Mayor Thomas M. Menino appeared wistful as he stood in Faneuil Hall, addressing hundreds of visitors who attended the city’s annual Independence Day Oration and who gave him several standing ovations. It was his last Fourth of July as mayor of Boston.
“I’m humbled by it, for sure,” said Menino, 70, after the Thursday morning ceremony. “But really, why should they do it? I’m just doing what I’ve done my whole career as mayor. To me, it wasn’t about being special.”
But that’s not the feeling of some visitors, who traveled to Boston from near and far to celebrate the Fourth of July before Menino, the city’s longest-serving mayor, retires in January after 20 years in office.
“We love to come to Boston every year for this, and Mayor Menino and his wife are a big reason why,” said Karyn Storti, 65, of Reading, seated in the second row. “He’s done a lot to help people appreciate the history of Boston and its historic sites.”
“He’s the reason I’m here,” said Carol Litchfield, 55, a retired government worker, of Waynesville, N.C. “I was very impressed how he handled things after the bombings,” she said, referring to the two bombs that went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15.
Mike Ryan and Mary Kay McAndrew left Syracuse, N.Y., at 3:30 a.m. Thursday, arriving just in time to see Menino lead a 9 a.m. flag-raising ceremony on City Hall Plaza.
“I’m really proud of what he did after the Marathon,” said Ryan, 52, who graduated from Boston College. The couple, who also celebrated the Fourth of July in Boston three years ago, waited after Menino’s Faneuil Hall speech to snap a picture with the mayor. “You came from Syracuse?” Menino asked. “I’m glad you did.”
Moments before, Menino had delivered his last speech at the Independence Day Oration. He paid tribute to patriots who met at Faneuil Hall to plot the nation’s path to freedom.
His last Independence Day address was tinged with sadness, Menino said.
“You know, all these events, they’re a little different, because it’s my last one as mayor,” Menino said, seated in his City Hall office during a break between events. “It’s a part of my life that I look forward to. . . . These are chapters in my book of life that are closing on me.”
“It’s emotional, each one of these things, because I know that next year I will not be the lead speaker,” he said. “I’ll be there, but I won’t be part of it.”
Illness and injury have slowed Menino’s breakneck pace. He still walks with a brace, after surgery in April to repair a broken leg. And, for the first time as mayor, Menino had to skip the annual Independence Day parade, which stops at the burial sites of John Hancock and Sam Adams on Tremont Street. He did not attend the public reading of the Declaration of Independence that followed at the Old State House.
Instead, he retreated to his fifth-floor office at City Hall, saving his energy for the oration ceremony. At every step, he was joined by his wife, Angela, and his grandchildren, Samantha, 13, and Tommy, 8, who was dressed in a Red Sox jersey with “Menino” stitched on the back.
“He’s Thomas Michael, the third,” Menino said, smiling at the boy spinning in the chair behind his grandfather’s desk.
Kathy McCabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.