Written by Ray Flynn
This eulogy was said at a memorial service for Gerry Dooley- who passed away several weeks ago by Ray Flynn.
Saint Augustine’s Cemetery Chapel- South Boston- Saturday, April 25, 2015
Thanks Freddy for coming up to Boston all the way from Arizona to make the arrangements for your brother Gerry’s Memorial Mass. In talking with you in the past weeks, I know you haven’t been feeling well yourself. But we were very sad to hear of Gerry’s passing and anxious to help celebrate Gerry’s life. As you know, we loved him very much and we also knew that Gerry felt very loyal to his friends. Yes, Gerry made friends all his life, which is clearly evident here today. Thank you to Pat Dowd, Marie Donovan and all of Gerry’s neighbors who affectionately referred to Gerry as the “Mayor of Atlantic Street,” Gerry always talked about how kind you were to him.
It was never easy for Gerry living alone all these years, but you helped make life better for him. When his sister Clare died, you were his closest family.
Those of us who have known Gerry since we were kids, have many special memories from the Boys Club, Abe’s, Southie High School, The Pub to family events and funerals. Gerry like most of us growing up in Southie, even as kids, had experienced personal pain, family and neighborhood anguish. We were “street wise kids”before we ever heard the term and nobody in Southie, Boston or New England could beat us in basketball, half ball or cards. Everyone could tell a funny story or two about Gerry, whether its Joe Fisher, Leo Mahoney, Satch Crowe, Freddy Rooney, Bobby O’Connor or Butchie Calnan, to those no longer with us, like Scoop, Dunny, Dada and John Coyne.
Most of the young men we grew up with joined the military after high school, so that was was key in getting a job when we returned home, whether it was becoming a cop or fireman and even getting into the union or work for one of the utility companies. They all became good caring fathers. But because of Gerry’s serious sickness as a boy, he couldn’t go into the military. I remember meeting him after work one Friday afternoon at The Pub. At work, he could hardly breathe with all the dirty contaminated air he would breathe in all day in the warehouse and factory he worked in. He never had health care or a pension plan till he went to work for the City. This had a big impact on me when I was elected to political office. Helping people like Gerry and fighting for a safe and clean workplace environment for all people, was one of my highest priorities, along with education for special needs children. We all supported good laws as adults, because we saw injustice and discrimination as kids hanging out everyday at the Boys Club. The idea of School breakfast programs, helping the homeless, Special Education, the Summer Camp program, health care and helping immigrants didn’t start in Washington, D.C., Editorial Board Rooms, colleges or in wealthy suburban communities, but in places like our Southie, Charlestown and Roxbury Boys and Girls Clubs, our Churches, Salvation Army’s and neighborhood half way houses.
Yes, we all learned growing up in South Boston, that in life, everything is not equal. Some people need a little help, and we always tried to be there for those people, whether it was in politics or coaching kids as Gerry did. One of the kids he coached, got killed in a Viet Nan and another was wounded.
But one story I reminded Gerry about took place when we were kids down the Southie Boys Club. Things were tough for manny families in those days. When the Club was closing this one night and we were ready to walk home in the cold, Gerry was holding a big tray of cookies he had made in “Ma Wheeler’s Kitchen”upstairs. “Walk me down to West 9th Street,” he said. He had made two dozen cookies and one of the student -athletes from Harvard University who worked at the Club, gave him a dollar to buy 4 quarts of milk for this poor family. The Harvard student later became a U.S. Senator and Gerry, the guy who made the cookies, is the guy we show our respect for today. Even wealthy future U.S. Senators and Governors learned a lot from us working at the Southie, Charlestown and Roxbury Boys and Girls Clubs.
That’s the kind of values people like Gerry Dooley learned growing in a place like South Boston and the South Boys and Girls Club. You never see their names in the newspaper and testimonial dinners are not held in their honor, but they are the kind of decent people who made American communities special.
Gerry was not rich or famous, but we are all richer for having him as our friend. He was the “Real South Boston.”
Eulogy– Ray Flynn, former Mayor of Boston and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.