On the Friday after Thanksgiving, a group of about 30 friends gathered at a restaurant in Hudson, N.Y., to remember two schoolmates, Christopher and Jennifer Jones, a brother and sister who died in the same year three decades ago.
They decided to honor the Joneses by giving to a charity and they looked for one that represented the siblings’s Bay State roots.
They chose Globe Santa.
Christopher Jones was just 20 when he died a few days before Christmas, a passenger on the Pan Am Flight 103 that was downed by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland. He was among a group of Syracuse University students returning home from a semester abroad and one of 243 passengers and 16 crew members killed on Dec. 21, 1988.
Eleven months earlier, his 18-year-old sister, Jennifer, had died after falling ill while studying abroad in Ecuador.
“Thirty years since we lost Jennifer and Chris have seemingly passed in a flash,” said Jennifer Kovalich-Brophy, one of the event organizers. “Yet their family and friends have carried a deep sorrow and their memories in our hearts every day. We have all been so fortunate to have the chance to live our lives. It’s an honor to give something back in their names, knowing it will help others.”
Kovalich-Brophy organized the gathering with her sisters, Christine Eidem and Karen Flick, after getting the blessing of the siblings’ mother, Georgia Nucci.
“Globe Santa quickly came to mind as the recipient of our efforts for several reasons,” said Kovalich-Brophy.
“Jennifer and Chris had lived in Rowley, Massachusetts in their youth. Chris was also an incredible Boston sports fan who bled Celtics green. He aspired to become a sports writer at The Boston Globe, but never had the opportunity to realize that dream, so, this endeavor was also a way to achieve something tied to the Globe in his name in support of his dream.”
Nucci called Globe Santa “the perfect choice.”
“They were both connected to the Boston area, and both were very giving children,” she said. “When we lived in Rowley they would inform me about families in need and we made sure that there were gifts for the children in those families at Christmas.”
Globe Santa, she said, is a “perfect extension of their caring nature.”
“They were really good and kind kids,” she said.
Nucci said the family lived briefly in Newburyport before settling in Rowley in 1970. She and the children moved to New York in 1982, she said, after she and their father divorced.
The children continued to see their father, Kenneth, traveling back to Massachusetts, strengthening their connection with Greater Boston. Kenneth was a longtime teacher at Hamilton-Wenham High school who retired in 2002.
“The kids would visit with their Dad in the summer, usually at Cape Cod,” Nucci said.
Father and son shared a love of Boston sports teams.
When Chris was 10, a friend of Kenneth’s got himinto the Bruins locker room, where he had a hockey stick signed by the players.
“He walked on air for a week,” she said.
Nucci said she was she was “very grateful” for the efforts of the group of friends and the donation to Globe Santa.
“It is heartwarming to know that they have not forgotten both Chris’ death and his sister’s in the same year.” she said.
Kovalich-Brophy, who lives in Brockton, said the gathering in Hudson was“a warm and welcoming reunion” of old friends who spent time catching up and reminiscing about Chris and Jennifer.
“What made the event particularly special was that Jennifer’s host sister, whom she lived with while in Ecuador before she died, was able to attend to share in the evening with us ,” said Kovalich-Brophy. She moved to the US from Ecuador and now lives in the Albany area.
Kovalich-Brophy said one friend traveled to Hudson from Florida to be part of the gathering and the group Facetimed with another who lives in Hawaii.
“While sadness will always fill our hearts when we think about Jen and Chris, we focused the evening on ‘Delivering Joy’ through Globe Santa, as we remembered them.” she said.
Kovalich-Brophy said the event raised about $1,200 for Globe Santa, including $500 from the Hudson High School Class of 1986, the year Chris graduated. His close friend Nate Winch was instrumental in getting that donation, Kovalich-Brophy said.
The group expects more gifts will be coming from classmates and friends who couldn’t make the event.
They have asked that each donation bear the remembrance – “Jennifer and Christopher Jones. We Remember 30.”Tom Coakley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org