Dallas Transplant Returns to Boston to Perform on Gillette Field Four Decades Later
Ann Marie Alongi knew she was in trouble.
Just two months out of high school, at 17, her mother insisted she marry her first boyfriend. It’s what a good Catholic girl should do in the ‘60’s.
At 20 she was separated from him, with little education and a job as an admissions clerk at Hickox Secretarial School, and sobbing to her boss who asked her a simple question. Her loneliness of her past three years in a loveless marriage poured out of her. Her supervisor listened, and quietly assessed the situation, horrified.
With no friends, living alone for three months, working in an unfulfilling job, Ann Marie was at the breaking point. Mrs. Olsen hugged her, and told it would all be OK.
Her boss had an unusual piece of advice. As a season ticket holder of the New England Patriots, she came up with a solution to Ann Marie’s loneliness.
Left on the windshield of her car a few days later was a note on the back of an envelope. “Try out for the Patriots cheerleaders,” it read in her boss’s neat print, “If you don’t, you’re fired.”
Ann Marie’s dreary life was about to change.
Cheerleading to Academic Success
Cheer try outs for the squad was at Boston College. Ann Marie had not attended college after high school, marrying the boy her mother picked out for her instead. Her days with him consisted of working a full-time job to put her husband through his last two years of college, cooking all the meals, cleaning their tiny home, and going to bed exhausted. Eventually her husband got a job, but he didn’t care for it and complained about working. He approached life with little enthusiasm, and the marriage was a chore for both.
After three miserable years, he moved out, and Ann Marie was living alone and afraid to tell anyone.
But at the Patriots Cheerleader try outs, nobody asked her about her education, or her miserable marriage, or her dysfunctional family life.
She met cheerful people who immediately accepted her, and with two decades of dance experience and two years of high school cheerleading experience, she quickly learned the routines that would land her on the squad.
Since the age of two, Ann Marie was in dance class. Her mother was determined that she would be busy all day and tired at night, so local ballet classes seemed a great way to keep her on her feet and out of trouble.
At first, her grandmother paid for her classes. Then her parents bartered with the dance studio owner to keep her in the classes. For the next decade, she would attend school from 7:30 a.m. until 2:15 and be in dance class from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. while keeping her grades up. She graduated high school with an academic award.
She learned classical ballet and eventually began performing across the state at church functions, dance studios and events. Her brother, Joseph, 15 months older, became her dance partner, and the two would perform every gig her mother could find for them.
Painfully shy, Ann Marie was a star on the dance floor. She could make people smile and laugh at her smooth moves. Becoming a cheerleader in high school was easy. Making the Patriots squad was nerve wracking but Ann Marie was a natural.
After a year, she tried out again and became captain. Cindy McGrath, also from Winthrop, had met Ann Marie in the fourth grade. She was in her junior year in college, but made the squad mid-year. The two became best friends.
It was 1974 and Cindy’s senior year in college and her fourth year dating Cliff MacDonald. She applied with many school districts and ended up in California when Cliff got a job offer there. She graduated in May, got a diamond in June, and got married in September, so left the squad the day after she married him. She came back every year to visit family, but rarely saw Ann Marie.
At the New England Patriots Cheerleader’s alumnae reunion, on August 30th, 2017 the two got to perform together again for the first time in 43 years. And after their first practice they went to dinner at a local bar and grill for an hour--and stayed for three--laughing and reminiscing about their years as school girls together and their year as Patriots cheerleaders together.
To Russia, With Love
During her years as a Patriots Cheerleader Ann Marie would apply and be accepted and finish a degree in Business Management from Boston College. Four days after graduation she travelled to Russia and pioneered the first public video conferencing room in the academy of economics for western companies to communicate with their home offices in the U.S. or Europe in real time. Some of her customers included United Technologies, Allied Signal and Johnson & Johnson.
Her experience as a cheerleader taught her how to make friendships with people of many different backgrounds. She would continue to work in Russia for ten years—where she met the love of her life, Richard, from England—and then work in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Her career had her living and working in over two dozen countries, including all of Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. She continues today to bring new, unique state-of-the art products made by American companies into foreign markets using her expertise in wireless network infrastructure.
For a shy Catholic girl from tiny Winthrop Massachusetts, this globe-trotting executive cheerfully greets each day as she did when she was a Patriots Cheerleader: with a smile and enthusiasm.
To see the Patriots Alumnae Cheerleader practice you can view it: http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/patriots
Judy Porter is a writer from Dallas who writes about everyday heroes. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org