BOSTON (AP) — Thomas Menino, Boston’s longest-serving mayor and one of the most beloved, was remembered at his funeral Monday as “the doer of small things,” a city leader less interested in the national political stage than the day-to-day minutiae of running the city, from making sure garbage was picked up to improving public schools.
Menino’s City Hall successor, Mayor Marty Walsh, opened the private ceremony at Most Precious Blood Parish in Hyde Park, where Menino was baptized and served as an altar boy, by hailing him as a “relentless, big-hearted, people-loving urban mechanic.”
“He’s has gone to fix potholes in heaven,” Walsh said to laughter.
Walsh said Menino, who died Thursday at the age of 71, “believed in underdogs” because the former insurance salesman who rose to become mayor knew what it meant to be underestimated.
“He didn’t believe in old Boston and new Boston. He believed in one Boston,” he said.
In a lengthy eulogy Gov. Deval Patrick recounted how Menino did not throw his powerful political weight behind Patrick’s first successful run for governor in 2006 but still spent the time to get to know the political neophyte when he sought the city leader’s support.
“He seemed to make time for everyone, even a political nobody like me,” Patrick said.
The governor touched on many of the former mayor’s endearing traits, including his famous tendency to mangle words and names in a thick Boston accent. He may have mumbled, Patrick said, but “you always knew what he meant, and that he meant what he said.”
Hundreds of dignitaries, athletes and prominent Bostonians were on hand for the service.
Among those in attendance were former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, ex-Celtics great Bill Russell, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and retired pitcher Pedro Martinez.
Earlier Monday, Menino’s casket was carried out of historic Faneuil Hall, where thousands had come out in the cold rain as he lay in state on Sunday. The funeral procession took him on a final tour of the city he loved, passing Boston landmarks like City Hall, the State House, Boston University and Fenway Park, as well as neighborhood locations like shopping plazas, schools and libraries that he played a role in building.
Hundreds of residents and supporters lined the route. Some cheered while others openly wept. Many held green signs reading “Thank You, Mayor Menino.”
Schools along the route took children out of classes to briefly pay their respects. “He was the education mayor. This is a big part of his legacy,” said Traci Griffith, principal at Eliot School in the North End, gesturing to about 80 schoolchildren standing with her on City Hall’s steps.
MaryAnne Fitzgerald, 69, who was born in South Boston and grew up in Dorchester, said it was a sad day for Boston. “He was a good man,” she said, standing among the crowd in front of the State House. “He loved the city and he loved the people.”
Menino, who served as mayor from 1993 to 2014, was diagnosed with cancershortly after leaving office. He is to be buried at Fairview Cemetery in Hyde Park.