Vincent J. Cleary

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  • "Vince and Marie, I miss you both. "
    - Joanne Lau
  • "I am heartbroken to hear of Vince's passing. He was a dear..."
    - Bonnie Kukla-Elmer
  • "My thoughts and prayers are with your family during this..."
  • "A thoughtful and caring man. A few years ago, he..."
    - Christina Platt
  • "Praying for your beautiful soul, Vince. I am so grateful I..."
    - Joanne Lau
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Service Information
Douglass Funeral Home
87 North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA

AMHERST - Vincent J. Cleary, family man, classics professor and freelance-writer, died Monday, Sept. 24, 2018 at the Hospice of the Fisher Home, surrounded by his loving family. He was 86.
Born and educated in Philadelphia, the son of John and Dorothy Cleary, he graduated from St. Joseph's University, 1954; Villanova University, 1959; and the University of Pennsylvania, 1967.
Following his college graduation he spent a year at the Josephite Minor Seminary, Epiphany Apostolic College, Newburgh, New York. There he studied the Latin language, the genre-Latin poetry and particularly Virgil's Aeneid - that became the focus of his many years in the classroom.
Vincent taught high school in the Greater Philadelphia area for five years - North Catholic H.S., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; North Penn H. S., Lansdale, Pennsylvania; and Archmere Academy, Claymont, Delaware - before joining the Villanova faculty in 1960. In 1968 the family moved to Columbus, Ohio. There he taught classics at Ohio State University before settling in Amherst in 1971 and teaching at the University of Massachusetts. He retired in 1997 after 26-plus years there and 43 years of teaching overall.
He loved Amherst and teaching UMass students.
In 1955 he married Frances Maher and together they had five children. He took pride in the fact that all were UMass grads and often remarked on the fine education they received there. Two of his sons, Sean and Stephen, married classmates, Joanne Murray from Long Island and Roseann Brien, Lawrence, Massachusetts.
One of his early dates with Frances, or Franny as he fondly called her, was to an Irish Ball in Philadelphia where her dad, Joseph Maher, led the Four Province Irish Ramblers Orchestra. That evening of reels and line-dancing eventually led him, in 1993, to become an Irish citizen. He traveled several times to Ireland, most recently in 2015, visiting newly discovered cousins, the Connells of Portarlington, on his father's side. He credited those Irish roots for his love of rhythm, in dancing, and on the written page.
On his first trip to Ireland in 1996 he came to understand more completely who his father was, and to love him more fully for that reason. His Dad, John, died in January, 1954, his son's last year in college.
After Frances's death from cancer in 1973, he married Marie Sally Frisardi, the first woman to teach Latin in the Department of Ancient Languages at Boston Latin High School and the mother of two sons, Thomas and Andrew. He and Marie moved to Sunderland in 1985 and in 2007, returned to Amherst; there Marie died in 2012.
In retirement he turned to freelance writing and radio commentary. The Daily Hampshire Gazette published a number of these, mostly human interest stories, some of a whimsical nature. Vincent also wrote theater and book reviews for the Gazette. WFCR carried several of his minor-league baseball pieces, and a series of art museum reviews. Later he was a regular contributor to UMass Magazine. Versification, a life-long avocation, he was able to take up more seriously in retirement.
In 2003 his book "Amherst, Massachusetts 01002, One of the Best Small Towns in America," was published by Collective Copies, now called Levellers Press. This was one of many books publisher Steve Strimer lovingly saw into print.
A strong advocate of reading aloud, an undervalued skill he believed, he incorporated it into his teaching whenever he could. He also read aloud on a bi-weekly basis during his retirement years in daughter Rose's elementary classes, initially in the Greenfield Public Schools, and then at the Bement School in Deerfield.
He loved good stories and a well-told joke, was an avid birder, part-time gardener, crossword puzzler, amateur cook, walker, swimmer, and bicyclist. He was active in various Catholic parishes, first at Amherst's St. Brigid's, a member of the choir there, and then at both of his South Deerfield churches, St. James and St. Stanislaus, now Holy family, where he also sang in the choir. He joined the Newman Center community in 2007. He became a Eucharistic Minister there in 1996. Most Holy Redeemer in Hadley welcomed Vincent in 2017.
A member of the Cursillo movement in the Springfield diocese, he met monthly for many years with his men's group. Originally seven in number, three remained at his death.
On his return to Amherst in 2007 he became a trustee of the Amherst Historical Society, beginning in 2008, and its treasurer, 2010-2012. Like his Amherst book, it was his way, he said, of giving back, his love-letter to Amherst, "why the town has meant, and continues to mean, so much to me."
One of his greatest teaching pleasures was watching students grow and mature, and this was particularly true, he thought, when it came to grandchildren and step-grandchildren. "Something new and exciting takes place in their lives every day," he often commented.
He is survived by three sons and two daughters: Thomas (Julie) of Manchester, NH; Sean (Joanne) of Belchertown, MA; Frances Cleary (Mark Borwick) of Bronxville, NY; Rosemarie Gage (Brad) of Belchertown, MA; and Stephen (Roseann) of Severna Park, Maryland; two stepsons, Thomas Frisardi of Longbeach, CA and Andrew Frisardi (Daphne) of Castiglione, Italy; 11 grandchildren - Megan and Andrew Cleary; Liam, Erin and Tara Cleary; Spencer and Jacqueline Borwick; Mackenzie Gage; Peyton, Sydney and Carter Cleary – and three step-grandchildren - Raquel, Dario and Cecilia Frisardi; a brother, John Cleary of Bala Cynwyd, PA, and brother-in-law, Tom Maher (Janet) of Langhorne, PA, as well as numerous nephews and nieces. Five siblings - David, Jean, Robert, Barbara and Gerald - predeceased him.
Calling hours will be Friday, Sept. 28 from 5 to 8 p.m at The Douglass Funeral Service, Amherst. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Most Holy Redeemer at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. Interment will follow at St. Brigid's Cemetery, Hadley.
Memorial donations in his name may be made to the Most Holy Redeemer Church, the Amherst Survival Center, where he enjoyed many hours as a volunteer, or the Amherst Historical Society.
Memorial register at
Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Sept. 28, 2018
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