couple of years before purchasing a home in Revere.
A softball legend
When fast pitch softball was king in Chelsea and the league packed the stands nightly at the old Carter Park, there was no bigger personality in the league than Mike Kearney. He was the rugged, no-nonsense catcher for the New Bridge Café, teaming up with the incredible strikeout king, right-handed fireballer Eddie McCarthy as the league’s top battery. Mr. Kearney’s son, Michael, would often attend his father’s games, sometimes serving as the New Bridge Café team batboy.
Mr. Kearney arrived in Chelsea as a highly accomplished player who had helped the Irish-American softball team of Everett win multiple state championships.
Becoming a coach
Mr. Kearney started coaching high school football in 1994 at Savio Prep on the staff of Head Coach Gavin Monagle. He was the Spartans’ running backs coach until the school closed its doors.
He coached for one season for Coach Joe Gaff’s Malden Catholic football team and took a job in Revere as an assistant football coach in 2006.
Mr. Kearney had some excellent backs in Revere, but he considered Trae Weathers (Shriners Game Offensive MVP) among the best he ever coached.
He often said he was grateful to Lou Cicatelli for allowing him the opportunity to coach in his later years. Everyone valued Mr. Kearney’s experience and amazing knowledge of the game and Mr. Kearney helped the players learn lessons they would carry forward onto college and in their careers.
Mr. Kearney said he knew it was time to retire as a coach when he was unable to physically take to the practice field and show the players blocking techniques.
But in the ensuing years he maintained his association with Revere football as a supporter with a specially reserved seating area adjacent to the sidelines.
A close-knit, hard-working family
Mr. Kearney had three children, Michael J. Kearney and his wife, Terri, Theresa Toma and her husband, Gerson, and the late Mark Kearney and his surviving wife, Sharon. Mr. Kearney’s son, Mark, passed away in 2018, at the age of 50.
“He was a great kid and I loved him so much,” said Mr. Kearney in an interview.
Michael J. Kearney just turned 60. A 1979 Revere High School graduate, Michael is well-known in Everett as a superb event photographer and disc jockey for weddings, parties, and all kinds of celebrations.
Mr. Kearney would joyfully accompany his son during his professional photography assignments at local sports events.
Michael’s daughter, Tamara Kearney, brought her grandfather tremendous pride and happiness during her record-setting, 12-varsity letter career in soccer, basketball, and track at Everett High School. Mr. Kearney was a fixture at Everett High games and followed Tamara’s continuing accomplishments during her soccer career at Emerson College.
The Kearney grandchildren are currently making waves in New Hampshire high school sports with Matthew Kearney a highly regarded as a Division 1 college soccer prospect. His brother, Joseph Kearney, is also a rising soccer star at Windham High School.
Asked how he was so successful in coaching and other sporting endeavors, Mr. Kearney would tell his wide spectrum of admirers, “I just tried my best.”
The local community has a lot a great man and sportsman in Mr. Michael T. Kearney.
A visitation and prayer service will be held for Mr. Kearney on at Salvatore Rocco and Sons Funeral Home on Saturday, March 6.