PAXTON – It was – and still is – an unimaginable tragedy.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 2010, Mark Bisnette, a Worcester police officer, was driving home in a slippery snowstorm when his vehicle hit a utility pole and rolled over, trapping Bisnette in the vehicle. He passed away later that day, leaving a wife and four children – Connor, Seamus, Liam and Riley – under the age of 10.
Almost eight years later, Erin Bisnette, Mark’s wife, looks back and sees how the passage of time has only served to prove what she already knew – she’s part of a great family that also serves as her inner circle.
Erin Bisnette’s inner circle is not very big; it pretty much consists of her brother, Sean Mulcahy, and her sister, Kathleen Nodurft and a number of close, personal friends of Mark’s who have become family to the Bisnettes. Her mother, Catherine Mulcahy, was in it, too, but she passed away three months after Mark.
Bisnette found out the hard way that the inner circle shrinks when an unthinkable tragedy hits. Erin Bisnette’s inner circle is loyal and honest and strong and – most importantly – Indefatigable.
“Everybody’s got a circle,” Erin Bisnette said, “and when something terrible – like losing a loved one – happens, you figure out very quickly who’s in your circle. In the beginning, your circle is very big. Over the years your circle gets smaller, but I think that’s normal. For a long time now, Sean and Kathleen have been my circle.”
“Sean showed up the night of the accident, in the middle of the night, and he has really never left,” Erin Bisnette said. “He has been there every step of the way. I’m not surprised; I knew Sean would be there, but to know what he’s done, and the way he is with my kids. And he does it all — anything and everything we ask.”
Many, many people in Worcester know Erin Bisnette’s brother; he is the longtime varsity football coach at Doherty High School as well s being a special needs teacher at the school.
“We never go anywhere with Sean that he doesn’t know at least one person,” Erin Bisnette said with a laugh. “And usually he knows a lot more than that.”
Erin Bisnette said she agreed to this story because she wants people to know how her brother and sister, but especially her brother, have stepped up for her. She doesn’t want sympathy; she doesn’t want anyone to feel bad for her and her children. Erin Bisnette wants people to know that her brother, who people see as a fun-loving football coach and teacher – which he most certainly is – has been the rock which she could lean on, yell at, apologize to and laugh with.
“I think it’s great that you’re telling this story because it’s about what a great guy Sean is,” Erin Bisnette said. “It’s a story about him. We’ve done the story about Mark. Most people know what we’ve been through. Sean has this great ability to break things down so that whatever it is, it’s manageable.
“I’m worried about putting them through college and he’ll tell me, ‘just get through the night. We’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow,’” Erin Bisnette said. “Sean is always the guy who knows that everything has an easy solution. I look at the problem or the obstacle and Sean looks at the solution.”
Erin Bisnette said her brother has been there since Day 1.
“The moment this happened Sean stepped in and stepped up,” Erin Bisnette said. “And it was immediate, not gradual. The day Mark was hurt I had to leave in the middle of the night to go to the hospital and Sean is the one who came and stayed all that next day with my kids. And he’s been here ever since.
“I think the best thing Sean has done from the moment this happened is that he has been very respectful of the fact that he is now a parent to them in every sense of the word – he goes to teacher meetings, does homework with them, goes to practices, coaches their teams – everything a parent would do. But, he is very respectful of the fact that he’s not their dad.”
To Mulcahy it’s simple, family is family.
“We were close before Mark passed, but certainly we weren’t anywhere near as close as we are now. I wasn’t as involved in their lives back then the way I am now,” Mulcahy said. “Back then I was Uncle Fun. I would take them places and buy them things; they’d come up and visit me at my place a Hampton Beach. Not that I’m not fun these days, but my role has changed drastically.
“Early on I was in their lives every day; homework, tubs and rides – lots of rides,” Mulcahy said. “My sister Kathleen is just as involved, but she gets no credit. We were raised to take care of family so that’s what we’re doing.”
Mulcahy’s nephews and niece all love spending time with him. Now just as much as before when he was “Uncle Fun.”
“It’s been awesome having him around so much,” said Connor Bisnette, who is a senior at Doherty and one of the captains of the Highlanders’ football team. “The best decision I ever made was to come here. I’m going to be sad not being able to play for him next year.”
Connor Bisnette will play his final game for his uncle at 10 this morning when Doherty faces Burncoat at Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium.
“I’m just trying to soak up everything about this last game,” Connor Bisnette continued. “I’m just going to go out there and do everything I can for the team while playing in my last game for him. I always had a desire to go to Doherty because I was the water boy for the team when I was younger. I kind of got influenced by that and ever since then I’ve wanted to go to Doherty and play for my Uncle Sean.”
Seamus Bisnette, a freshman a Doherty, will dress for today’s game and will no doubt line up along the sidelines next to his older brother.
“I like hanging out with Uncle Sean, I like that I get to see him so much,” Seamus Bisnette said. “He helps me with my schoolwork; he helps get me places with rides. He’s still Uncle Fun. He takes us to Holy Cross games; he takes us to Coney Island. He’s funny and he knows everybody.”
Seamus Bisnette said he sees how much his uncle’s presence help his mother.
“He’s definitely made it easier for her. He’s around more and can give us rides to places or pick us up and it’s less that she has to do or worry about,” said Seamus Bisnette, adding that Mulcahy lays down the law when he needs to. “Absolutely. I listen to him when he tells me what to do or where to go. It’s just easier that way. I think it’s good for us, even though my dad passed away, that we still have a strong male role model in our lives. The fact that it’s Uncle Sean makes it that much more special.”
Liam Bisnette, who is already making plans to play for Mulcahy at Doherty, has a special Friday Night ritual with his uncle.
“He comes over every Friday night and we watch “Blue Bloods” together,” Liam Bisnette said. “Hanging out with Uncle Sean is just the best.”
Erin Bisnette said she has a tendency to get overwhelmed – and who can blame her – but that her brother serves as a calming influence in her life.
“Almost eight years later I still get overwhelmed and say ‘I can’t do this,” and Sean’s always the one saying, ‘this is nothing. This is nothing. We’ve been through way worse,’” Erin Bisnette said. “He’s a very calming influence although he still drives me crazy and we still fight like sister and brother.
“The kids are always telling me that I lose my patience too quickly, Sean’s always the one that tries to mediate, the one who reels me back in. He does so while at the same time being very respectful of not undoing anything I said to the kids,” Erin Bisnette said. “He tells me I’m on 10 and I really need to be on six. He’s very good about that. It’s nice for me, not that he’s my partner in this, but it’s nice for me to have that person I can bounce stuff off of.”
Mulcahy’s true influence, his calming, reassuring aura if you will, on Erin Bisnette may have come the night after Mark Bisnette passed away.
“I came home that night and I got my kids to bed and then, in the middle of the night I just lost it. It was my minute to lose it and that’s what I did,” Erin Bisnette said. “So, I go out to the kitchen and there Sean is, wearing a pair of shorts standing at my refrigerator drinking milk right out of the carton with the door open.
“He sees me freaking out and he comes over to me and gives me a fist bump and he says, ‘you got this. You can do this,’” Erin Bisnette said. “And I’m thinking, ‘oh my God, Sean Mulcahy I hope you’re right.’ Back then I couldn’t have pictured that it would look like this now.
“Sean is such a part of us,” Erin Bisnette continued. “I always knew I could call him up and say, ‘I need A, B and C’ and I never doubted that he, or my sister, would take care of it. They’re both such a part of our lives now, especially Sean. The kids expect him here; I expect him to be here. If he doesn’t come over for two nights in a row the kids are all like ‘where’s Uncle Sean?’ Sean being around, that’s all we know now.”