By Gail McCarthy
---- — Beverly Quint cast her first vote for U.S. president for the Democratic candidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
When Martin Luther King Jr. came to Boston in 1965 and marched from Roxbury to Boston Common to stand up for civil rights, David Wise was among the crowd of tens of thousands of people.
When Elizabeth Warren ran for the U.S. senate last year, these two and four other senior local democratic party campaigners gave it all they had, even though they range in age from 82 to 92 years old. A couple of them faced some physical limitations, but they still found a way to help their party manning voter registration tables, working the crowds at the town dump, hosting fundraisers and endless phone canvassing.
Those six Rockport residents were honored on Saturday afternoon at the Community House at a special event attended by Gov. Michael Dukakis and Congressman John Tierney, both of whom benefited from their ceaseless efforts. Both wanted to extend their profound thanks to this group of six — referred to locally as the “Democratic Diamonds” — who have given nearly 200 years in combined service to the Rockport Democratic Town Committee.
The honorees are: Pat Koechlin, Kay Murphy, Ruth Perrault, Ann Sheinwald, Beverly Quint and David Wise.
“This is the Democratic party at its best,” said Dukakis, 79. Dukakis served three terms as governor of Massachusetts and was the Democratic Party’s 1988 nominee for U.S. president. He explained that he was asked to send a congratulatory letter, but instead he wanted to do more. He spoke about the power of their old-fashioned door to door precinct-based campaigning.
“I know I speak for everybody here when I say thank you for setting the example for the rest of us,” he said. “We live in a world, country and state that is better today than the world I was born into during the Great Depression because of the work done by so many, like these six honorees. My hat’s off to you.”
The group was recognized for working hard to create a strong Democratic Party in a solidly Republican town. Local voters had supported Eisenhower twice at the ballot box and chose Nixon over John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Betty Ann St. Germain, one of the main organizers, spoke of a video that was shown featuring oral histories of the six members. It outlined the many party ideals for which this group worked so feverishly for over more than 50 years.
St. Germain noted that during the interviews for the video, the organizers were astonished at their individual commitment to social justice, civil rights, the plight of the underdog, the discriminated, the environment, protesting wars, fighting for affordable housing, and working with Veterans for Peace.
They also stepped up to serve on countless town boards and committees. They held careers in education, as a statistician, a psychologist and shop keeper. They have campaigned for presidents, governors, senators, and representatives at the state and local levels.
“They went door to door, held signs, and registered voters. They gave it everything they had. They are bright, humble individuals with enormous spirit to whom we owe a great debt,” said St. Germain.
“It’s exciting to be involved in politics if you participate whole-heartedly and with conviction,” said Quint, 92.
State Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and state Sen. Bruce Tarr — the lone Republican in the room — presented citations for each of them.
“Regardless of one’s perspective, this democracy depends on people to take time out of their lives to stand up for what they believe in, and this group has been a great example of that,” said Tarr.
Tierney, who has served 17 years in Congress, first exclaimed “Wow” as he took the podium to share a few words.
“The six of you have done so much for me and have worked so hard for so many others,” he said. “Thank you.”
Organizers played a video from Sen. Warren to thank the six Democratic Diamonds for their participation in the Democratic party.
“Thank you for your fight for working families across the Commonwealth.” she said. “You set a great example for everyone in the community – Congratulations.”
Here are excerpts from their contributions:
Ann Sheinwald, age 92: Served 38 years on the Democratic town committee, which she chaired for 20 years. She created the Rockport Rights-of-Way Committee, which served as a template for the entire seacoast of Massachusetts to protect the public’s access to the waterfront. She was the oldest delegate to 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Pat Koechlin, age 88: She served 25 years on the town Democratic Committee, and prior to that she served on the town committee for 25 years in Montclair, N.J. She served on the Rockport Finance Committee for six years.
Kay Murphy, age 87: She served 40 years on the town Democratic Committee. She was elected to the Board of Selectmen on which she served for six years, and the School Committee on which she served for three years. She served on Town Recreation Committee for 24 years.
Ruth Perrault, age 92: She served 41 years on the town Democratic Committee. She served on the town’s Conservation Commission for 17 years, and served as its longtime chairman.
David Wise, age 83: He served 39 years on the Democratic Committee, with five as chairman. He was an active member of Veterans for Peace.
Beverly Quint, age 91: She served 15 years on the town committee and is known for being a prime force behind the Partners for Addison Gilbert, an advocacy group for the local hospital. She worked on both Obama campaigns. She is well known for her letters to the editor of the Gloucester Times on “issues dear to a democrat’s heart.”
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.