Fifty years ago this month, two 14-year-old girls tried to cross Cambridge Street at 11 p.m. and paid a horrible price. A young driver from Billerica, with a little son of his own, struck the girls near Great Pines Ave, killing Sharon Hennessy of Sewall Street and severely injuring Judy Miller of Rahway Road. He was not charged with anything because he did nothing wrong. He simply didn’t see them in time.
Only one person perished, but the whole town took a huge blow. Hundreds of high school and middle school students walked to Sharon’s burial at Chestnut Hill Cemetery. Her friends led a successful petition to have crossing lights installed at Great Pines Ave. One of those friends, Dave Murgo, is now a software specialist at Lahey, making sure doctors can read their patients’ vital signs. But inside, he’s still a shaken 13-year-old who just lost his first love.
By Dave Murgo
Sharon was truly beautiful and effortlessly charming. Her face never hid what she was thinking and feeling. And those eyes! She was quick-witted and incredibly bright in all ways.
She had a real appreciation of music. In fact, the first time I heard John Lennon’s “Imagine” album was when she brought it to my house, in one of her many visits. Everyone who knew her loved her and wanted to be around her, and with what little a 13-year-old knows about love, I knew I loved her deeply.
I was very shy about this at the time, never knowing what to say to her, and was nowhere near bold enough to tell her of my burgeoning feelings. I sat next to her in Mr. Ryan’s class at Francis Wyman Junior High during the shared months of that school year. We’d frequently whisper silly comments back and forth, hoping that Mr. Ryan wouldn’t notice. Of course, he did notice when Sharon chased my friend Henry around the room with a lit Bunsen burner.
I still have the library card from the last book she signed out, just a few weeks before her passing. It’s a keepsake.
One of my favorite memories is listening to her sing the Badfinger song, “Day After Day” which even now immediately evokes her memory. If I catch it at the right moment, it reduces me to tears. She had a very pleasant singing voice, and this remains the song that I, and several classmates, most associate with her. Nilsson’s “Without You” is a very close second.
We’d met years before. Our families knew each other well. Sharon’s sister Kathy and cousin Diane were very good friends of my sister Paula. They frequently visited our home, and Sharon would often join them. Sharon and I were close from the time we met, and our friendship never wavered. We walked together from St. Malachy’s to Wildwood School for our Sunday morning CCD classes, laughing about one silly thing or another. Developing a crush on her felt inevitable. More than once, I dreamt of us as “grown-ups,” married and enjoying a life of joy and laughter. To this day, I have a particular weakness for laughing women that I’m certain originated with Sharon.
The morning after the accident, my sister got the fateful phone call from the Hennessys. She came downstairs and told all of us what had happened. I knew right then that my life had just changed forever. And sure enough, to this day, 50 years since the terrible night she was lost to us, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of her. Though our relationship never turned into a boyfriend/ girlfriend connection, she was by any measure my first love.
When I arrived at Doyle Funeral Home near Mitre – the first wake and funeral I’d ever attended – her father grabbed me in a bear hug, nearly lifting me off the ground, and said, “You must be David. Sharon really loved you. She talked about you all the time.” I don’t know if that was exactly what I needed to hear or the last thing I needed to hear given my unspoken feelings for her. To think there was a chance she reciprocated my feelings was overwhelming to me at 13. I cried for most of the next month. It was a horrible time, like being forced to grow up too suddenly and without any warning.
Virtually our entire class was there, all appearing shellshocked. Lots of them were in a room in the basement of the funeral home, crying. My mother still describes it as the night Burlington lost its innocence. Her passing was a loss that at some level I’m still trying to process. I loved her. The world lost someone truly special that night and we are all the poorer for it.
Ted Hennessy, Sharon’s brother, became my coworker for a while. I shared with him all that I remembered of her. He said “David, I was four years old when she passed. I have very few memories of her.” He thanked me for sharing my recollections. Tragically, Ted boarded an airplane in 2001 — one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center. I’ve remained fortunate over the years to have kept a connection to the Hennessy family. I deeply admire their strength in what could only be considered unfathomable losses.
Dave Murgo, then and now:
The other victim, Judy Miller, suffered fractures to her legs, shoulder, pelvis and arm, damaged vertebrae and internal bleeding. Yet she forged ahead and became a pediatric oncology nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital before launching her own practice in New Hampshire. She also taught Sunday school and became a deacon at the Presbyterian church in Windham, NH. Moreover, she became chapter president of a group for adults and children with attention deficit disorder. She died from pancreatic cancer in 2019.
. . . and she did indeed follow through on her yearbook ambition to be with high school sweetheart David Holt. In fact, she married him the same year she graduated, 1975.