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The Boston Globe

Metro

KEVIN CULLEN

Honoring the not so great and the not so good

I like the idea of putting up a statue to honor Ray Flynn. It’s about time.

I don’t think he gets enough credit for how he handled his mayoral campaign against Mel King in 1983. For that matter, Mel — a good, decent guy – doesn’t get enough credit either.

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The city was less than 10 years removed from the ruinous unrest that followed a deeply flawed school desegregation plan, and Ray Flynn, coming from the heart of Southie, where bigots threw bricks at school buses carrying terrified black kids, was able to bring the decent majority to the surface.

Unlike so many career politicians, Ray never enriched himself. He’s still down that little street off Marine Road. He doesn’t have a place down the Cape or a lakefront house up in New Hampshire. He and Cathy just have their house in Southie.

And for all Ray did as mayor, his greatest act as a human being may be what he is doing right now, every day, loving and caring for his disabled grandson. He and Cathy are good people.

One possible way to honor Ray Flynn is to have a statue of him and Mel King shaking hands, as they did many times during that pivotal campaign some 30 years ago. It would be a great symbol for the town.

But I’ve not come here to praise Flynn and King as much as to ask why so many statues and memorials are reserved for politicians. The simple answer, of course, is that the people who so often propose these things, and have the leverage to deliver them, are politicians themselves.

Still, as much as I like certain pols, the inescapable reality is that most of their greatest accomplishments are achieved by spending other people’s money.

Why don’t we have more statues and memorials for ordinary people who do extraordinary things?

Why not put up a statue of the Tuskegee Airmen who came out of Roxbury and Dorchester? There’s already a bridge in Dorchester dedicated to them, but I’d love to see a statue of guys like Willis Saunders and Harvey Sanford and James McLaurin and Donald Callender and Joe Hall and DelBrook Binns. Put it right in the middle of Grove Hall.

I’d put up a statue on Meetinghouse Hill of Walter Fahey, late of the Boston Police Department, one of the best cops to ever wear a badge. He gave back his detective shield so he could go back on the street, and, at 65, was chasing some guy with a knife through Fields Corner a couple of weeks before he retired. That’s when he wasn’t bringing food to homeless people all over the city. A saint.

Speaking of saints, what about Kathe McKenna? With what she did at Haley House in Dudley Square, she’s a modern personification of Dorothy Day.

Or Sister Mary Hart. Sister Mary, who died a few years ago, got hundreds of poor kids from Roxbury into college. When she couldn’t walk anymore, she did her business out of the back of her car. The kids still ran to her and hugged her.

Sister Mary deserves a statue more than any politician.

How about one for Ray Tye, who spent millions on kids from all over the world to give them access to medical care they couldn’t get at home.

How about a statue for Don Rodman? Or Bill Reilly? Great Dorchester guys who never forgot where they came from.

I’d put up a statue of Dr. Tom Durant, another OFD (originally from Dorchester). Doc Durant helped more refugees around the world than anybody.

I’d like to see a statue of David Mugar on the banks of the Charles. You could put up one of Jack Connors on Long Island, where he set up the camp for city kids. Norman Leventhal, who built some of the city’s signature buildings and is a great philanthropist, would be a good statue, surrounded by maps.

I’m sure everybody could put a list of their own together. Bottom line, the honors shouldn’t be reserved for politicians.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.
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