Thursday’s passing of longtime Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has sparked countless stories about the beloved mayor’s dealings with fellow politicians and citizens alike.
And those stories stretch to Gloucester, where Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association and head of the regional Fishing Partnership Support Services, recalled Friday how Menino helped the Fishermen’s Wives get an inside track to The White House in their fight against federal fishing regulations.
It was 1994, Sanfilippo said Friday, and she and others in the local fishing community had not yet even met the “new” Boston mayor who had just been elected the previous fall.
But Boston Harbor had become a flashpoint in a fight over NOAA’s push at the time for new fishing regulations that would limit fishermen’s days at sea and cast other limits most saw as a real threat to the industry. As a show of strength, Sanfilippo recalled, New Bedford fishermen had taken their boats to protest in a jammed Boston Harbor, some Gloucester fishermen followed suit, and it was “chaos,” she said.
Sanfilippo knew the fishing community had to take its case not to the city of Boston, but right to the feds. And she read a report that then-President Clinton was coming to Boston for a fund-raiser.
“We talked about going to that, what it might cost to go to that, and we found out if as something like $5,000 a plate — so we said forget that,” she recounted. Then she learned that the president would be speaking publicly at Boston Harbor Hotel, and set about plans for having some of the fishermen’s wives attend.
Those plans were set, but would anyone be able to get access to the president, to tell him of the fishermen’s plight?
Sanfilippo found out that Mayor Menino was to greet the incoming president at the airport, and that the two would travel together to the hotel — and she decided to take a shot. She called Menino’s office, and explained to the woman who answered the phone who she and her group were, and what they wanted to do — craft letters to the mayor and the president. As it turned out, the woman — who lived in New Bedford — knew the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives, and agreed to help as much as she could.
“She told me, ‘If the mayor is going out, and going to the airport, he has to walk right past my desk,’” Sanfilippo recounted. “If you get me those letters by the time he goes, I promise I will put them in his hand. I can’t promise more than that, but I will do that.’” Sanfilippo retold.
Sanfilippo and fellow fisherman’s wife Nina Groppo did as the woman suggested, urging the president to, above all, “never let the fishermen of New England become an endangered species.” And, when the day came, she and Groppo headed for Boston and the Harbor Hotel. But Sanfilippo — not knowing whether Menino ever read the letters, let alone passed one on to Clinton — was disappointed when the president began wrapping up his speech, with nary a mention of the fishing industry.
“I thought, all that work for nothing,” she said Friday.
But wait. In saying his thanks and goodbyes to the crowd, Clinton ended with one final anecdote.
“He said that, ‘On the way in from the airport, I was handed an envelope from the mayor,” Sanfilippo recalled. “And he said, ‘I promise you that I will never let the fishermen of New England ever become an endangered species.’”
“I couldn’t believe it — and I just thought it was so wonderful that Mayor Menino would do that for us,” Sanfilippo said.
But there was more. Three days later, then-Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown showed up to announce and deliver a $35 million fisheries aid plan that would go toward a boat buyback program, and to help launch the Fishing Partnership’s first fishermen’s health insurance program.
“I can’t help but think that we’re here today because Mayor Menino gave President Clinton that letter,” Sanfilippo said. “But that’s the kind of man he was — he would always try to help people.
“That’s how I’ll always remember him, and that’s what I want the world to know about him.”
Election bake sales
Voters looking for a snack will be happy to find that local elementary schools that double as polling places will be holding their bake sales during Tuesday’s election, which has sparked a lot of voter interest.
These sales, which are held at election time, are a way to raise money.
However, they don’t take credit cards, so if a voter is interested in buying a baked good to support these school efforts, dollars work well.
Fire benefit tonight
It’s been six days since a three-alarm fire raced through a Magnolia building that not only housed Tony’s Magnolia House of Pizza, but a number of apartments as well. And the eight people left homeless by that blaze have not been forgotten.
Magnolia community activist Doug Shatford noted that the Magnolia Historical Society and Library Center has hosted dinners for the victims this week.
And tonight, Mile Marker One is hosting its first Halloween Costume Party — with “100 percent” of the proceeds from the events $5-per-person cover charge to go to the fire victims. The party, which also offers a number of prizes, starts at 8 p.m.
Those seeking to donate to the victims may also do so through www.magnoliahistoricalsociety.com or www.magnolialibrary.org. Checks may be sent either to the Magnolia Historical Society or the Magnolia Library Center with attention given to “Fuller Street Fire Fund.”
Gift cards are also being accepted, fund organizer Sheila Lummis said.
A ‘greener’ Gloucester
The Green Committee of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church, the Cape Ann Forum, and Gloucester’s Clean Energy Commission will present a panel on climate change on Sunday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. at the church, corner Church and Middle Streets.
Attendees are invited to learn how Gloucester can become fossil fuel-free or carbon neutral in a decade.
A question-and-answer session and a reception will follow. Free and open to the public. The event is sponsored by Superior Nut Company.
The flag at the Veterans’ Center will fly this week in honor of World War II veteran Edward Francis Mello.
Born Nov. 19, 1918, he entered the U.S. Army on Jan. 16, 1941.
A truck driver, the corporal served with Company B 752d Tank Battalion, Battery F 101st Field Artillery, Battery C 102nd Field Artillery. He served in Rome, Arno, North Apennines and Po Valley during the European Theater.
Cpl. Mello was awarded the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon, the American Defense Service Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.
He was discharged July 27, 1945, and died May 3, 1970.
The flag was requested to fly in his honor by his grandchildren, Cindy Stedman and Eddie Mello, of Gloucester.
The flag will also fly this week in honor of Cpl. Mello’s daughter, Annie Ethel Mello.
Born Oct. 18, 1942, she entered the Woman’s Army Corps on Aug. 18, 1961.
A clerk typist, the private first class served with Medical Supply Office of PAH Attachment, WAC Detachment, Support Troops.
Mello served during peacetime in Fort Monmouth, N.J., and Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
She was discharged Sept. 7, 1962, and died Nov. 4, 2012.
The flag was requested to fly in her honor by her children, Cindy Stedman and Eddie Mello, of Gloucester.
Anyone wishing to fly a flag in honor of a deceased veteran can call the Office of Veterans’ Services at 978-281-9740.
Active duty military family members
The Gloucester Office of Veterans’ Services is asking residents to register their active duty family members by calling 978-281-9740.
Military member’s names will be announced during upcoming city ceremonies.