Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's imprint is on the South Boston waterfront, Boston Medical Center and dozens of other multi-million dollar initiatives around the city. But it's also everywhere in Readville, the section of Hyde Park where Menino, who passed away Thursday at 71, was born, raised his own children, and was called Tommy as often as he was called mayor.
"From the inception of the store to the present, he was always part of our story," said Emilio Locilento, coming out from behind the counter at Tutto Italiano. He remembers Menino, then a city councilor from Hyde Park, talking to neighbors who worried the store and take out shop with generate too much traffic or overpower them with the smell of baking bread.
"[Menino] said to my father, 'I’ll help you, but I don’t know if I’m helping you or hurting you, 'cause I don’t know if they’re ready for you,'" Emilio Locilento recalled.
Tutto Italiano flourished, and the Meninos became regular customers.
"He’s in line like everybody else. He wanted to be one of the guys," said Angelo Locilento, his voice cracking, tears spilling out of his eyes.
Black ribbons fluttered outside Tutto Italiano. Hand-made signs were placed in some windows of Readville and Hyde Park. Flags are at half staff. Person after person has a story to tell.
"I made it because of him, yeah, I just can’t believe he’s gone," Nichola Montaque said outside the Menino YMCA in Hyde Park.
Montaque says she learned to speak English through a program Menino created and then went to Northeastern University on a scholarship the mayor supported for single mothers.
"He always pushed minorities, blacks, Indians, everyone, Caucasians, Koreans, to do something with their life and don't just stand there."
Menino, Montaque said, "had love, a big heart. He really had a big heart."
Inside Sharps Barbershop on Hyde Park Avenue, razors carved artful lines through beards and buzzed hair. Most of the men echoed Craig Reddick’s assessment of Mayor Menino.
"I think he was the best thing that happened to Boston," said Reddick, who found help through Menino's summer jobs program. "You get in trouble when you are younger, every body turns their back on you, he’s the one who give you a chance."
Menino was a champion for all, said Tuan Lam, the owner of Fairmount Jewelers and a leader in Boston’s Vietnamese community.
"He supported the Vietnamese community strongly," Lam said, explaining that the community had backed Menino since his first run for mayor. "We love him."
The man these Hyde Park friends and neighbors will remember is the no nonsense, humble guy who stopped by Ron's Gourmet Ice Cream for a pistachio cone, took his grandchildren bowling, and opened his home for a block party each July. A few of them would see the Menino who rose before dawn to hit the streets on foot or bike.
"Every morning he used to walk," Boston Police officer Dieusifort Rimpel said laughing. Rimpel worked the overnight detail outside Menino’s modest home for many years, but it isn’t Menino the politician he’ll remember.
"I’m thinking about him as a human being because our relationship," Rimpel said. "It was not like, the mayor to a police officer. It was a gentleman to a man. That's the way I respect him. He was a nice man, a very, very nice guy."
A guy who treasured his roots in Hyde Park.
This segment aired on October 30, 2014.