By John Lynds
Jacalyn “Jackie” Anthony, a longtime East Boston resident who fought for nearly two decades to raise awareness for breast cancer, other cancers and women’s health in the neighborhood and beyond, has died.
Mrs. Anthony succumbed to cancer after battling the disease for 18 years on Monday, June 27 surrounded by her loving family. She was 66 years old.
“One of the words everyone keeps using to describe her is ‘warrior’,” said her husband of 30 years, Boston Police Officer and East Boston High School hockey coach, Robert Anthony. “She fought this battle for a long time and even her doctors were amazed and said they never saw someone who fought as hard as she did.”
After being diagnosed with breast cancer 18 years ago, Mrs. Anthony dedicated her life to raising cancer awareness and money for research. She and her husband started the Annual Breast Cancer Hockey Tournament after her diagnosis at East Boston High School.
“She was really a fighter and a rock,” said Coach Anthony. “She never let the disease affect her and even though we knew she was in pain sometimes she never let on and went about life with a smile.”
Her passion to find a cure for cancer became heightened after her daughter, Carrie Brangiforte, was diagnosed with colon cancer after giving birth.
“She was my rock and our family is going to have a huge void,” said Brangiforte. “When I went through my own cancer ordeal she left her job for a month and helped take care of my kids and myfamily. She didn’ think twice and that says a lot about her and her character and how loving and giving she was. She was a good person and cared about people.”
After Carrie’s diagnoses and battle and with one tournament under way at the High School, Mrs. Anthony again joined forces with EBHS to help establish the annual Strike Out Colon Cancer Baseball Tournament. With her son-in-law and Carrie’s husband, Phil Brangiforte, as the baseball coach it was a no brainer.
“She was a big component of High School sports through those two tournaments,” said Brangiforte, who is now headmaster of the high school. “She was always so involved with the kids and the hockey and baseball teams and all the players over the years had a lot of respect for her.”
Over the years the tournaments raised over $40,000 for cancer research.
Mrs. Anthony was born in New York and raised in a small town called Parishville there.
After graduating high school, Mrs. Anthony went to nursing school and became a nurse, first in Florida then later in the Boston area.
She met her husband, Robert Anthony, in 1985 on Revere Beach and the two were later married in June of 1986. Through Coach Anthony’s involvement in hockey, first at the youth level and later as the high school coach, Mrs. Anthony became a fan. During one game a over a decade ago, ‘Miss Coach’, as the players called her, was awarded the game winning puck after a playoff game by the team.
“She really resonated with the players and loved going to the games and supporting the different teams over the years,” said Coach Anthony.
She worked for many years as Clinical Coordinator in Charge of Adult Medicine at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.
“I think everyone should know that my grandmother was one of the strongest women I ever knew,” said her granddaughter and namesake Jacqueline Brangiforte. “She did so much for my family, for her kids and for her grand kids. For someone to go through what she went through for 18 years with smile on her face makes me proud to have her name and be able to carry it on.”
In her last selfless act, Mrs. Anthony donated her tissue to science in the hopes of finding a cure for cancer in the near future.
Jacalyn “Jackie” Anthony drops the puck at the Annual Breast Cancer Hockey Tournament, a annual tradition she founded after being diagnosed with breast cancer 18 years ago. The tournament helped raise money and awareness for cancer research and was a passion of Mrs. Anthony.