Temperatures soared to 93 degrees, making Thursday, September 8, 1960, the hottest day of the year. Juliette hoped it would cool off by Friday, her third anniversary. She and her husband Richard planned a special night.
It was a little cooler the next day when Juliette got home from work around 3 p.m. Shortly afterward Richard pulled in the driveway. Juliette still got a thrill when she saw his face. She fell in love with Richard the moment she saw him. He was tall, handsome, and kind; everything she ever wanted in a husband.
“Are you ready, honey?” he asked.
“I sure am. I can’t wait, this is going to be so exciting,” Juliette replied.
The happy couple jumped in the car, then drove from their new home in Woonsocket, RI to Boston University’s Nickerson Field.
Friday, September 9, 1960 was a night Juliette would never forget. It started a family football tradition that would last over 56 years.
Juliette and Richard stood in line to purchased their $5 tickets. 21,597 fans turned out to see the inauguration of football in Boston. It was a first for everyone in attendance: The first regular season game of the newly formed American Football League and the first regular season opener for the Boston Patriots.
The AFL, founded by Lamar Hunt and a few others after the NFL denied selling them a team, openly competed with the established NFL. Eight franchises divided into the East and West Divisions, comprised the AFL.
In November, 1959, a group of executives from Boston led by Billy Sullivan got the AFL’s eighth and final franchise for $25,000. In 1960, the name Patriots stemmed from 74 fans who suggested Patriots in the Name-The-Team contest conducted by Boston’s AFL management group. Prior to that, thousands of people sent in possible team names.
Due to many area NFL New York Giants fans, the Boston Patriots held their untelevised opening game on Friday night. They did not want to interfere with the NFL’s televised Sunday games, nor the Saturday, Harvard and Boston College games.
Juliette remembered expecting the Boston Patriots to win against the Denver Bronco’s that night, after beating the Buffalo Bills in the preseason game, but they ended up losing 10-13. 1960 was a disappointing 5-9 season, the worst in the AFL Eastern Division.
Despite the loss, Richard and Juliette never gave up on the Boston Patriots. They became season ticketholders, a gift they purchased each year to commemorate their anniversary.
When their three children were born, they too became zealous Patriots fans. For every home game, they loaded the car with happy kids and delicious tailgate food. Off they went to where ever the Patriots played. From 1960 to 1969, they played at Nickerson Field, Harvard and eventually, Fenway Park.
Then, in 1970, the AFL merged with the NFL. The Patriots went to the American Football Conference East (AFC) division. Finally, after being denied a petition for a new stadium in Boston, Billy Sullivan moved the team to Foxborough, Massachusetts in 1971, much closer to Woonsocket, which made Richard and Juliette very happy.
Sullivan also changed the Boston Patriots’ name to the Bay State Patriots which the NFL quickly rejected, but on March 22, 1971, the team announced it’s new name, The New England Patriots.
For 30 years, Richard and Juliette enjoyed many victories at what was first called Schaeffer, then Sullivan and finally Foxborough Stadium before they moved again in 2002 to Gillette Stadium also in Foxborough, MA.
Some of Juliette’s happiest memories were watching the three Super Bowl wins in 2001, 2003, and 2004 on television. Family members gathered every year at their house for an impressive Super Bowl party.
Richard thought the Patriots new coach brought great excitement to the team, while Juliette thought the handsome young quarterback was headed for greatness.
Despite Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants in 2007 and 2012, the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24.
Richard watched his last Super Bowl in 2016; Denver Broncos against the Carolina Panthers. Once again, the entire family gathered for their yearly Super Bowl party. Richard cheered for the Panthers because he still harbored a grudge against the Denver Broncos for beating his beloved Boston Patriots in September of 1960.
Richard passed away in his sleep at the age of 92, the following March. Although devastated, Juliette knew he lived a beautiful and rewarding life. There were no regrets, nothing left unsaid.
For the next several months Juliette now 86 felt somewhat lost. Although it wasn’t the same without Richard, she continued to watch her beloved Patriots. After the recent Playoff game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, she realized that her team was headed to another Super Bowl. Richard would be so proud that the Patriots were the first team to reach nine Super Bowls.
She inquired if her two sons were coming over to watch like years before. Her daughter Ann lived in Arizona, so she didn’t expect her to come.
Juliette oldest son, a doctor, told her that he was on call that night and probably wouldn’t be able to make it. Her younger son said that he didn’t think he could come, but would try. Juliette couldn’t believe it. For the first time in 57 years, she might be alone while the Patriots played in a Super Bowl.
Her first thought was to go to Houston and watch the game live. Sure, she was 86 and not as spry as she once was, but she could still get around better than most.
She quickly called to see about arrangements. If no one wanted to come to her, she would go to the Super Bowl itself.
The airfare was reasonable as was the hotel, but when they told her the price of a Super Bowl ticket, Juliette stopped short. The price ranged between $2350 to over $5000 depending on the seat and availability. The cost was way beyond Juliette’s means.
After her friend Chloe told her she wasn’t interested in football, Juliette resigned herself to watching the game alone.
On Sunday morning, February 5, 2017 Juliette went to church. Afterwards, she stopped at the store to buy snacks for her Super Bowl party of one.
When she got home, a sadness came over her. Oh, how she missed Richard. They shared so many happy times. Sure, she should be grateful for the time they had together, but she needed to stop feeling so bad.
Trying to collect herself, Juliette half heartily made some snacks for the game later that day.
She couldn’t help it, tears flowed from her eyes while the doorbell rang. Juliette quickly wiped her eyes.
A look of shock came across Juliette’s face when she opened the door to see her beautiful daughter, and two sons with their children carrying trays of food for a special super bowl party.
“Surprise Mom,” they all joyously yelled. “We have been planning this for weeks and wanted it to be a surprise. You threw us a curve when you asked if we were coming. We said the first thing that came to our minds.
“We’d never let you be alone today,” her daughter said.
Juliette almost didn’t have to watch the game. She felt like she just won the Super Bowl.