‘A giant is gone’: Locals remember Mayor Menino

By Rebeca Oliveira, Peter Shanley and John Ruch/Gazette Staff

Former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who led the city for an unprecedented 20 years before choosing not to run again last year, died Oct. 30 after a long and public battle with cancer.

Menino, 71, won his first term as mayor in 1993. For 10 years before that, he served as a Boston city councilor representing his home neighborhood of Hyde Park as well as parts of other communities. He announced earlier this year that he was suffering from inoperable cancer, and recently chose to end treatment and spend time with his family. He died at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Longwood Medical Area.

Menino’s lengthy tenure as a popular mayor influenced virtually every aspect of local life. He likely will be remembered here for his creation of the small-business-boosting Main Streets program, and his commitment to seeing affordable housing developed in such places as Roxbury Crossing, among many other programs and causes.

Menino touched on several of those programs in his recent memoir, “Mayor for a New America.”

Menino also earned a reputation as a mayor who promoted and developed the city’s neighborhoods as much as he did downtown. His successor, Mayor Martin Walsh, said in a statement that “more than anything, he was a man of the neighborhoods.”

The following are some memories of Menino from local leaders, residents and activists:

State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez

“A giant is gone from Earth, but he lives on in our souls. He gave his life to the city in so many ways.”

“[He was] the greatest mayor of the city. He brought people together. He was that constant that everybody knew who worked for the benefit of the city.”

Sánchez, a Mission Hill native who formerly worked in finance, recalled how Menino got him involved in City government and made him realize his true passion in public service. Sánchez worked for Menino in the 1990s in various roles, including on the U.S. Census outreach and on early community planning for the Jackson Square redevelopment.

Menino’s hands-on, fix-it-up approach to the city improved Jamaica Plain “dramatically,” Sánchez recalled. “That is the legacy he left behind. People could be proud of their communities.”

Sandra Storey, Gazette founder

The founding editor and publisher of the Gazette and longtime Boston community journalist covered most of Menino’s career back to his days as a Hyde Park city councilor in the 1980s.

“Over the years then and later when he was mayor, I got to know a true champion of the underdog. His stands on sometimes unpopular proposals, like location of a halfway house in the neighborhood, as well as racial and gender equality issues, seemed to come from an admirable, instinctive, even tough sense of justice and fairness he had.”

City Councilor Matt O’Malley

“I’m heartbroken. We have lost a legend.”

O’Malley, who represents the Back of the Hill area as District 6 City Councilor, noted he was 13 years old when Menino became mayor. O’Malley ended up serving on the City Council for several years under Menino’s leadership.

“He was great. He was so on top of everything that was happening, every detail…He was wonderful to work with. I learned a lot from him.”

Richard Rouse, executive director, Mission Hill Main Streets

“Our vibrant and wonderful city has lost one of its greatest leaders, and history will regard him well for his honesty, vision and caring. Tom understood how political power could enhance the lives of Boston’s citizens, and he used that force effectively. Tom Menino and I entered public life within a year of each other, over 30 years ago, and we interacted in countless ways to make Boston the very best it could be. He was tough and kind, stubborn and compassionate, a deep thinker and a plainspoken common man. A flood of memories and conversations have come to mind since his passing. This loving husband and devoted family man always tried to do his very best, and I will miss him.”

Pat Flaherty, Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services

“Like the rest of the city of Boston, I am heartbroken by the passing of Mayor Menino. He was a good friend to the Mission Hill community. He knew and loved the people of this neighborhood and worked tirelessly on their behalf. He was a good friend to me and gave me a voice. I am forever grateful for the lessons he taught me, the conversations we had, the needling he was famous for, and the knowledge that he supported my work and always had my back. My thoughts are with Angela and the entire Menino family, including Team Menino. I trust that the mayor can feel all the love and gratitude from his city and is resting in peace.”

Former Mayor Thomas Menino. (Photo Courtesy Mayor's Office)

Former Mayor Thomas Menino. (Photo Courtesy Mayor’s Office)

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