Thomas Michael Menino served as Boston’s mayor for 20 years, retiring just this year to concentrate more on his family, which he already doted on but wanted more, and to focus on his health. Unfortunately, just months after retiring, his health gave in and he passed away.
His funeral was an event to be seen. First, it wasn’t held in a majestic cathedral but in the church where he was baptized 71 years ago. Attending were the Vice President of the United States, the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Boston Celtic legend Bill Russell, Big Papi of the Boston Red Sox, a young black girl the mayor befriended and who was shot when she was three years old and is living her life in a wheel chair, many of his staff who served with him, leaders of every ethnic group in Boston, and, of course, his family and hundreds of friends. The people of Boston lined the streets as the hearse carrying the mayor wound through on a final tour of his favorite places – City Hall, Fenway Park, his home in the blue-collar Hyde Park section of Boston, where he was born and lived his life. Oh, and former President Bill Clinton paid a surprise visit to the mayor’s family for quiet moment as his casket was being taken from Faneuil Hall where he laid in state making the Mayor literally late for his own funeral, as mourners waited an extra half hour for his arrival.
The most touching and tear-invoking comments came not from the governor or mayor, who gave excellent eulogies, but from two of his grandchildren in their teens who somehow managed, despite no public speaking experience, to tell eloquently the more than 700 in attendance and millions more watching on TV and the Internet, personal stories about their “papa.” Speaker after speaker noted that his widow, Angela, sacrificed much so he could attend thousands of ribbon cuttings and chicken dinners during his 20 years as mayor. Oh, and he checked out of his hospital bed when the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon last year, as he consoled a city, while he clearly was in great pain. Angela did it all with a smile on her face and the knowledge that he was helping hundreds of thousands of his fellow Bostonians every day. He was doing what he loved, being mayor of Boston.
The Mayor was far from the Brahmin many of us typically think of as Bostonians. He earned the nickname “Mumbles” because he often couldn’t be understand and almost as often misspoke, like when he said Boston’s lack of parking spaces was “an Alcatraz around my neck.”
Mayor Menino wasn’t known as a visionary but a guy who could fill the potholes, collect the garbage and expand the tax base of the city. But there was never – never! – a hint of scandal by his administration during his 20 years. And during his tenure, Boston stepped ahead from being a town ripped by racial divisions and urban challenges to a world-class city that, as he would say, isn’t perfect, but way better than it once was. Give me the person who actually produces a vision – a city that has grown, expanded and improved – over someone who can eloquently give a speech about a vision any day.
RIP, Mr. Mayor.