Champion of the poor, those captive to their environments, and those ignored by other administrations, Mayor Thomas Menino stood strong as a principled leader of Boston, making a great town beautiful. A memorial to him and his many years of service is being held in Boston City Hall this evening until 11:00pm.
Mayor Menino died at age 71 today, October 30. He announced in March 2013 that he would not seek reelection for a sixth term, mentioning multiple health issues during the last year of his final term.
Months after leaving office, he was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer that had already spread to his lymph nodes and his liver. Surgery was not a treatment option because the disease had metastasized to a point where it could not be pinpointed.
When Mayor Menino made the public announcement of his illness, he made it clear that he did not want sympathy or people to feel sorry for him. Characteristically, he reminded the public that there are people “worse off” than him.
Mayor Menino said his biggest concern was not to be treated any differently because of this illness. His attitude, as always, was “we’ll get through it.” He continued that he knew he “would be OK” – that he had to be because he “wanted to watch his grandkids grow up.”
One week ago Mayor Menino announced that, while he appreciated his doctors, he would stop his book tour as well as his cancer treatments so that he could spend more time with his family. He vowed to continue fighting the disease.
Mayor for 20 years, Tom Menino was part of the fabric of Boston. For a city that had long been accused of inadequately handling race relations, Mayor Menino interrupted the pattern and stood for justice. He knew the city inside out and knew how to reach across the schism.
One of Mayor Menino’s qualities was to be present in the neighborhoods of Boston. He felt that this was the basis of his mayoral appointment – in his words, “to keep the pulse of the community.”
Born of an Italian family, Thomas Menino grew up in a time when there was divide between nationalities of Irish and Italians. When he was a boy, he, his parents and his grandparents experienced prejudice because of their ethnicity. As Boston’s first Italian-American mayor, following decades of Irish-American mayors, he emphasized that he would not tolerate discrimination, bias of any kind, or racism.
Menino stood up for justice when he decided to march in the city’s gay pride parade and to refuse to march in South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade because it banned LGBT advocacy groups. This was among the key reasons that Mayor Menino was known for years as Boston’s principled leader and because of him, a great town was made more beautiful.
In March 2013 the National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win same-sex marriage nationwide, called the former mayor a tireless leader. The organization also cited Menino as a vocal supporter of marriage for same-sex couples and a stalwart champion of the cause.
Across social media, people are writing on their Facebook timelines and tweeting about Menino’s life and work. Mostly there are personal tributes and appreciations about his down-to-earth manner and how he understood people in many walks of life. He was highly regarded both as a politician and as a person.
Because he was in office for two decades and his many accomplishments, some have called Menino #ForeverBostonsMayor. Messages are diverse – “#MayorMenino was passionate about gun control.” “My heart goes out to the Menino family for the passing of #MayorMenino. He made a great town even more beautiful. #Boston is better thx 2 u.” “RIP to a great neighbor, leader and friend. #MayorMenino, you will be missed. #thankyoumayor.” For the reasons mentioned above, Mayor Thomas Menino will be remembered through Boston history as a beloved and principled leader, making a great town beautiful, as he is laid to rest. Rest in Peace.
Opinion by Fern Remedi-Brown
Fern Remedi-Brown writes about social equity issues, including diversity, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, and global justice.
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