WILMINGTON — Wilmington High’s Ida Bishop is a strong three-sport athlete, competing in ice hockey, lacrosse and field hockey. Over the years she has been blessed to have her family and friends come to the fields and ice rinks to watch her compete for the Wildcats. But on Monday afternoon, the junior had a special visitor on hand, her neighbor, Emily (Babine) Dukas.
Now at the young age of 97, Dukas, who played field hockey at WHS back in the late 1930s, watched her first game in 80 years. While sitting in her chair and enjoying the gorgeous weather, Dukas watched Ida and her teammates put forth a tremendous effort in an exciting 3-2 loss to Wakefield played at Alumni Field.
"The (Bishop Family) are my neighbors and they came over and asked me if I would like to come to the game," said Dukas. "This is the first time since I played that I have come back to watch a game."
Dukas is a lifetime Wilmington resident. She was married to her late husband John for nearly 65 years. He worked in town throughout his life, and at one point repaired the town's fire truck engines. The couple raised four daughters, and the family has expanded with many grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
When asked about her playing days, Dukas recalled many fond memories. She remembered what position she played, she remembered when she played, her coach and that she came from Lynn (graduating from Lynn English High School), her teammates and of course what equipment she and her teammates didn't have.
"We ran an awful lot," she recalled. "It's a running game. We had to play on the (Town) Common. We didn't have any (shin) guards or anything for our legs. I'd go home and be bleeding and my mother would say to me 'why do you want to play that game?' "
During the time Dukas played at WHS, there were only three sports offered, including girls' baseball, basketball and field hockey, all coached by Hall of Famer Evelyn Carter. In 1939 and 1940, the field hockey teams lost just one game and were called "one of the best teams in the state." Dukas was a member of the '39 team, and has shown the Bishop Family a clipping she had from the Lowell Sun newspaper.
When Wells was inducted into the WHS Hall of Fame in 1995, she said, "I know this plaque belongs to the athletes because they did all of the work. Everything I told them to do, they did. We would practice in the dark out on the (Town) Common."
Dukas was asked about her teammates, and she believes that all of them have since passed, but she did recall some of them.
"I remember Phyllis Campbell, she was a big girl and Nancy Todd and a bunch of them. The last time we had a reunion, it was a good thing that we had name badges on because we wouldn't have known anybody. They didn't even look like they used too," she said with a big laugh.
Emily stayed for the entire game on Monday, watched Ida score the team's first goal and took pictures with the team afterwards. For Ida, having this special visitor on hand for a few hours, meant the world.
"Having my 97-year-old neighbor, who I call Gram, come support me and my team was so awesome," she said. "She has been such a positive role model to me since I moved here back in 2006 when I was just three years old. She always tells me stories of her as a kid playing field hockey for Wilmington High on the Common with NO goggles or pads and how they were undefeated back 80 years ago.
"Gram was the one who inspired me to play field hockey and I am very grateful for that, if it wasn’t for her I would have never realized the amazing sport of field hockey."