For 20 years, it was his building. On Monday, it was again, one last time.
Boston City Hall is the kind of building that only a mayor can love. Tom Menino certainly did, and that dark, dank, wind-swept building certainly loved him right back during his two-decade run in the nice office on the 5th floor.
And so on Monday, as the city’s longest-serving mayor was laid to rest, City Hall once again became Menino’s, with people lining the sidewalk and steps along Congress Street to watch his funeral procession pass under the windows of the mayor’s office, and for those who braved the chilly wind on the plaza to watch his funeral service on a giant video screen.
“He was such an amazing leader who has done so much for every neighborhood of the city,” said Traci Griffith, the principal at the Eliot School in the North End, who had brought a few dozen students to stand on the city hall steps and watch the procession drive by. “He was the education mayor, and we used this as an opportunity to talk to the students about paying our respects.”
On the plaza, where a stiff November breeze ripped at a huge banner honoring the mayor, many people stopped on their lunch hours -- if even for a few moments -- to watch the service.
Eugenie Byles of Hyde Park said that the mayor -- who was being eulogized on the screen -- had changed her daughter’s life when she was a student at the Rogers Middle School. “She had an opportunity to go to Boston University Academy, but I didn’t have the money to make that possible, so the mayor gave me a $2,500 check,” she said. Her daughter is now a staff writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“He was a good man. He was always buying ice cream for the kids at the bowling alley. You could always just talk to him, he didn’t care who you were,” Byles remembered.
In the middle of the plaza, Norma Ochoa Aragon was holding a sign that read “Thank you, Mayor Menino,” written in the familiar white-on-green style of Menino’s campaign posters.
She had come in from Lynn, been at Faneuil Hall in the morning to watch his casket come out of Faneuil Hall, and was skipping eating lunch because she didn’t want to miss a minute of the funeral feed, despite a chill that chased many from the plaza after a few minutes.
“When I came to Boston in the 1980s, the city was not like this. So I come here to thank him for everything he did, to pay my respects,” she said. “He was so humble, and really loved people, and really wanted to help people. I love what he did to Boston.”Billy Baker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @billy_baker.