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    In Readville, a mayor who was a neighbor first

    In Thomas M. Menino’s Readville neighborhood, old friends mourned the loss of an easygoing, conscientious neighbor -- a man, they said, who remained the same Tom Menino throughout the decades.

    Marion Barone, a retired hair stylist who lives around the corner from the former mayor’s house, said Menino never once passed by -- whether on foot, on his bicycle, or in a car -- without waving and calling out hello.

    “In the summer, I’d bring him down tomatoes from the garden, and he’d call me up and go, ‘Oh, they were delicious!’ ” Barone said. “He was not just the mayor -- he was a neighbor and a friend.”


    Judy Pais, who has lived across from the Meninos for more than 35 years, recalled the mayor rising early after snowstorms to clear the sidewalks up and down Chesterfield Street with his snow blower. After Pais’s father died, the Meninos sent over two turkeys with all the trimmings and cut a trip short to return for the funeral.

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    Speaking to reporters on the front steps of her home -- like Menino’s, a modest, neatly maintained single-family sided with faux-stone veneer -- Pais’s voice faltered.

    “Oh, my heart just broke. I had been praying that he would have some real quality time with his family, which he deserved. And I’m so sad that he didn’t get to have that,” she said. “His last days were in the hospital and not at home with his family, but I know his family was with him.”

    “I don’t know what else to say,” she said, “except I’m gonna miss the guy.”

    Police stationed themselves on both ends of Chesterfield, allowing a trickle of mourners through all afternoon, as people left flowers on the front steps or brought coffee cake to the door.


    About 2:20 p.m., Menino’s immediate family and a close aide arrived in an unmarked police car with tinted windows, Angela Menino clutching her husband’s Louisville Slugger baseball bat cane. Two members of the police department’s special operations unit soon arrived on motorcycles to guard the family’s privacy, their light-blue helmets glinting in the autumn sun.

    Some mourners had never met Menino. Others, like Andrew Burton, who biked from Roslindale with a bouquet of daisies, had met him just once.

    But Burton appreciated the way the city flourished under Menino, and he never forgot the ease with which Menino ribbed him at a school fund-raiser after learning Burton had two young daughters. “He said something like, ‘Oh, you’re in trouble, man,’ ” and gave a knowing look, recalled Burton, 39. “He was just a funny, cool dude.”

    Children came, too. Vincent Semidey, a 10-year-old who grew up on the next block, brought a hand-drawn card for Angela that showed Menino ascending a rainbow to heaven.

    “He heard about it in school and right away -- he hasn’t even done his homework yet -- he had to come over here,” said his mother, Melody, who also grew up nearby. “He was just a neighborhood man who knew everybody and everybody loved him. It’s a sad, sad loss.”


    Whether doling out ice cream during the annual Chesterfield block party or handing out full-sized candy bars on Halloween, Menino was revered as a “grandfather to all the kids in the neighborhood,” said Bob Rand, who rode down from a few blocks away on his electric scooter, 6-year-old foster daughter Kiley in his lap.

    Rand carried no card and no flowers, only his cane. When he reached the house, Kiley climbed down and approached the house, and Rand steadied himself on the sidewalk. The little girl knelt before the pumpkin on the Menino stoop, crossed herself, and said a quiet prayer. Back on the scooter, Rand kissed the top of Kiley’s head tenderly, and they quietly rode back up Chesterfield.

    Eric Moskowitz can be reached at