With Cathy and the grandkids
with Pope John Paul
with Ted Kennedy
RAY FLYNN, HONORED ALONG BOSTON’S WATERFRONT
Ray Flynn has been called a lot of names in his time. He is Mr. Ambassador in diplomatic and religious circles. He is Mayor Flynn in the halls of government, and before that state representative and city councilor Flynn. On the basketball court, his old nickname Shooter still applies from when he was a college standout at Providence College.
But here in Boston, in the coffee shops and bakeries, in local parks and on neighborhood streets, he is simply Ray, and that is the way he likes it.
Flynn is a modern day everyman, an ordinary guy who has lived an extraordinary life. He followed his ambitions around the world, cavorting with popes and presidents, but also standing with ordinary folks, calling for social and economic justice, bucking the system to help fix the system.
“Ray was the first big-city mayor to take an active interest in Northern Ireland,” says New York attorney and human rights advocate Brian O’Dwyer, who has worked closely with Flynn over the past thirty years. “He helped spawn a new generation of young politicians who identify themselves as Irish-American and who are not outside the mainstream.”
Eugene O’Flaherty, Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston and a former state representative from Chelsea, cites Flynn’s “political courage” as one of his enduring legacies. “My affinity for Ray Flynn in politics grew when I saw how much he was willing to take on,” O’Flaherty says. “As mayor, he took on racial integration in the neighborhoods and made Boston a much more receptive place for immigrants and newcomers. His work on behalf of the north of Ireland was tremendous.”
Throughout his political career, Flynn carried himself like the pedigree athlete who had been to the big arena before, who was always willing to make the final play that won or lost the championship game. He took his victories with modesty, his defeats with grace.
“Ray has always had a burning passion for the underdog and loves to take on the big opponents,” says Boston City Councilor Bill Linehan, who worked in the Flynn Administration at City Hall and grew up in South Boston. “His gritty Southie upbringing and Irish blood drove him to be part of some amazing times and action. He is a true Irish-American success story.”
Southie is still Ray’s home town. It is the town he loves so well, the neighborhood where his parents Stephen and Lillian toiled and raised a good family. Ray and his wife Cathy still live in the modest house where they raised their six children, who all live nearby. He dotes on his grandchildren, watches their hockey games, attends their confirmations, and takes them out for ice cream.
So it is entirely fitting that the City of Boston has undertaken steps to honor him along the South Boston waterfront, not far from where he grew up.
In February, the City of Boston renamed the 191 acre Boston Marine Industrial Park to henceforth be called the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park. An official dedication is being planned for the spring.
In making the recommendation to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wrote, “We can think of no better way to celebrate Mayor Flynn’s legacy of social and economic justice than to name the area where his father, his brother, and indeed, Mayor Flynn himself worked as members of the International Longshoreman’s Association.
“Under Mayor Flynn’s administration,” Walsh continued, “the park blossomed from a nearly abandoned site to a robust industrial park providing thousands of jobs and an anchor for the marine industry on Boston’s waterfront.”
The impetus to honor Flynn has been building for years and came from a wide spectrum of friends, admirers and former staffers who had worked with Flynn throughout his political career. In October, 2014, the Boston City Council passed an order to create the Raymond L. Flynn Commission and appointed a panel of commission members to seek public input on the most suitable ways to honor one of Boston’s most popular mayors.
Co-chairs Francis J. Doyle and Rosemarie Sansone, once top aides to Mayor Flynn and now successful Boston business leaders, spent a year soliciting input from people across the city. They held a public hearing in May 2015 that drew more than 150 people, along with oral and written testimony for dozens more.
The report, entitled Building Bridges, was sent to Mayor Walsh and City Councilor Linehan on December 30, 2015.
In addition to renaming the Park in Flynn’s honor, the Commission also recommends creating a Visitor Center, a multi-purpose facility that would welcome the 300,000+ cruise ship passengers who use Massport’s Cruiseport Boston each year, plus other visitors coming to the bustling Seaport District.
The Center would contain a permanent exhibition called “Governing Boston, 1822-Present,” a look at the political, social and economic history of Boston through the experience of its mayors.
Supporters of the idea say a Visitor’s Center would serve a tangible need in this busy part of Boston, one of the city’s fastest growing neighborhoods. And in keeping with the spirit and legacy of Ray Flynn, such a Center would serve as a beacon of light to any and all newcomers making their way to Boston, looking for a friendly welcome.
Find more information at bostonredevelopmentauthority.org.
by Michael P. Quinlin