They range in age from 12 to 100, and their interests vary from advocating for social justice to modern-day influencing on the internet. These 25 individuals were chosen by the Daily News staff as the most unique newsmakers in the region for 2019.
They range in age from 12 to 100, and their interests vary from advocating for social justice to modern-day influencing on the internet. The following 25 individuals, in alphabetical order, were chosen by the Daily News staff as the most unique newsmakers in the region for 2019:
Vincent Alfano, Ashland. A former police lieutenant in Framingham (where he also served as the department’s public information officer) and chief in Bolton who retired in 2015, Alfano was named Ashland’s interim chief in March, then got the permanent job in July after Town Manager Michael Herbert credited him with “reinvigorating” the department. Alfano earned instant goodwill within the ranks after moving the chief’s office from a satellite station to the main station, and he figures to be a steady hand as Ashland moves to build a new public safety building – Alfano experienced a similar transition while in Bolton.
Pat Caruso, Marlborough. You think Tom Brady’s old for a football player? He’s got nothing on Caruso, who’s 57. He started kicking for the Marlborough Shamrocks football team as a senior at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School. That was in 1980. He lasted 10 seasons, then walked away from the game for 18 years. He came back to football in 2007 as a 45-year-old with the Metrowest Colonials. Later, he came full circle, returning to the Shamrocks, and kicked for them – strictly extra points – this past season as a 57-year-old.
James Casey, Natick. A May graduate of MassBay Community College, Casey was among 12 students from across the world (1,600 applicants) accepted into Harvard as a transfer. The acceptance rate for transfer students at Harvard is less than 1%. The 24-year-old Marine Corps veteran began the rigorous application process last winter at the urging of his communications professor, Carolyn Guttilla. “She said if anyone has the chance it would be me,” said Casey. “The worst thing that could happen was they’d say no.” Casey is studying psychology.
Robin Chalfin, Natick. The next time you watch a movie, pay attention to what its stars are wearing. There’s a chance Robin Chalfin had something to do with how stylish they look. She’s a tailor for high-end clients and movie stars. Her most recent job was “Key Tailor” in the recently released Hollywood who-done-it drama “Knives Out.” Chalfin describes her work as being like a fly on the wall. “I step in when needed, do my job, then step out,” she said.
Joe Chan, Medway. He’s actually a West Roxbury resident, but Chan is owner of Medway Lotus, a Chinese restaurant. Thanks to him, his staff and fellow West Roxbury resident Kristina Jerome, sick children at Boston Children’s Hospital don’t have to settle for just pizza night. On the first Wednesday of each month, Chan and his staff cook $800 to $1,000 worth of Chinese food and load it into Jerome’s van. She then delivers it to the hospital, serving nearly 100 children with cancer and their families. And Medway Lotus customers have noticed. “People keep telling me, ‘I’m happy for you guys and what you’re doing,’” Chan said.
Bill Coleman. In February 1989, the General Motors assembly plant in Framingham closed, putting 2,100 people out of work. Some left Massachusetts to work in other GM facilities, while others chose to remain in the area and find employment with another company. The plant, at 63 Western Ave., is now an ADESA auto auction lot. Coleman, a retired GM worker who lives in Worcester, has been instrumental in trying to get Framingham to build a museum honoring those who worked at the now-closed plant. Coleman said he wants to build the museum near the ADESA site, and plans to make it a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. During a United Auto Workers local chapter meeting in June, 68 members voted to support building the museum in Framingham.
Nadine Cordon, Holliston. For the past 41 years, the Cordon family has been keeping a unique Christmas tradition alive. After Christmas dinner, the family grabs pencils and draws holiday characters on a plain white tablecloth. Nadine, 73, then embroiders the drawings so they forever become part of the tablecloth – and the family Christmas tradition. The family has created more than 200 drawings spanning two tablecloths and they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
Mira Donaldson, Framingham. She’s a senior at Framingham High School who is president of the school’s Black Student Union. Earlier this year, she received a 2019 Leadership in Diversity Award during the 27th annual John P. Garrahan MetroWest Community Prayer Breakfast, where she was honored for her work in leading teachers through a professional development session that brought the experiences of African-American students to the fore. More recently, the Black Student Union hosted a community forum on use of the “N-word,” as the club has launched a movement to educate and “create boundaries for use of the N-Word.”
Lisa Duarte, Milford. She’s a visual art teacher at Milford’s Woodland Elementary School who brings community service into the classroom. Among other things, her students make Valentine’s Day cards for senior centers/assisted living facilities and decorated bags for grocery stores around Thanksgiving. “What better way to put a smile on someone’s face than with a decorated shopping bag made by a child,” Duarte wrote in an email. “I believe it is a great way to share the student’s art with the community.”
Caroline Frankel, Uxbridge and Hopedale. She’s owner of Caroline’s Cannabis in Uxbridge, one of the first retail marijuana stores in the state and the first female-owned store. Frankel said she would like to eventually have up to three licensed marijuana retail businesses statewide, which is the maximum allowed under state law for each licensed category of business. “I want to build a brand in Massachusetts,” she said. She’s got her eye on Hopedale.
Lorenna Gomes, Framingham. This 28-year-old is sent kits, bottles and threads of various international and local beauty and fashion products – and she doesn’t have to pay for any of it. But it’s not just free stuff, she says. “It’s a job.” That’s because Gomes, who is bilingual (English and Portuguese), is a paid “influencer” on social media, chiefly through minute-long Instagram videos. In two years, her number of followers has skyrocketed from 500 to 118,000.
Jordan “Crimz” Herzog, Sudbury. This 16-year-old is literally one of the best Fortnite players in the world. He and partner Zach Gifford, 18, of Texas, earned $100,000 by placing 17th in the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals duos in Queens, New York, last summer. A former student at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, Jordan now studies online at TEC Connections Academy. He also practices Fortnite 5 to 8 hours daily.
Ann Karnofsky, Hopkinton. She was “kind of a prodigy” as a child on the piano. Karnofsky, now 76, later played chamber music with the Tamarack Trio. In the 1970s, the group played on WGBH radio’s “A Note to You” program with Judith Shapiro (violin) and Corrine Flavin (cello). Last year (at one point, Karnofsky hadn’t played in 16 years), Karnofsky decided it was time to put the Tamarack Trio back together again. With Karnofsky on piano, the trio now includes Kristina Nilsson on violin and Rob Bethel on cello. The group put on two concerts in Newton this past summer.
Neal Lipson, Framingham. He was born blind, and has also battled prostate cancer. But at 14, he picked up a saxophone for the first time; it was love at first sound. Lipson, now 72, is well known in MetroWest for his prowess playing the saxophone. After graduating from Boston’s Berklee School of Music, Lipson hooked up with several bands in the 1970s and ’80s. In the ’90s, he formed his own band, the Neal Perry Orchestra.
El Martinez, Natick. A Natick High School student who identifies as non-binary, El was honored for writing a letter to Senate President Karen Spilka that prompted Spilka to file legislation proposing to include an “X” gender option on official documents for Massachusetts residents two years ago. In November, the Registry of Motor Vehicles announced that it would allow residents to choose a gender designation of “X” on their driver’s licenses and state ID cards. Earlier this year, El received a 2019 Leadership in Diversity Award during the 27th annual John P. Garrahan MetroWest Community Prayer Breakfast.
Maya Noyes, Wayland. The Wayland Middle Schooler remembers watching “Chopped” for the first time with her family when she was 5 years old. “I fell in love,” said Maya, now 12, about the Food Network reality show. “I thought, ‘I want to be on there one day.’” Last month, not only was she “on there,” she won an episode of “Chopped Junior” that had a Thanksgiving theme. She competed against three other junior chefs, chosen from across the nation, in three rounds of meal-making – appetizers, entrées and desserts. She pocketed a check for $10,000 for taking top honors.
Ilma Paixao, Framingham. A longtime Framingham resident and Brazilian community activist, Paixao helped residents of the Century Estates Condominiums organize their fight for better conditions at the complex – and win two seats on the condo’s board of trustees last month. “Now we are going to see change,” Paixão said after the vote, adding that she didn’t know whether she wanted to cry, laugh or jump for joy. “That was very satisfying,” she said. “What this team can do for the … residents in that area is amazing.” Paixao said she’ll be moving to California soon, which will be a loss for Framingham’s Brazilian community.
Ryan Porter, Framingham. A police officer, Porter was elected head of the police union this year. He is credited with helping to hammer out the first contract for city police officers in several years, putting them on a more competitive pay schedule to match other communities of similar size.
Charles Rogers, Marlborough. Rogers, 100, is a World War II veteran who was recently awarded the French Legion of Honor, which honors exceptional military service to France. Rogers flew 120 unarmed missions ahead of the front lines to scout terrain and direct artillery fire. He was almost shot down several times. For the past 15 years, he has lived at the New Horizons assisted living facility in Marlborough.
Bert Schofield, Franklin. A Framingham District Court clerk’s office employee, Schofield has donated more than 30 gallons of blood during his lifetime. He was nominated for the Fresenius Kabi (Blood) Donation Hall of Fame. “I enjoy it,” said Schofield, 68, of his blood donations. “I just enjoy doing it, as much as you can enjoy it. It’s something I look forward to.”
Cesar Stewart-Morales, Framingham. He’s an incoming city councilor representing District 2 after defeating School Committee member Richard Finlay in November for the seat being vacated by Councilor Pam Richardson. He can communicate in five(!) languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. He’s also a CPA and gay, raises adopted children and “knows what it means to be different.”
“Sunny.” She’s an 87-year-old retired teacher from Framingham – and that, along with her nickname, is as much as she’ll let us know. But for motorists who since June 2018 have encountered the intersection of Edgell Road and Water Street from 7:30-9:30 a.m. each weekday, she is a familiar figure. Sunny can be seen holding signs urging the government to reunite immigrant children with their parents. “When you see injustice, you have to do something about it,” Sunny told the Daily News one Friday morning in October.
Tyler Terrasi, Framingham. Terrasi is blind due to a birth defect that prevented his eyes from fully developing. Nevertheless, the 2015 Framingham State University graduate works at the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority. He assists members of the senior and disabled community in scheduling rides through the MWRTA’s paratransit program.
Alex Thayer, Maynard. An optician whose downtown Maynard shop – Look Optical – is the source of music swirling out onto the sidewalk. He even encourages people to come inside and jam – a drum set, guitars and piano are all readily available. It’s all a byproduct of his younger years, which Thayer spent as a musician and, later, an actor. Even today he does theater work at Vokes in Wayland, Hovey in Waltham and Acme in Maynard.
Adam Wise, Natick. The 17-year-old was the only student to give a TED talk in this year’s TEDxNatick event, which included a Nobel laureate in physics. It gave him a chance to stand before an audience and speak about a subject that moves him deeply – born female, the path he took to publicly come out as transgender.