Embraces for ‘the mayor’ in last Bowdoin Geneva walk

Every step that Boston’s outgoing chief executive takes in the last days of his mayoralty is steeped in nostalgia. On Christmas Eve, Tom Menino walked through Bowdoin Geneva as mayor for the last time, handing out gifts at a barber shop before arriving at St. Peter’s Teen Center down the block and doing the same there.

In between, a metal bench outside the teen center was dedicated to him. Several dozen teenagers, reporters, and police officers crowded around him as a youth worker and Father Jack Ahern, who oversees St. Peter’s Parish, formally presented him with the bench.

The youth worker, Euclides Fontes, had been a member of the teen center in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, he started work there. It is a “second home” to him, he said. The inscription on a plaque attached to the bench reads: “This Bench Is A Reminder that Mayor Thomas Michael Menino for 20 Years Loved and Took Care of the Youth of Bowdoin and Geneva!”

Menino will always have a place here, Ahern said, and the bench signified that. “You know, he’s always been called the mayor,” he added. “My guess 20 years from now…when we say the mayor, we’ll always mean Mayor Menino. For all that he’s done for us, for all that he is, and will continue to be, we say thank you, and good luck.”
“I don’t deserve it, I’ve just been doing my job for 20 years,” Menino said.

Menino noted that he walked the streets of the neighborhood two months into his mayoralty, adding, “A lot of people say Bowdoin Geneva, ‘Oh my God,’ ” a reference to the gang violence that has often afflicted the area. “Let me tell you, I say ‘Oh my God’ because of the strength here, the vitality here. When you come out here, you see people who are engaged, who want to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why I come out here.”

As Ahern and Fontes presented the bench, Andrea Lopes, 17, stood a few feet away, holding her three-year-old sister, Maizi. “Is he mayor forever?” Maizi asked.

“Yes,” said Lopes with a nod.