“I don’t know why you picked me, because I really don’t deserve it,” said Irene Sharp Brennan, when she was honored as Wilmington’s Good Guy in 1991.
There was a room full of people who knew why. Miss Sharp, later Mrs. Brennan was a beloved business teacher and guidance counselor in the Wilmington schools for four decades.
She would introduce herself, saying, “I am Sharp!” Students quickly learned that her business classes were all business. But that didn’t mean she didn’t care about them. She was always encouraging, prodding students to do better. Even after they were out of school, she maintained an interest in them.
Bill Fay, who later became superintendent of schools, said that when he was four years out of high school, she convinced him to go to college. She even wrote out a personal check for the application fee.
Irene Sharp began practice teaching at Wilmington High School in the late 40s, and was hired the following year. The high school at that time was in the building that later became the Swain School. You can find her in the 1949 yearbook, when she was advisor to the knitting club. There were many other roles as advisor throughout her years in the school system.
Irene Sharp came from Charlestown, but eventually moved to Wilmington (it was pointed out that much of Wilmington had once been part of Charlestown, said Principal Barney McMahon).
She taught business subjects in the high school for 14 years, at which point she became a guidance counselor. When the West Intermediate School opened a few years later, she was transferred there.
After retiring in 1986, she taught cake decorating in evening school. Her baking activities were supposed to be a business, but she found she couldn’t charge friends and former students. More often than not, the cake was free.
That was what brought her to the Good Guy dinner in May 1991. She was delivering a cake congratulating Billy Cavanaugh on his First Communion. The Cavanaugh kids always called her “Auntie I.”
There always has to be a ploy to get the Good Guy in the door before he or she knows what’s going on. Often the mark thinks it’s for someone else, and it’s an honor to be the decoy, someone the recipient believes worthy of the award. In 1976, Frank Sferrazza was busy selling tickets, thinking the award was for Rico Catalano. But once he brought Rico into the lobby, they pushed Frank through the door into the hall. Rico received the award a few years later.
The Good Guy award originated in 1968 when Lloyd Bender and some friends went to Rocco’s Restaurant and had a dinner. After they had eaten, they pulled Rocco out of the kitchen and gave him an award.
This year’s Good Guy dinner will be at the Knights of Columbus Hall on the evening of May 10.