Park to be Named After Townie Activist Peter Looney

April 29, 2011
By

Official ceremony to be held this Saturday

-By Tim Conway

State Representative Eugene O’Flaherty and Peter Looney hosting the BNN-TV Battle of Bunker Hill Parade coverage by the Training Field.

Although there may be a few Charlestown residents who don’t know Peter Looney by name or by face,  there are hardly any who can escape the effects of his good work, whether they know it or not. Looney’s many years of community service and activism is exactly why a group of Charlestown residents got together a decided that it was time to honor one of their own and name the Park on Union Street “Peter Looney Park.”  In a few hours they had more than the requisite number of names on a petition to change the parks name and not long after that the news spread like wildfire through the town.

Looney first heard about the renaming of the park when Kathy Giordano, the committee member who led the charge to rename the park called him while he was in the pulmonary rehabilitation unit of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Cambridge. Looney had been rushed to Mass General Hospital after not being able to breath due to decreased capacity in his remaining lung as a complication of emphysema and asbestosis. Looney had worked in the trades as a tin-knocker for 27 years, encasing asbestos-coated boilers with aluminum. He didn’t know asbestos was harmful back then, nobody in the trades knew. Asbestos wasn’t classified as a carcinogen until 1969.

Looney’s  stay in MGH was followed by 15 days at Spaulding then seven weeks recovering at home. He said that the event this Saturday will be his first time out.  His reaction to  Giordano’s  phone call was shock, “I was shocked – it is such a big honor, I never thought I would be considered for something like this.”  Looney also went to make sure to thank Billy Boyle, Kathy Giordano and all of the people from the community that sent cards, prayers and made phone calls during his rehabilitation. “It is really an example of what a great town we live in.”

Peter Looney has spent most of his life trying to do what is right over what is popular. When Looney joined Charlestown Against Drugs (CHAD) circa 1985, the fledgling group that later came to be the organization closest to his heart, had met some resistance in its mission to raise awareness of and to prevent substance abuse among neighborhood youth.

“It was not the ‘in’ thing to do,” said Looney, longtime chairman of the organization. “People were in denial at the time and used the phrase ‘recreational drugs.’ People were afraid to go to meetings because they thought others would view it as admission of a problem – we would set up a table and people would just walk past us.”

When asked to describe CHAD Looney said, “It’s Charlestown people helping Charlestown people.”

Looking forward, Looney only hopes that CHAD will continue to raise awareness of drug abuse in the community as it has for more than 25 years.

“I hope that residents understand that if it wasn’t for CHAD… the awareness of substance abuse wouldn’t be where it is today,” Looney said. “We’ll still be in the streets when people need us. We’ll keep plugging away.”

When reminiscing about Charlestown Looney said, “There are a lot of good memories here… I’d do it all over again.” And we’re all lucky to reap the benefits of Peter Looney’s dedication and service to this town.

Tom MacDonald had this to say about Looney:

“Pete Looney genuinely cares about people. Every single time I asked him for help at the food pantry, Pete steps up. He always says yes and he always says yes immediately. He never leaves me hanging. I love working with Pete. He smart and practical and knows how to handle situations. He brings groups together to solve problems, and that’s no easy task. There was one instance where Pete coordinated an effort with Charlestown Against Drugs, the Knights of Columbus, Harvest on Vine, and the St. Vincent DePaul Society to help pay a high school student’s tuition. The boy’s family had no money, and he wouldn’t graduate unless the bill was paid. Pete led the way. He got the tuition paid. That young man is now attending college. Stories like this are typical of Pete. He’s always helping people. The other thing I love about Pete: He’s tough and he’s humble. He never takes a backseat to anyone, and yet he never makes anyone look bad. It’s a special gift he has, a God-given gift. There are some people I look up to, and there are some people I try to emulate. With Pete, it’s both.”

A ‘short’ list of Looney’s Community Involvement

Altar Boy ~ St. Mary’s Church

St. Mary’s Cadets

Majestic Knights Drum & Bugle Corps

US Army Reserve

Charlestown Mayor’s Race

Bunker Hill Irish Heritage Society

Charlestown to Charlestown Committee

Charlestown EDIC

Charlestown Against Drugs, Chairman

Charlestown Neighborhood Council

Chairman for 10 years

Bunker Hill Associates Charter Member

Past President

Charlestown Community Center Board Member

Friends of Charlestown District Court

Mishawum Park Tenants Association, Chairman

Dennis McLaughlin House Board Member

Townie Santa

Knights of Columbus Council 62

Mayor’s Task Force for New Police Station

Charlestown Historical Society

Old Charlestown Schoolboys

Bunker Hill Monument Association

Election Organizer Bunker Hill Housing Development Tenants Task Force

Charlestown Fire Fund

CSAC

MGH Charlestown Board of Advisors

Camp Bunker Hill

Charlestown Community Appreciation Awards, Chairman

Ward 2 Democratic Committee

Bunker Hill Day Parade Committee

USS Bunker Hill Commissioning Committee

9/11 Committee

Gulf War Welcome Home Committee

Christmas for Kids, Chairman

BNN-TV ~ Charlestown Live  Host

BNN-TV Bunker Hill Day Parade Coverage, Host

Mel Stillman Tennis Program, President

St. Mary’s Parish Council

St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish Council

Lector St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish