Politician after Republican politician from across the nation has taken the convention stage this past week to extol the policies of Mitt Romney. On the night when Romney accepted the party’s nomination, however, his campaign turned to Bay Staters to fill out a personal portrait of the candidate.
“Now Mitt was an unusual guy,” said Tom Stemberg, describing to a national audience the special enthusiasm that Romney brought to a plan for a comprehensive office-supply company from Framingham. “He had already enjoyed great success at Bain & Company. But he knew the value of a dollar. When I told him about Staples, he really got excited at the idea of saving a few cents on paper clips.”
Stemberg led a group of speakers hailing Romney’s business acumen and empathy for entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses. Kerry Healey, Romney’s lieutenant governor, and Jane Edmonds, former secretary of workforce development in Massachusetts, spoke both of Romney’s work improving the state’s economic bottom line when he was governor and of his commitment to bringing more women into leadership roles in government.
Mike Eruzione, the Winthrop native and Boston University hockey player who became the “Miracle on Ice” hero when he scored the game-winning goal against the Soviet Union’s powerhouse hockey team at the 1980 Olympics, joined a group of Olympians to talk about Romney’s success in saving the scandal-plagued Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002.
Some of the most poignant moments came from speakers unknown to the public.
Former Medford residents Ted and Pat Oparowski, members of Romney’s Mormon church, shared a story about how Romney helped their teenage son, David, write his own will during the last days of his battle with cancer. Knowing Romney had gone to law school, David asked him for assistance, the Oparowskis said.
“The next time Mitt went to the hospital, he was equipped with his yellow legal pad and pen. Together, they made David’s will. That is a task that no child should ever have to do. But it gave David peace of mind,” Pat Oparowski said to a rapt audience.
Pam Finlayson, whose family also attended the Mormon church in Belmont when Romney was a leader there, talked about his dedication to her family during a difficult period many years ago. Finlayson said that Romney prayed over her daughter, Kate, after she was born prematurely.
“I will never forget that when he looked down tenderly at my daughter, his eyes filled with tears, and he reached out gently and stroked her tiny back,’’ Finlayson said. “I could tell immediately that he didn’t just see a tangle of plastic and tubes; he saw our beautiful little girl.’’
Kate Finlayson suffered from hydrocephalus — “water on the brain” — and died in 2010 at age 26.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1984, when Kate Finlayson was still hospitalized as an infant, Romney showed up, unannounced, at the family’s home with a dinner he had prepared himself.
“I opened my door to find Mitt and his boys, arms loaded with a Thanksgiving feast,” Pam Finlayson said. “When I called to thank Ann, she sweetly confessed it had been Mitt’s idea, that most of the cooking and chopping had been done by him.”
The mission of the Mormon speakers was to help humanize Romney, the former Massachusetts governor worth as much as a quarter-billion dollars, who is perceived by some voters as detached from regular people.