BOSTON (AP) — Thomas Menino, Boston's longest-serving mayor and one of the most beloved, was remembered at his funeral Monday as "the doer of small things," a city leader less interested in the national political stage than the daily tasks of running a city, from making sure garbage was picked up to improving public schools.
Menino's City Hall successor, Mayor Marty Walsh, hailed him as a "relentless, big-hearted, people-loving urban mechanic" as he opened the private ceremony at Most Precious Blood Parish in Hyde Park, where Menino was baptized and served as an altar boy.
"He's has gone to fix potholes in heaven," Walsh said to laughter.
Walsh said Menino, who died Thursday at 71, "believed in underdogs" because he knew what it meant to be underestimated. A former insurance salesman, he became mayor after his predecessor, Raymond Flynn, was tapped to become U.S. ambassador to the Vatican in 1993 when Menino was City Council president.
Menino served until 2014 and was diagnosed with cancer shortly after leaving office.
In a lengthy eulogy Gov. Deval Patrick recounted how Menino spent the time to get to know him while he was making his first bid for public office. "He seemed to make time for everyone, even a political nobody like me," Patrick said.
The governor touched on many of the former mayor's endearing traits, including his famous tendency to mangle words and names in a thick Boston accent. He may have mumbled, Patrick said, but "you always knew what he meant, and that he meant what he said."
His granddaughter, Samantha Menino, said she was convinced he would have to be dragged out of City Hall rather than decide to leave on his own. "Papa was at his best when he was out with the people he loved," she said.
Dignitaries, athletes and prominent Bostonians were on hand or stopped by during the service, including former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, ex-Celtics great Bill Russell, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and retired pitcher Pedro Martinez. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, presided.
Earlier Monday, Menino's casket was carried out of historic Faneuil Hall, where thousands had come out in the cold rain as he lay in state on Sunday.
The funeral procession took him on a final tour of the city he loved, passing Boston landmarks like City Hall, the State House, Boston University and Fenway Park, as well as neighborhood locations like shopping plazas, schools and libraries where he had left his mark.
Hundreds of residents and supporters lined the route. Some cheered while others openly wept. Many held green signs reading "Thank You, Mayor Menino."
Schools along the route took children out of classes to briefly pay their respects. "He was the education mayor. This is a big part of his legacy," said Traci Griffith, principal at the Eliot School in the North End, gesturing to about 80 schoolchildren standing with her on City Hall's steps.
"He was a good man," MaryAnne Fitzgerald, 69, said as she stood among the crowd in front of the State House. "He loved the city and he loved the people."
Associated Press reporter Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this story.