Before King Bhumibol Adulyadej ascended to the throne in Thailand, where he reigned for 70 years, he took his first baby steps in Brookline. (Obituary, B8)
Boston-area Thais mourned the king’s death Thursday at 88, as they recalled his early connection to Massachusetts.
King Bhumibol was born at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, where his father, Prince Mahidol, had come in 1916 to study public health at Harvard. It was here the prince met his wife, who was a Thai student studying nursing at Simmons College. She worked at local hospitals, including Mount Auburn and Boston Lying-in Hospital, now a part of Brigham and Women’s.
The couple left the United States for Thailand but returned to Massachusetts in 1926 so Prince Mahidol could attend Harvard Medical School. The future king, their third child, was born the following year, and the family moved to Brookline at 63 Longwood Ave., staying until 1928. As king, Bhumibol returned to the Massachusetts twice, including a 1960 visit in which he met with state and local officials and several Mount Auburn nurses who attended to him after his birth, according to Globe coverage.
“If [Prince Mahidol] had never come to Massachusetts, he might not have met his wife, and the king might have been very different,” said Cholthanee Koerojna, president of the King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation, a Burlington-based group that celebrates the late monarch’s local history. “So Massachusetts is an important place.
“He was the only king in the world to be born in Massachusetts, and he was also the world’s longest-ruling monarch,” Koerojna added in an interview Thursday.
A Harvard Square monument, at Eliot and Bennett streets, marks the Massachusetts history of Bhumibol (pronounced poo-me-pon). The foundation hosted a gathering of local Thais there Thursday evening to remember the king.
“Many people have called me crying because of what has happened,” Koerojna said.
She said she was saddened by Bhumibol’s passing but is glad he is no longer suffering, after spending his final years in a hospital.
“On behalf of the foundation and of the people of Massachusetts, we would like to pass our sincere condolences to his family members and to the people of Thailand for the loss of our king,” Koerojna said.