There was no single individual more iconic at St. Patrick's High School than John Massaquoi Somah. For 35 years he was the steward of our cafeteria. Beginning in 1961 and ending with the closure of St. Patrick's in 1996, Massaquoi, as we affectionately call him, was responsible for preparing our meals and feeding us. Donuts, beans, potato greens etc, all half-cooked, were staples on a menu that we absolutely loved. Time and distance often create fragmentation that memory attempts to resolve. So, for St. Patrick's Boys, we stay connected to the man through our collective memory.
Seeing Massaquoi at the new site of St. Patrick's High School left me nostalgic. It brought back memories of the days we roamed those halls engaging in wholesale mischief just to get at Massaquoi's donuts. And as teenagers, we all thought we were getting over on him. You pay for 4 donuts, you take 6 or more if you can get away with it. In polite society, that's called dishonesty. But for now, let me call it what it was: stealing. We didn't steal Massaquoi's donuts because we were necessarily bad kids. No. We stole it because we could never get enough of it - half-cooked and all. Plus, it added to the thrill of our teenage experience. I am sure there were many occasions when Massaquoi chuckled at us for thinking he had no idea what we were doing. Well he did. He said so himself. The pretense allowed indulgence from kids who he saw as an extension of his own family. Better still, our attitude probably reaffirmed his confidence in his skills. For 35 years, the food never made it to being done. Talk about consistency. LOL!!!!!!!
Today, Massaquoi is a little older, retired and walks with crutches. But his spirit remains unbroken. He still vividly remembers some St. Patrick's Boys. He saw Charles Collins '69 and asked me, "Is that Charles Collins?". His face beamed with joy as I confirmed that he was in fact looking at "CC".
We will never recount our experience at St. Patrick's without the role this man played. For that, we will always be grateful. I speak for every St. Patrick's Boy when I say Thank You Massaquoi. We Love You.
Please leave a message of well wishes for Massaquoi in the comment section below. You can also share your favorite "Massaquoi Donuts" story if you wish.
Stephen Koffa '79
President - SFAA-USA