Editor's Note: The Dorchester Day Parade will be held on Sunday, June 2 at 1 p.m. Each year, the parade committee selects a veteran from the neighborhood to serve as Chief Marshal. This year, the honor goes to John Schneiderman, who in addition to serving in the Armed Forces works as a volunteer civic association leader in Pope's Hill.
Q. Chief Marshal, can you tell me what Dorchester means to you?
A. I was recently asked what I meant when I jokingly said I was going to coin a new phrase to be added to Dorchester By Choice (DBC) and Originally from Dorchester (OFD). The new phrase, DWAC, stands for Dot Without Any Choice.
When I was first introduced to the woman who is now my wife of 36 years, Janice Marie Mullen, she made it perfectly clear that if we were to be married, she would never uproot her two children and move to where I came from, or anywhere else for that matter. So, the choice was made, and to this day I have no regrets whatsoever.
Q. How have you celebrated Dorchester Day in past years, and what significance does the day carry for you?
A. I remember when I attended my first parade in June of 1983. I was amazed. I had no idea of the scope of this great event. In those early years, we had the family BBQ in our backyard on King Street. All of my wife’s family came back to Dot that day and we had loads of good clean fun. I knew that I was in the right place and never ever thought about leaving. This was going to be my home.
In 1985, we bought the home where we still reside here on Ashmont Street. In the next couple of years, I was asked to coach Cedar Grove youth baseball. We won our first and only championship in 1987. Some of the players on my team were Chris O’Sullivan, who went on to play in the NHL for a number of years before retiring and taking a job with the BPD. Then there was Ed Kelly, who went on to become the general secretary and treasurer of the International Association of Fire Fighters with an office in DC. Whenever Edzo and Chris see me, they still call me “coach,” which is a great honor; it’s nice to be remembered. In fact, they just recently had a reunion at The Industry with a group of guys who grew up together here in Neponset, and I was invited. It was a great night to see how all of these boys grew up to be so successful.
Q. You have served in other civic positions, like president of the Pope’s Hill Neighborhood Association (PHNA). How do you think that service impacted the neighborhood?
A. In 2005 I was introduced to Phil Carver, then president of PHNA, and I soon found out the value of neighborhood associations. Phil was passionate about our neighborhood and taught me what that value is. I became an executive board member and attended every meeting. We all had a voice in what went on in our neighborhood.
In 2011, I took a bigger role and became vice president when then VP Mike Juliano stepped down. I learned about development issues and got to have a bigger voice in what I call “protecting our neighborhood.” When Phil stepped down in 2015, I was elevated to president and found myself in a position where I could substantially make a difference in my neighborhood. I’ve always said transparency and honesty is what I believe in, and I think I’ve proved that.
Q. As a well-known and active community leader, can you name one thing that people might be surprised to learn about you?
A. Most people who know me don’t know that I am not OFD, and to me this is what makes it more special to be a PHNA president, that the trust placed in me by my neighbors, the association, and elected officials will never be compromised. To think that when Janice and I went to work on Jim Brett’s mayoral campaign in 1993, we met such a great family in the Brett family and others at phone banks. We would often sit next to a young man named Marty Walsh. [Now knowing] that we were sitting next to a future mayor of Boston is truly unbelievable. I am so proud to have watched him grow into a world class mayor of a world class city.
Q. In closing, as a veteran, how do you view the annual Dot Day parade and the other events?
A. As a veteran, but more as a civic leader, I am thrilled that I will be leading the 115th edition of the Dorchester Day Parade. I am proud to be a veteran, although I was fortunate in that I didn’t serve in a war zone.
I’m proud to know that my name will be added to the list of chief marshals in the archives of the 115-year history of the Dorchester Day Parade. I will tell you that I am extremely proud to have lived most of my life in this wonderful community. A phrase that’s often used by OFDers comes to mind: This is truly ‘God’s country.’”