Brother John McGrath

From: The New Hampshire: The UNH’s Student Paper
By: Lynne Yorke LaPlante
Friday, November 4, 1994

“John McGrath will be missed.

He put his family and fraternity first in his life. In turn, he was an important presence in theirs.

‘John was very outgoing, always happy and would always make others happy,’ said McGrath’s close friend and fraternity brother Matt Goyette.

‘You couln’t say anything bad about the kid. He would do anything for anybody at any time,’ said Chuck Giacoumis, another brother at Sigma Beta fraternity where McGrath was a member. (Chuck is John’s Big Brother)

McGrath, 19, died in a two car accident on Route 155A, Mast Rd. , on Saturday morning. Thomas F. Czaja, 49, of Manchester was also injured in the crash.

McGrath was to return to UNH in the spring as a sophomore, after taking the fall semester off. He frequently visited Durham on weekends to see his fraternity brothers and friends, and was excited to come back to school for the spring semester.

Sigma Beta’s president Matt Consigli said he always looked forward to seeing McGrath on Friday afternoons, and that the feeling was mutual. ‘He couldn’t wait to come up here on the weekends to see his brothers,’ said Consigli.

‘As a house we couldn’t wait to see John McGrath. When he came up, everyone lit up,’ said Goyette.

John was also excited to come back to the fraternity next semester.

‘He had his plans all made, he was so excited about going back,’ said Wendy McGrath, John’s mother. She added, ‘That’s where he belonged, he loved it up there . being a part of the fraternity was just heaven for him. He felt a closeness and loyalty for all of the brothers; he felt such a part of their lives and brought them into our lives as well.’

Brothers described McGrath as generous, upbeat and giving of himself. Giacoumis said often McGrath would come up on a Friday afternoon and give friends rides to class, even after they told him not to go to the trouble over a five minute walk.

‘He’d take the shirt off his back for you. He really would and he probably has, it’s honest to God,’ said another brother, John Valetta.

Consigli remembered an incident where McGrath did almost that. ‘A brother was upset because his hair was sticking straight up and he had to go someplace. John gave him the hat off his head, and said ‘Take my hat and stop bitching,’ said Consigli.

‘John could just walk into a room and everyone’s face would light up,’ said Valetta. Consigli agreed and added, ‘I’d say he was capable of being anyone’s best friend. If you got to know him, you got to love him and it didn’t take a lot to get to know him.’

Wendy McGrath said her son loved his friends as much as they loved him. ‘It’s amazing to me how many lives he touched in a positive way,’ she said.

Goyette said McGrath was one of his closest friends. ‘He was a great listener, everything you could want in a person . he’s the only friend I had that I thought about more than anybody.’

Valetta agreed.

‘By far he was one of the finest people I’ve ever met. I think of him now, think of one stupid little thing we did together and just smile,’ Valetta said.

‘I didn’t just love him because I’m his mother. He’s a good, good person and he was a good friend to both my husband and I,’ said Wendy McGrath, following funeral services that were held on Wednesday.

According to Giacoumis, the loss of McGrath’s presence permeated the fraternity house. ‘There’s definitely something missing. There’s something wrong because he’s not around.’

Others say they just can’t accept the reality that McGrath is gone.

‘I want this to be a joke. I’m waiting for him to pull in the driveway,’ Valetta said.

‘I get upset because I know there aren’t going to be any more good times, except memories,’ said a teary-eyed Goyette. Goyette and McGrath had planned on being roommates in the spring. ‘I remember telling my mom ‘Mom, I’ve met the greatest person,’ said Goyette.

McGrath went to high school in Plaistow at Timberlane Regional High School . He was on the football team for all four years and was co-captain during his senior year. Friends said McGrath liked to go fishing, and enjoyed the music of Van Morrison, the Allman Brothers and Jimmy Buffet. They stressed his involvement in family activities and being with friends.

‘He was involved in anything that needed to be done,’ said Consigli.

McGrath’s mother said John’s closest relationship may have been with his eight-year-old sister, Kate.

‘When she was born, he wouldn’t let anybody go into the hospital nursery to get her,’ said Wendy McGrath. She added when Kate was told of her brother’s death ‘she screamed, the way we wanted to.’

‘She told me he was her best friend in the whole wide world and she asked if he could be her guardian angel,’ Wendy McGrath said.

Sigma Beta brothers agreed Kate and John had a special relationship. ‘He cared for his sister very much. They mutually idolized each other,’ said Goyette. He added their age difference was not an issue in their close relationship. ‘He could touch someone who is 84 or three. He was special.’

‘We honestly believe that he is all right, he’s in heaven,’ said Wendy McGrath

Brothers of Sigma Beta are red eyed and solemn. The hallway of their fraternity house is adorned with flowers. At the beginning of the week a poster titled ‘Services for Johnny’ hung next to the giant stair case. It is obvious the impact of McGrath’s death has hit hard.

‘This is a close-knit fraternity and it’s doubly as painful because of that . it’s a little easier to cope knowing that there are so many supportive people out there,’ said Consigli. He added the fraternity has received support from fellow members of UNH’s Greek system, students, and administration.

Sigma Beta’s house flag covered McGrath’s casket, and he was buried with his brother pin and a book filled with pages in which each Sigma Beta brother wrote their thoughts, poems, songs or notes.

Many thanks to Kate McGrath for the pictures and article. John is missed.

John McGrath was one of the finest men with whom I’ve ever had the privilege to go through hell, i.e. pledging Beta. I think his devotion and love for his family was made clear by the coat of arms he had proudly tattooed on his shoulder. I can’t imagine the sorrow that Kate, Jack and Wendy have been made to endure since that fateful night. 

This October, I wrote my 14th annual consolation letter to his family. Halloween season rolls around and I find myself thinking about the fine gentleman and friend that was torn from us all far too soon. I only hope that my annual letter to his sister and parents is received with the intended effect. I don’t wish to open old wounds. I just feel that a man of John’s caliber deserves at the very least a once-a-year tribute. Without doubt, he is worthy of a never ending, and reverberating echo…of “Stud Call !” 

As the plaque in the Chapter Room so eloquently affirms:  John McGrath was and always will be a brother, a gentleman and a friend. Fistos.

Nate Sloan
Fall ’93