It could be said that Bishop Brady’s 50th anniversary celebration means a little more to Concord’s Joseph Farrelly than it does to most others. After all, he did watch five sons graduate as Green Giants and has since seen the children of several friends work their way through Brady on his recommendation.
But it can be said without question that Joseph Farrelly means a little more to Bishop Brady than most. In fact, without Farrelly, there would be no school to celebrate.
Farrelly was an integral member of what has come to be known as the 660 Club, a group spearheaded by three men to raise enough money to save Bishop Brady from promised demise in 1976. The school was facing significant debt and struggling enrollment when the Diocese of Manchester announced that it would be forced to close its doors unless a significant fundraising drive was ignited.
So Farrelly, John Argue and Robert Zock hit the streets to ask local businesses and residents to contribute, and the response was overwhelming.
“We had always run a deficit every year, and we weren’t at full enrollment, but we were reluctant to raise tuition. And then we got a letter from the Bishop saying if you can’t come up with a sizable amount of money to create a treasury, you leave us no option but to close the school,” Farrelly, who was the president of the school board at the time, said. “We found ourselves in a dilemma, and we made the decision to go out in the community to see if we could raise the money. The reaction of the community was very, very positive. It was astonishing to see the reaction when you went to see these people.”
That reaction was enough to save the school, a turn of events that made local heroes out of Farrelly, Argue and Zock. Argue has since passed away, and Zock’s most recent known address listed him as a resident of Ashland, but Farrelly remains a Concord resident. On his wall is a special commendation from the Chamber of Commerce, a plaque featuring a special community service citation given out Sept. 27, 1977, in the now-defunct New Hampshire Highway Hotel.
“They basically saved the school,” Bishop Brady’s Maureen Kimball said. “Most Catholic schools are bare bones; there’s no fluff here. So they all went through some hard times. But the community at that point really understood that Bishop Brady was an important part of the community. Everyone, whether their child went here or not, knew the benefit of the school and wanted to keep it open. Thankfully we can look at that now almost 30 years in arrears. That was a turning point for the school.”
Changing times were responsible for some of the troubles, as priests and nuns – formerly the entire teaching staff – were being replaced by traditional teachers.
“In the early days it used to be that all the priests and nuns taught, and when that started to change, you had to find a payroll; all of a sudden tuition is doubling because priests and nuns are no longer teaching. That’s sticker shock,” Kimball said. “So you lost that free resource.”
Enter Farrelly and the rest of the 660 Club. Neither Farrelly nor Kimball is sure exactly how much money needed to be raised, but a Concord Monitor story from 1976 referred to a 10-month fundraising campaign that raised more than $300,000. Kimball said the name 660 Club was derived from the amount they initially asked for from local businesses, $660 each.
Farrelly praised Argue with much of the credit for the fundraising drive, and was equally complimentary of Zock, noting that the project would never have succeeded if all three didn’t work so well together. He said generally at least two of them would venture out together to visit businesses and residents in hopes of securing the necessary funds.
That they did, and it led to unexpected acclaim that still leads to fond memories in the Bishop Brady family.
“Looking back on it, that really was an exciting time, and the reason was because we realized the severity of the problem,” Farrelly said. “If we didn’t come up with this money, there was no question Bishop Brady High School was going to close. That would have been a tragedy.”