Another One: Shea Haggerty

February 19, 2009

Back in the mid-90s I taught 7th and 8th grade at Saint Gabriels Catholic School in the tough Grays Ferry section of South Philly. There was (and still is) a lot of problems in that hood- it is notorious for its racial tension. Section 8 housing was killing the neighborhood so the clashes made the news every night. The Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan even paraded and protested in the streets while I was there.

There was also a big drug problem. A lot of my 12 year-old students had done things I still haven’t experienced at this age. They were tough Irish Catholics but were mostly really great kids. After I moved on I kept in touch with some of them. One was Shea.

I was doing a bit of DJing at the time and Shea took an interest in it. Sometimes I’d hook him up with small gigs doing dances at my new school and he in turn would loan me some of his equipment for my gigs. He even DJed my wedding 8 years ago, where this picture was taken.

He stopped by one time since then to show me his first car. he was about 18 and was talking about becoming a cop. I haven’t spoken to him since.

Why am I telling you this? Shea overdosed Sunday. He joined a way-too-long list of former students who’ve died from drugs.

By the way- the other dude in the picture? The sweaty one in the middle is me obviously (no. longer. single!) but the other kid (in the red) is Vincent Chappolini.

I was paired with little Vince when he was 9 when I volunteered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. We spent almost every weekend together ’till he was 16. He was practically my best man. He lived alone with his Grandma at 5th and Reed. When she died of an alcohol-related accident he skipped around the state in boarding schools until eventually he was shot and killed at 18 years old, just after this photo was taken.

I’ve wanted to write about Vince for a long time because it’s almost like he never existed. No obituary. Zero Google search results. Even his house, which was in his family since his Great, Great Grandmother, doesn’t exist anymore, so I guess it’s about time I paid respect.

I heard about both deaths through other people so I have no details. I kinda like it that way… like maybe people got names mixed up and they’re really still out there, living somewhere in California raising a family.

I have kids now so this shit just worries the hell out of me constantly. I look at my kids and I think back on how cute Vince used to be, always wanting to wrestle just like they do. How cute Shea’s two little brothers were when they came with their Mom to pick him up from school.

Sorry I’m always seem to be talking about death. Hopefully this is the last time.

The Very Most- I Can’t Believe You Actually Died



  1. Matt, wow, I was crying as I read this out loud to Sarah. I am really sorry…you did great with these guys…let’s say they’re still out there.

  2. Matt, this is just so sad. I’m sorry for your sadness but be certain you were a positive influence in their lives and I’m sure you touched them more deeply than you will ever know. I agree with Frank… let’s just say they’re still out there.


  3. Skinny man, you touched the lives of these two men. I am sorry for your loss and immensely proud to know you and call you my friend.

  4. Mr. Powell!

    How are you buddy? It’s been a really long time but a good teacher doesn’t forget his students. I found out about Shea just yesterday and it broke my heart. It killed me even more to miss his funeral and not be able to look his mother and father in the eyes and tell them how sorry I am for their loss. Before I moved out of GF we were the best of friends and teammates of ice hockey. I sometimes find myself feeling like I left my friends behind. Like as if I’m responsible for what happened in their futures from then til now. Honestly I don’t even know which of my classmates still survive or where they are these days. I wish that when I moved out of the city I had the opportunity to take the good of my community with me. I don’t want to drag this out but where ever you are out there… it’d be nice to make contact.
    P.s. I am still here and going strong!

  5. Mr. Powell,

    Hearing the news about Shea was unsettling. He and I grew up in the hood together, working on new music in my basement, and hanging out on the street corners late at night. I didn’t get a chance to attend his ceremonies due to my conflicting work schedule, however, I kept him and his family in my prayers.

    R.I.P. Shea Haggerty


  6. I’m glad I wrote this because friends and family of Shea’s are finding it and contacting me.
    Here is a nice email I got from Shea’s little brother:

    Hi, This is Shea Haggerty’s little brother, Joey. My family and I would like to thank you for your kind and comforting words about Shea. My mother told him to call you several times for help. It was such tragic end for a good kid. We all loved him so much. He will be missed.

    Thank you very much,
    Joe Ebbinger

  7. Psalm 23
    A psalm of David.
    1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
    2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,

    3 he restores my soul.
    He guides me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

    4 Even though I walk
    through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

    5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
    You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

    6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
    and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

  8. Just dropping by.Btw, you website have great content!

    Instantly Search Millions of Public Records & Resources

  9. I even got an email from Inquirer columnist Dan Rubin:

    I was blown away by the post on Shea and Vince.


    Daniel Rubin
    Metropolitan Columnist
    The Philadelphia Inquirer

  10. Man!
    I miss my big bro

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