Fighting For The Dead

The first portrait I made while working on The Lament Of Orpheus was the painting of Frank Shea Jr. which hangs on the wall right as you walk into the gym. I made this portrait as a way of paying my respects to the gym and honoring the lives of those who have been touched by the sport of boxing. Frank was killed in a construction accident and was one of South Boston's best boxing prospects. Frank's twin brother Derek, behind fence, continues to box and plays an active roll in the gym mentoring kids. Here is their story:

In South Boston, they were known as the "three brothers," a father and twin sons so close they led nearly identical lives: all three laborers, all three workers on the Big Dig, all three natural athletes and loyal to their neighborhood. But that bond forged over the years between Frank Shea Sr. and his sons, Derek and Frank Jr., was shattered in just moments. On Tuesday afternoon, 26-year-old Frank Jr., known as "young Frank" to family and friends, was killed near a South Boston construction site when a tractor-trailer pinned him against a Jersey barrier as he walked back to work. "He just had so much going for him," said his father, who was still stunned by the accident. "He was such an outgoing, loving kid. It hasn't really hit yet."

According to an official report, witnesses said Frank Shea Jr. was walking north on Dorchester Avenue after a lunch break when the truck, pulling out of a parking lot, turned too sharply, trapping Shea against the concrete barrier. Police said the driver, who was not identified, told investigators he was driving at about 5 miles an hour, and did not see Shea near the wheels of the trailer as he turned. Shea was rushed to New England Medical Center, but he died shortly before 2 p.m. He is the third worker to die on the job in the eight-year history of the Big Dig, though officials said the accident technically did not occur on a construction site.

Shea worked for CRC Concrete, a Big Dig subcontractor working on the Interstate 90 Fort Point Channel Crossing, which links the Turnpike Extension to the Ted Williams Tunnel. Yesterday, family members and friends continued to mourn the loss of a young man they described as a skilled athlete who had just begun to make his way in life. "Frank was just a shining example for a lot of the young people in South Boston," said state Senator Stephen Lynch, who is a friend of Frank Sr. "For a man his age, he accomplished a lot and was on a successful path."

Both Frank Jr. and his twin brother were accomplished boxers, boys who escaped trouble on the streets by working out in the neighborhood's athletic clubs. Boxing brought Frank much recognition: three national titles in the Junior Olympics and five New England Golden Gloves Championships. As friends and neighbors telephoned and paid condolence visits to the grieving family, the Sheas said they have lingering questions about Frank Jr.'s death. A spokesman for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it is investigating the accident. "Something had to go wrong - I work by that site every day," Derek said.

By Tara Yaekel, The Boston Globe, original story ran June 8, 2000.