By Joshua Resnek
An enormous crowd packed the new Peter Looney Park on Union Street Saturday morning for the official dedication of the new children’s playground and open space hideaway next to the skating rink.
People from all walks of life attended the event, which highlighted the life and times of Mr. Looney, who made thoughtful and heartfelt remarks to the crowd.
“This is the happiest day of my life. To see all of you here for me says it all and to have my family all around me means so much – and I don’t really know what else to say,” he added.
He also poked fun at the medical paraphernalia when he stepped up to the podium.
“I’m glad I could make it up here without tripping over this stuff,” he said with a smile and a laugh.
Mr. Looney, who is fighting the effects of lung cancer, stood without aid and spoke firmly in a strong but sensitive voice.
He was preceded by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and a host of officials including Boston City Councillor Sal LaMattina, Representative Gene O’Flaherty, State Senator Sal DiDomenico and former Ambassador to the Vatican and mayor of Boston Ray Flynn.
Also noted among the officials in the crowd were Boston City Council President Stephen Murphy, City Councillor John Connolly and former City Councillor Michael Flaherty.
Menino’s office, and Councilor LaMattina, who served as the committee chair for the park effort, were influential in bringing the space to life.
Menino joked with Looney privately for a moment before going to the podium to make his remarks. The two have shared a long and friendly working relationship.
As the guiding light on the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, Looney was in constant contact with the mayor during the past decade.
“This is a great honor,” Menino said. “ To have so many friends and neighbors here to share in this moment tells the story about Peter Looney,” he added. “He is a family man above all.
“He’s a good guy.”
LaMattina said he, too, was moved by the ceremonies and by the dedication shown by so many to the fruition of the park.
“Peter is one of the best and everyone here today knows this,” the councilor said. “Honoring him was the right thing to do.”
Rep. O’Flaherty spoke with his typical flare, invoking everything Charlestown about the morning and about Looney, who he respects so highly.
“He is a friend to one and all and they are all here today to say thank you. God bless Peter Looney,” he said.
There were poignant moments during the dedication.
Boston police officer Tom Lema sang the Star Spangled Banner. A young girl’s choir from Charlestown, the Warren Prescott School Chorus went through their repertoire – which was touching.
Former Boston firefighter William “Billy” Boyle did an able job as the MC. Kathleen “Cookie” Giordano also made special remarks for the committee. And the Bunker Hill Pipe Band, as always, was the best.
However, it was Mr. Looney’s grandchildren who showed what the Looney Family is made of.
Four of his five grandchildren spoke eloquently about their grandfather.
His grandson Brendan Looney was especially eloquent and well spoken saying of his grandfather that “he means so much tome and to all of us who love him.”
There was the obligatory and welcomed opening benediction given by Father Mahoney in his inimitable style.
This was largely a Charlestown crowd, with many from the old neighborhood mingling with many from the new Charlestown rising up all around.
The park itself has space for toddlers, benches to sit on and courts for game playing.
It has been richly seeded, planted and landscaped.
Mayor Menino presented Mr. Looney with the sign depicting his name and then the mayor participated in the unveiling of the officially mounted sign and the bronze plaque honoring and memorializing Mr. Looney. That plaque is there for all to see at the entrance to the park.
The affair ended with coffee, fruits and pastries provided by the city.