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Close friend of Kevin H. White recalls his legacy

SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF/FILE 2005

Kevin White, right, the former mayor who died Friday, with friend Bob Crane in 2005. Crane will give a eulogy for White.

Kevin White and Bob Crane were close friends for decades, but their golf and tennis games were never just friendly matches.

“Oh, he always wanted to win,’’ said Crane, the former state treasurer who will deliver a eulogy at White’s funeral tomorrow. “Against me, most of all. He was very competitive in everything he did.’’

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White, the mayor of Boston from 1968 to 1984, died Friday at his Beacon Hill home at 82. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2003.

Crane, 86, said White will be remembered as a pivotal figure whose expansive vision and grass-roots appeal helped elevate the city into a thriving metropolis and see it through turbulent times.

“He made the city what it is today,’’ he said.

As tributes to White poured in from all corners of the city, Crane’s reflections offered a glimpse into White’s life outside of politics, and of his last days.

Crane said White had a great sense of humor and “loved to laugh,’’ but recalled his disappointment over being passed over for the vice presidential nomination in 1972.

“He would have liked that,’’ Crane said wistfully.

Crane last saw White two days after Christmas, and realized his friend of so many years had little time left.

“I knew I was saying goodbye,’’ he said. White no longer recognized him, he said, and his health was clearly failing.

As White’s dementia advanced, his wife, Kathryn, cared for him tenderly and tirelessly, Crane said.

“She devoted herself to him and him alone,’’ he said. “She made sure he never lost his dignity.’’

A public wake will be held today from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Parkman House on Beacon Street. A funeral Mass, which is also open to the public, will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Cecilia Church on Belvidere Street.

The funeral procession will pause at Faneuil Hall, where a bronze statue of White stands, and pass White’s home on Mount Vernon Street before arriving at St. Cecilia’s.

Governor Deval Patrick and Senators Scott Brown and John F. Kerry are expected to attend the service, said George Regan, a friend and former aide to White who is speaking on the family’s behalf.

Kerry met with Kathryn White yesterday at her Beacon Hill home, Regan said. The family planned to visit the funeral home yesterday before having dinner at a friend’s, Regan said.

Music at the service will include an organist, a choir, and a soloist. A Fire Department ladder truck in front of the church will display a large US flag, Regan said.

Serving as pallbearers are family friend and developer Robert L. Beal; racetrack owner George Carney; family friend Elizabeth Cook; Jack Connors Jr., who designed the first television advertising campaign for White; Richard M. Dray, a close friend and former adviser to White; former White pollster James Hosker; and former White aides Peter Meade, Micho F. Spring, and Regan.

Those who attend the funeral are invited to a reception at the Boston Public Library after the service.

Burial will be private.

Patrick credited the four-term mayor yesterday with leaving an “extraordinary imprint’’ on the city.

Patrick told reporters that when he arrived in Boston in 1970, the city was “in the midst of extraordinary transformation,’’ according to the State House News Service.

“Mayor White was at the center of and leading much of what was good in that transformation,’’ Patrick said, according to the news service report. “It’s just extraordinary leadership and an extraordinary imprint he has left on the city.’’

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete. Noah Bierman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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