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 a large portion of southeastern Jamaica Plain. He announced earlier this year that he was suffering from inoperable cancer, and recently chose to end treatment and spend time with his family.
Menino’s lengthy tenure as a popular mayor influenced virtually every aspect of JP life. He likely will be remembered here for his LGBT rights advocacy, his creation of the small-business-boosting Main Streets program, and his commitment to seeing affordable housing developed in such places as Jackson Square, 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 today 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 JP resident 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 columnist
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, the District 6 City Councilor and a JP resident, 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.”
Rebuilding Together Boston
Menino is being remembered by Rebuilding Together Boston, a JP-based nonprofit that assists low-income homeowners with property repairs. The former mayor’s wife, Angela Menino, once served on the organization’s advisory board.
“Mayor and Mrs. Menino cared deeply for the City’s neediest, including low-income homeowners, many of whom could not afford to make critical repairs to their homes,” said RTB board co-chairs Janice Daue Walker and Michael Potter in a written statement. “We always have been appreciative of their support of our Rebuilding Together Boston volunteers and sponsors. Mayor Menino took the time to come to our projects, reaching out to the community as well as separately engaging with our staff and board…We will miss him greatly.”
Gerry Burke, owner of Doyle’s Café
“It’s still a sad day in Boston,” Burke said. “He was a longtime friend of everyone in the city. He was a good, good man.”
A room at the Washington Street pub is named for Menino.
“The city has lost a true champion, no question about it,” Burke said.
Kathy Mainzer, co-owner Bella Luna Restaurant and Milky Way Lounge
“We are very saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Mayor Menino. He became mayor the same year that we opened Bella Luna in 1993 and was always a huge supporter of the restaurant and the causes we care about. He fought big battles against gun violence and inequality, and smaller battles against broken windows and littered sidewalks. He taught us that we don’t have to be great orators or have advanced degrees to make huge and lasting contributions. We just have to care and make the effort. A great role model and champion for our diverse city.”