Just over a year ago, a high school basketball coach and teacher was killed, hit by a drunk driver.
Shawn Flaherty’s death shook an entire town.
In New England, he lives on in stories shared every day. Some say, they still hear his voice echo through the halls.
“There were more people there at the service than populate the town,” shared Shawn’s sister, Maureen Flaherty.
In the Flaherty family, they were taught at a young age to take care of one another.
“We were definitely close,” Maureen added.
Shawn and Maureen grew up in Maryland, but Shawn’s basketball career took him to North Dakota.
“He would watch TV dribbling a basketball. He would put on gloves because somebody told him that would improve your touch,” Mauren shared, describing Shawn’s childhood.
“He was a loyal, loyal friend,” she went on.
“I mean a good example is he was in the process of getting a new phone, which he was not a technological wizard. It was so old, it was an old flip phone. And there had to be six pages of contacts where he had copied all of those contacts out because he was afraid of losing the contact.”
“So he was writing on a legal pad, people’s names and numbers,” recalled Jill Bock, a parent with three kids at New England Public School.
It goes to show that more than 1,500 miles away in New England, North Dakota, Shawn is remembered the same way.
“We talk about him all the time… mmm, oh, Flahr… Like he believed in you more than you believed in you sometimes,” Bock mused.
Her kids were coached and taught under Shawn at New England Public School, and in those halls, his legacy lives on.
“He was really nice, he cared for the kids and he was a good teacher,” shared fifth grader Westin Gilman.
“My cousin was a troublemaker and once he was so naughty that he had to pick him up by his shirt and put him by the clock and said, ‘You know what time it is? Time to grow up?'” shared Gilman’s classmate, Jack Bieber, when asked to tell his favorite story about his former teacher.
These fifth graders all know Mr. Flaherty from being in his fourth-grade class last year, or as student Ella Binstock explained, “For ‘drills and skills’ for basketball.”
“He opened the gym every Sunday for the kids as well,” Bock added.
His coaching style is a bit of a legend on the New England Tigers basketball court.
“In 1985, he took us to the state tournament in basketball for the first time since the 1940s,” shared Daryl Jung, the New England Athletic Director and a teacher of 49 years.
“He would be loyal to his people, he was loyal to this town, he was loyal to this school…a big man with an even bigger heart,” added Randy Gordon, another teacher and coach at the school.
Now, just over a year after hearing of Shawn’s death, the feeling of loss hasn’t let up.
“My brother called me, and it was an awful phone call,” Maureen said through tears.
It’s hard for anyone to find closure when the jury trial for the man charged with criminal vehicular homicide for Shawn’s death hasn’t gone to trial yet.
Maureen has been anxiously awaiting justice. She’s lost money over multiple plane tickets as the trial continues to be postponed. She tells me it’s her duty to be there and make sure her brother is represented by those who love him in that room.
“My mother said to us once, after my father died, ‘The cavalry’s not coming, we’re all that we have’ and I don’t think that any of us ever forgot that,” she concluded.
“We were talking earlier about what we would say his legacy was and I think more than anything that everyone should just always be trying their best,” Bock said.
“You may not be the best, you may not have the most talent on the team or in the classroom or in life, but you should always be doing your best.”
The trial has been continued five times now.
In Shawn’s name, his family established a scholarship for kids in the New England area to go to basketball camps no matter what resources their families have.