Messina a teacher at North and at home to his family

February 12, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Patrick Dennis Messina, who died Jan. 31 at the age of 63. His obituary appeared in the Feb. 1 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

CLEAR SPRING - One day in the 1980s while Donna Shupp was working as Assistant Principal Herb Hardin's secretary at North Hagerstown High School, she looked up to see faculty member and coach Patrick Messina coming in the door.

"I hadn't seen him before, but then suddenly, he started coming in a lot," Donna said.

After some time, Pat finally introduced himself to Donna. He later admitted he invented reasons to come into Hardin's office just to see her.


In 1983, Donna and Pat married, blending a family that included her daughter, Shannon Shupp, and son Shawn Shupp, and Pat's two sons, Patrick and Paul.

"The thing that won me over was his devotion to his two boys," Donna said, noting they were just 10 and 14 years old then.

For the next 23 years, the couple journeyed through life together - Pat continuing his teaching and coaching career at North High, and Donna moving on to the school system's central office, then to her current job with the City of Hagerstown.

Pat died Jan. 31 at the age of 63. He had retired in 1999 after 32 years at North High.

Greg Slick, a physical education teacher at North High, said he first knew Pat when he was a student and later when they were colleagues - a total of 36 years.

"I will always picture Pat in his shirt sleeves and tie, standing on the hill behind North High with a clipboard and a stopwatch in his hands," Slick said.

But he added that first and foremost, Pat was a family man.

"Paul and Patrick loved my cooking," Donna said, recalling the early days. She said their father knew how to cook only five different meals - one of them being spaghetti with his famous sauce.

For the dinner after the celebration of Pat's life, that spaghetti sauce was served.

With four children to raise and send to college, Pat and Donna worked hard through the years to make sure that became a reality.

"Pat said it would be my turn when the last child finished," Donna said. And while still working full time, she went back to college and graduated with honors because of Pat's encouragement and support.

After she finished, Pat took Donna and the kids to Jamaica to celebrate.

"He was so proud of me," Donna said.

Family vacations to exotic places and their summer home in Florida always were highlights for the Messina family, and later wives, husbands and grandchildren joined in. "He was such a family man," Donna said.

Shawn once told his mother that Pat wasn't just a teacher in the classroom, but also in life. "Pat taught all his kids there are consequences for what you do," Donna said.

When Pat's health began to fail, the family rallied. Shawn was around from August on doing what needed around the family home, Donna said.

"The kids were honored to be able to do things for him," Donna said. "It was good for all of us."

In 2006, the family carved pumpkins at Halloween and rallied for a big Thanksgiving dinner. At Christmas, Pat was presented with a special "toy" - a four-wheeler he liked to drive around his wooded property.

For the viewing, Pat's children worked up a brief video of treasured family pictures, beginning with a baby photo that has a unique history.

During World War II, Pat's father kept a picture of his son under his pillow. One night, he left his bed only to return and find a bullet hole in his pillow that went right through the picture.

"If he had still had his head on that pillow, Pat's dad would never have met his son," Donna said, holding up the picture with the bullet hole in the lower right-hand corner.

The family has collaborated on setting up the Patrick Messina Scholarship Fund. Contributions have started to come in, some as early as at the viewing.

"So many people came up to me and said Pat was their teacher or he was their coach, and then they gave me money for the scholarship," Donna said.

One man approached Donna at the funeral and told her that Pat had changed his life.

Those comments and the stacks of notes she has received have been comforting for Donna and their children.

Contributions can be sent to the Patrick Messina Scholarship Fund, c/o North Hagerstown High School, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

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