From Faneuil Hall to Grove Hall, Fenway Park to Hyde Park, thousands of people turned out Monday to say goodbye to the man they knew and loved as mayor for two decades, lining the streets of Boston for the funeral procession of Thomas M. Menino.
The hand-scrawled signs along the route said it all. In the shadow of the Green Monster, on Lansdowne Street: “Thank You For Saving Fenway Park.” In once-blighted Dudley Square, where construction workers paused: “Getting the job done.” On Columbia Road, in the Italian of Menino’s ancestors: “Riposare in Pace.” In front of the Mall of Roxbury, in Boston vernacular, held by a City Year volunteer: “Best maya eva!!!”
And at the edge of a crosswalk in Roslindale Village, where small children waved flags and the crowd pressed six deep, a sign said simply, “You Were Everybody’s Guy.”
For 90 minutes and 19 miles, Menino’s casket wound through the city he cherished in a gleaming Cadillac hearse, trailing a vintage Packard laden with flowers that spelled BOSTON and leading a line of limousines and police motorcycles.
All along the way, the faces and clothing reflected the diversity that Menino embraced, a mayor for all in a city so long riven by racial and ethnic divides, split by class or age or neighborhood lines: Black and white, Latino and Asian; men in yarmulkes, hard hats, scally caps, and headphones; women in earmuffs, knit caps, head scarves, overcoats, even bathrobes; and scores of children, packing the sidewalks and the steps of every school the procession passed.
Some people waited for hours, others rushed out in flip-flops. Many removed their hats, clutched a hand to their hearts, or saluted; thousands did so even while taking pictures or video with their other hand. “God bless you!” they called, from the front steps of town houses and the back stairs of bodegas. “We love you!”
They included Anna Adler and Kerri Schmidt of ReadBoston, a literacy program Menino founded in 1995, who joined the crowd outside the Parkman House, the official Beacon Hill manse that the mayor used for high-profile occasions while still living in the modest Hyde Park single-family he shared with wife, Angela. “I mean, we loved him,” Schmidt said, her voice breaking. “It’s pretty simple.”
The procession, which Menino’s aides called his “last ride home,” passed by 10 locations of particular meaning to Menino during his three decades as city councilor and mayor and 71 years as a Bostonian, starting at Faneuil Hall — where he delivered his first inaugural and so many State of the City addresses — and ending at Hyde Park’s Most Precious Blood Church, where the young Menino served as altar boy.
By 10 a.m., a crowd had gathered on the steps of Quincy Market and pressed up against temporary barricades opposite Faneuil Hall, where Menino’s body had lain in state for the previous 24 hours. On a chilly fall morning, they shifted in place and clutched coffee cups as well as the green-and-white “Thank You Mayor Menino” signs that were handed out there and at a dozen other locations along the route.
Just after 10:20, former president Bill Clinton arrived, walking across the cobblestones to greet Menino’s children at the entrance, resting his left hand on Thomas Jr.’s shoulder while shaking hands with Susan with his right. He joined the family inside for a final prayer.
With bagpipers skirling and Special Operations officers standing at attention, the Meninos and Clinton reappeared 20 minutes later, the former president hugging them as he helped Susan and Angela into the lead limousine. While Clinton and Thomas Jr., a Boston police detective, stood silently nearby, longtime Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce emerged from Faneuil Hall, carrying toward the limo the baseball-bat cane that had rested beside Menino in an open casket.
Then Menino’s casket appeared, draped in the city’s powder-blue flag and carried to the hearse by nine Special Operations officers in brilliant-blue helmets, beginning the procession a little before 11 a.m. There and everywhere, the people who stood at attention included so many who had met him at neighborhood events and ribbon-cuttings, a man who took care of potholes and knew his way around a block party.
On Quincy Market’s granite steps, Janet Black of Charlestown could not help but smile as she remembered ribbing the mayor when she saw him reach for a bag of potato chips at a Knights of Columbus Hall, after he claimed to be on a diet. “Mr. Mayor, what would your wife say?” the 71-year-old crossing guard said she asked him. He grinned, abandoned the chips, and chose a tuna fish sandwich.
The procession banked past City Hall, and headed for Tremont Street, where a reenactor in Colonial garb waved from the Granary Burying Ground, and the tour in her charge did the same. At the corner of Park Street, a grandmother pushing a stroller gasped. “Oh, God bless,” she said.
On Beacon Hill, Michael Ratty said he felt “sheer pain” as the procession passed. “It seems impossible to talk about him in the past tense,” said Ratty, a 35-year-old who volunteered for Menino’s final campaign. “He was just omnipresent.”
Further down Beacon Street, a postal worker paused between cars in the Back Bay, clasping her hands together. In Kenmore Square, where Menino took a Boston University teaching post and helped launch the Initiative on Cities think tank after leaving City Hall, a young man held a “Thank You Prof. Menino” sign.
Outside 102-year-old Fenway Park, which Menino is credited with helping to save, people clutched Sox caps to their hearts on Yawkey Way, beneath the three World Series banners the team won during a mayoral reign rich in championships. Past throngs of sign-wavers at Simmons College, a lone trumpet player blew taps across the street, facing away toward the marsh.
Near Dudley Square — where Menino led the way in the construction of hundreds of affordable homes, three new schools, a sparkling police station, a thriving community center, and the transformation of the abandoned Ferdinand Building furniture store into an elegant headquarters for the Boston Public Schools — a woman in a purple knit hat cried in front of the bus depot and extended her arms.
In Grove Hall, people leaned on car horns in the parking lot of the shopping center that Menino pushed to bring to the area, and the crowd erupted. “TM, we love you!” Nancy Smith called out. Tears came to her eyes as she waved at the family in the motorcade, and saw that Menino — as he so often did in life — had remembered in death the neighborhoods of Roxbury and Dorchester.
“At the end, he wanted us to know it wasn’t a sham game,” she said. “It was the real deal.”
The procession skirted Franklin Park, where the English High JROTC held a banner, wove through the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, where the Walgreens sign lighted up to read “Farewell Mayor Menino / We Will Miss You,” and headed toward Blue Hill Avenue and Mattapan, passing a man who paused atop scaffolding and saluted with a paint brush.
And on it went, through Roslindale Square and down Washington Street, slicing through the wooded quiet of Turtle Pond Parkway, emerging to more cheers on River Street in Menino’s own neighborhood.
The crowd jammed Cleary Square, TV-truck antennas rising in the background with the church spire. The procession went right on Hyde Park Avenue, left on Pine, left again on Maple, and there it was: Most Precious Blood. The police in their glimmering helmets and the priests in their ivory robes met at the hearse, the pipes and drums playing, people jammed in every direction clapping or shooting pictures or standing solemn and reverent. Thomas M. Menino, mayor, city councilor, altar boy, had come home.