After the Mt. Hope High School girls basketball team finished their season last February and the gymnasium had emptied out, the seniors gathered in a circle on the court and spent a few hours reminiscing about their four years together. Nighttime custodian Verissimo “Vinnie” Miranda kept the lights on and, as he’s done before, shared with them that despite life’s challenges, to never give up. Coming from him, the students knew his words rang true.
At age 18, Miranda and his family emigrated from the Azores, Portugal to the US and settled in Fall River. He eventually returned home to Santo António, a parish in the district of Ponta Delgada, San Miguel where he studied to become an electrician shortly before his father requested Miranda run the family dairy farm there. He loved spending his days surrounded by majestic mountains with 320 cows grazing the rolling green fields. In 2010, the tractor he was driving tipped over in a life-threatening accident. Miranda suffered a broken skull with a long road to recovery that followed, but his farming days were over. Now a Bristol resident, Miranda has been employed full time with the Bristol Warren Regional School District since 2015, and in 2019 he started working in the athletic wing at Mt. Hope High School, where his life experience and words of encouragement have become an inspiration to the student athletes.
MIRACLE MAN: The tractor rolled over me. I’m lucky somebody was out on the road driving by and saw the tractor upside down. It was a miracle I was alive. I was in a coma for two months and in a wheelchair for eight months. My legs were trembling, I had headaches. Two and half years later, I went to Boston for the pain. The doctor said, “If you want to keep your life, you better forget the farm.”
PRIDE & JOY: I waited for my daughter to finish her education to take over the farm before coming back to get help with my pain. She is a veterinarian for large animals and is now Regional Deputy in the Legislative Assembly, similar to the role of a Congresswoman. I worked odd jobs and started as a substitute custodian before getting full time. I have a large vegetable garden and chickens here. It lifts my spirits just like when I was working on my farm.
PREGAME: Coach asked me to speak with the boys before a big football game. I don’t speak much English, but okay, they say they understand me. I tell them you have a big game guys – you got to do good so tomorrow nobody talks bad about Mt. Hope High School. The next day, they came up to me saying, “We’re sorry we lost.” I tell them, “the next game is better than this one. Keep going.” If they feel discouraged, I encourage them to go forward – if you lose today, you will win tomorrow. Or I joke with them and say, “Don’t eat too much pizza or donuts; eat milk and bread for strength!”
HAPPY PLACE: The school is my second heart, my second family. I love to be there. When I see the kids, I see my daughter. When the girls talk to me, I hear my daughter. After a basketball or volleyball game, the girls say, “Hey Mr. Vinnie, come over and talk to us.” I was looking to try a different department and the kids, coaches, and teachers asked me to stay: “No, Mr. Vinnie, we need you – everybody needs you in this department.” It makes me feel good.
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