Russ Priestley inducted into MHS Sports Hall of Fame

... four brothers Hall-of-Famers - a first

by Jim Driscoll

Since I was in junior high and senior high school during the 1930's and early 1940's (a 1942 graduate of MHS) I had first-hand knowledge of the sports scene during this period, a time when the city experienced great success in both football and hockey. It was also an era when the team rosters were bolstered by families that produced two, three or  more brothers who prominently played on various teams. The names of Sheridan, Spadafora and Priestley quickly come to mind - after so many years I'm sure I've forgotten others.

For the past 11 years, the Melrose High School Sports Hall of Fame organization has been recognizing individual men and women who have had outstanding success in athletics in one or more sports during their high school days and continued to excel afterwards. This past May, it was announced that SilverStringer Russ Priestley was selected to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony that took place on Saturday, May 14 at the high school, followed by a reception and dinner at Memorial Hall.  

Here is a complete list of the 2005 inductees: Robert Dias (class of 1945), Barbara Dixon Dockerell (class of 1942), Susan Dolber Dias (class of 1954), Thomas Jackson (class of 1958), Robert Marsolais (class of 1951), Russell Priestley (class of 1940), Robert Gaige (class of 1947), Richard Kennefic (class of 1951), Richard Harlow (class of 1947), Anthony Cicoria (class of 1951), Jean Bucci (class of 1953) and coaches Jean Babson Allen and Bruce McPherson. Three teams, the 1952 cross country team, the 1956 hockey team and the 1959 golf team, were also honored.

Described below is a brief resume of Russ's career as publshed in the Melrose Free Press:

Russell T. Priestley played four years of football, baseball, and hockey for Melrose. He practiced with the Melrose High varsity hockey team as an eight-grader. As a senior he was captain of the team and he was named an All-Scholastic.

Russ played two years of hockey at the University of Illinois; as a sophomore he played on the line wih his brother, Gil. Illinois was the only team in the country that year to beat Dartmouth. He left school to serve in World War II.

Priestley was an Air Force pilot qualified to fly 32 types of aircraft. He served 18 months in Guam as a Chief Test Pilot.

Priestley played for the Junior Olympics in 1942 and was a member of the Melrose Reds from 1946-1951.  He played for the Boston Olympics in 1942-43 and practiced with the Providence Reds of the American Hockey League 1942-43.

Priestley was a professional cartoonist, whose clients included 125 newspapers and magazines.

Some of us have had the privilege of knowing Russ through the years and are aware that he is a person with many other accomplishments, not the least of which has been his strong contributions to the "Melrose Mirror" for almost nine years as writer and editor. He has been also known to write periodic letters to the local Free Press - in a style that can be described as chiding and humorous at the same time. However, if one were to ask him what he takes most pride in, I would think it's a safe bet that Russ Priestley would say that he is proud to be a part of what is arguably the greatest family in the Melrose High School history of sports. All Hall of Famers, they are: Gil Priestley (1936), Bob Priestley (1938), Russ Priestley (1940) and Warren "Git" Priestley (1945).

And here they are!

Priestley Boys 1947
All Melrose High School Sports Hall of Fame members

June 3, 2005

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