Neighborhoods say thank you — and farewell— to Tom Menino

Mourners saluted Mayor Menino one last time as a hearse carrying his coffin drove along Geneva Avenue on Mon., Nov. 3, 2014. Photo by Lauren Dezenski

Hundreds of mourners lined the streets of Dorchester and Mattapan to salute Mayor Thomas M. Menino and his family as his funeral procession followed a route through the neighborhoods to his Hyde Park parish church this morning.

In Mattapan, the mayor's "final ride" was greeted with a "final standout" with longtime loyalists and school kids lining parts of Blue Hill Ave., many holding green and white placards that read "Thank You Mayor Menino."

At the intersection of Bowdoin Street and Geneva Avenue in Dorchester, just shy of 100 people turned out to see former Mayor Tom Menino’s so-called “Final Ride Home” from Faneuil Hall to Hyde Park.

Like so many other parts of the city, people came to give one final thank you to the mayor who shined light on an oft-forgotten neighborhood. Bowdoin Geneva was one of 11 locations visited by the procession that was significant to Menino’s time in office.

As the procession drove down Geneva Avenue, keeping right to turn up Bowdoin Street and headed to Mattapan, the crowd on both sides of the street let out a brief cheer, with many holding “Thank You Mayor Menino” signs and snapping photos and video on their smartphones. Others waved at the cars carrying Menino’s family members, including his wife Angela, children, and grandchildren.

Of the 75 or so people that lined the streets, many recalled fond personal memories of the mayor, from his Christmas stops in the neighborhood to meetings with local groups and businesses.

Standing at the Bowdoin Geneva intersection as the hearse drove by was the man responsible for inviting Menino to the neighborhood on Christmas 1993: Jesus Rosa, then the co-chair of the Bowdoin Geneva Mercants’ Association, a pre-cursor to the city’s Main Streets organization, created under Menino.

“To his credit, he came,” Rosa said of Menino’s first walk-through. And he continued coming for the next 20 years. “He understood things that we needed,” Rosa said, pointing to the street lights and traffic cans along the street, there by Menino’s edict, he said.
Mary Burks and Jim ClarkMary Burks and Jim Clark
Janet Jones, a union organizer with the Dorchester Roxbury Labor Committee, brought her dog Layla, a Husky mix, to the farewell. Jones and Layla had traveled these streets with Menino before, back when Menino was still well enough to walk the neighborhood in his Christmas-time stops.

“We just had to be a part of the goodbye,” Jones said as she held a “Thank You Mayor Menino” sign in one hand and Layla’s leash in the other. “Even when we had our differences, he just touched so many peoples’ lives. I think that’s a sign of a real mensch.”

A group of four employees from the Bowdoin Street Health Center came to the corner to bid Menino farewell, including Mary O’Sullivan. She said more would have come if they were not helping patients. Beyond his Chrismastime stops, O’Sullivan recalled frequently seeing the mayor at Sunday mass at St. Mark’s Church, though it was not his home parish. “We felt like he was one of us.”

Before the procession made its way through the city, “Thank You Mayor Menino” signs were made available. One person to stop in for a sign at the Bowdoin Street Health Center was Lena Lynch, a Bowdoin Geneva resident. “If it wasn’t for him I would not have been able to get a loan to fix my house,” she said.

A single tear fell down Lynch’s cheek as she described praying Menino after hearing he was sick. “I was praying for him every morning and every night,” she said. “Now I continue to pray for his family.”

In Mattapan, Shannon Guillory joined a group of women holding signs along Blue Hill Avenue because she credits Menino with changing the racial tone of the city.

"I'm a native Bostonian, born in the 70s, with a lot of racial tensions. I've noticed a very big change now. People of color have a seat at the table. I think because of {Menino's] humble beginnings he just got it."

"Boston is a renaissance city now," said Guillory.

Deborah Smith-Pressley and Vanessa Wilson-Howard: Joined a stand-out to say farewell to mayor as his funeral procession passed on Blue Hill Avenue on Mon., Nov. 3. Photo by Bill ForryDeborah Smith-Pressley and Vanessa Wilson-Howard: Joined a stand-out to say farewell to mayor as his funeral procession passed on Blue Hill Avenue on Mon., Nov. 3. Photo by Bill Forry"He made sure we were always included," said Mattapan native Vanessa Wilson-Howard, who stood outside of the Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library. The building—which opened in 2009— is one of several public amenities in Mattapan that were added or improved under the late mayor's watch.

Wilson-Howard's parents— Annie and Gareth Kinkead— were close advisors to the mayor, especially on senior and Mattapan related issues. Mayor Menino and his wife Angela attended the Kinkead's family parties and Mrs. Menino was at Mr. Kinkead's funeral last year.

"He was a strong force for good in Mattapan," said Wilson-Howard.

Deborah Smith-Pressley, another Mattapan resident who stood outside the library, said that Menino was a champion for children with Austism— a cause that Smith-Pressley is passionate about. She launched a resource center named for her own son Garrett Pressley, who has Autism, to assist other impacted families in city neighborhoods.

"I remember seeing the mayor right after he said he wouldn't run for another term, and I had a tear in my eye," said Smith-Pressley. "He said, 'Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere.' We're really missing a longtime advocate for our children."