By Cary Shuman
Maura Durgin-Scully said the entire Durgin family is “very humbled and grateful” that the Freezin’ For a Reason team will donate the proceeds of the Jan. 1 Polar Plunge on Short Beach in Nahant to the Michele Durgin Memorial Scholarship Fund.
“I think Michele would be overwhelmed by this whole thing,” said Maura, one of Michele’s sisters. “I think she couldn’t believe that all these people were going to go in to the ocean for her.”
Michele Durgin was a beloved educator who could truly light up any room she entered with her magnetic personality and the depth of her kindness. As a teacher, she helped many students move on to the college of their choice. Her sister, Marcy Durgin Cronin, called Michele “the champion of the underdog” in a story in the Daily Item.
Michele Durgin died on Jan. 28, 2017, when her car went off the road in Marblehead and struck a tree.
“We feel humbled and blessed that they wanted to partner up with the Michele Durgin Scholarship and keep her memory going,” said Maura. “Shelly was a real fun girl, very sweet and kind. She loved Lynn. This was her home. I said in her eulogy, that it didn’t matter which side of the tracks you came from – she treated everybody equally and was a genuinely kind person that always looked out for people and fought for the underdog. Our parents [Hal and Helen Durgin] instilled that in us early, and that was something she carried through her life along with her dedication to the kids that she served in her time as a teacher at St. Mary’s.”
Marcy Durgin Cronin also personally expressed her gratitude to the Freezing For A Reason committee that is headed by Attorney Mario Capano and George Sonia.
“Thankfully I’ve known the Capanos and Sonias for many years,” said Marcy. “I taught their children, and they’re just special people. They’re so good-hearted, kind, and gracious.”
Marcy said the scholarship will help students fulfill their dream of attending college, something her sister worked for in her career as a teacher.
“So many kids will benefit from this scholarship as they move on to higher education, and that’s what Michele wanted for all kids,” said Marcy. “Michele was so special to me. She was not only my sister – she was my teacher, she was my friend and came to visit my house every day. There is definitely a missing piece in my house every day. She was very good auntie. My kids loved seeing her every day.”
Mario Capano said the Freezing for A Reason Polar Plunge is in fourth year. George Sonia and his friend, John Bozarjian, actually started the event 10 years, but it didn’t become a fundraiser until four years ago.
Capano said this year’s Polar Plunge honoring the memory of Michele Durgin will be the largest fundraiser yet.
“Michele Durgin was very well known in the city,” said Capano. “My boys went to St. Mary’s, and Michele was instrumental in keeping them on the straight and narrow. The Sonias all went to St. Mary’s. Michelle was just a wonderful person from a wonderful family. Matt Durgin was the coach of the football team when my son was there.”
From heaven on New Year’s Day, Michele Durgin will be looking down with a smile.
“I think Michele might have a good laugh that we’re all jumping in the ocean for her on a pretty cold day,” said Marcy, who will join the participants in the icy waters of Nahant Beach.
But will Matt Durgin, the esteemed St. Mary’s High School football coach and former 6-foot-4-inch URI football star, brave the cold and join the group?
“That’s going to be a game-time decision,” said Matt. “Seriously, though, this is a great tribute to Michele, and a lot of people have worked hard in her memory, and our family appreciates the support of the people who are coming out for this event. She was a great girl, and we want to continue to remember her in that way.”
The Michele Durgin Scholarship will be given to a Lynn Classical student at graduation time.