Nyman’s friends, family say goodbye

Kara Nyman (left), walked with her mother Rhonda and sister Kristina, following yesterday’s funeral Mass in Hanover. Kara Nyman (left), walked with her mother Rhonda and sister Kristina, following yesterday’s funeral Mass in Hanover. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
By Christine Legere
Globe Correspondent / July 2, 2010

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HANOVER — Robert J. Nyman was happiest when he was helping others, according to those who knew him best.

Thousands said goodbye to the late state representative yesterday during his funeral at St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Church in Hanover. After the service, mourners walked through the closed center of town, forming a line that stretched from the church to the cemetery a few blocks away, as if trying to hold on to the man they described as compassionate, generous, humorous, and hard-working.

Leading the procession was an honor guard of public safety officers. Following the hearse on foot were Nyman’s wife, Rhonda, flanked by daughters Kristina and Kara. The constant rumble of car engines was replaced, for a while, by the strains of bagpipes played by the Boston Police Department’s Gaelic Column.

Governor Deval Patrick attended the funeral, along with US Senator Scott Brown, state Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and hundreds of Nyman’s colleagues in the state Legislature.

Nyman, 49, was found unresponsive in his swimming pool in Hanover last Friday and pronounced dead at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth a short time later. The Plymouth district attorney’s office has ruled the death an accidental drowning.

Nyman spent his life in public service, joining the School Committee the year after he graduated from high school. He went on to become a longtime selectman. In 1999, he was elected to the Legislature and since then has represented Norwell, Rockland, and his hometown of Hanover.

His daughters remembered their father as brimming with humor and love.

“You always joked, ‘You’ll miss me when I’m gone,’ ’’ 19-year-old Kristina said during the service. “Dad, you were right. We miss you already.’’

Kara, 17 years old, said the family’s home was a favorite gathering place for her friends, most likely because they enjoyed the company of her dad. “He loved life and he loved everyone to share in the celebration,’’ Kara said.

The Rev. Christopher Hickey, who presided over the funeral Mass, described Nyman as “a man of great faith.’’ Nyman was an active member of St. Mary’s parish. Former House Speaker Thomas Finneran, who delivered the eulogy, called his friend “a wonderful son, fabulous brother, fabulous father, great husband and friend, and a glorious public servant.’’

Hanover resident Kate Emery had sons who attended schools with Nyman. “His mother told me a good story,’’ Emery said. “When he was in the fifth grade, he came home from school and told her to go to the store to buy a winter jacket for a child in class who didn’t have one. Imagine a fifth-grader saying that.’’

Debbie Balch, another longtime Hanover resident, described Nyman as selfless and “one of the few politicians I know that gave credibility to the job.’’

Christine Legere can be reached at

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