(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
It may have been cold and the sun was setting, but residents welcomed the New Year Sunday afternoon in true Dorchester spirit by jumping into the ocean at Tenean Beach.
Hundreds of residents gathered at the Port Norfolk neighborhood beach to start the year off with an icy dip to raise money for the Leahy-Holloran Community Center and to remember Brian Leahy, a past Dorchester resident who was strongly committed to the community.
Brian Leahy died of an aneurysm in January 2009, but before that he was a regular participant at the New Year’s polar bear plunge with the L Street Brownies in South Boston.
“Instead of traveling to South Boston we figured we could have our own [swim] here,” said 43-year-old Tom Leahy, Brian Leahy’s nephew and a Dorchester native, adding “I don’t even like a cold shower, but I’ll do it for the event and him.”
“He was a Marine; he was tough. He used to swim up and down the shore every night and he used to lifeguard here. He really loved this beach,” added Tom Leahy.
Although many reminisced about the past, Sunday’s “Polar Bear Plunge” was a new experience for Dorchester and something the organizers hope to continue.
“We are trying to grow this community,” said Robert Genduso, a 47-year-old engineer who grew up in Dorchester and helped organize the event. “Brian Leahy was a big proponent of Tenean Beach. We are going back to our roots to keep this community solid.”
Craig Galvin, a 42-year-old small business owner and vice president of the Leahy-Holloran Community Center Council, echoed Genduso’s comments.
“Brian Leahy was instrumental in turning this beach and this park around. This is a good way to remember him. We’re freezing for a reason,” said Galvin.
Some swam to kick off the New Year but many came to raise funds to support the Leahy-Holloran Community Center, named after Brain Leahy, his brother Michael, and their friend Joseph Holloran who worked tirelessly to provide services to residents and their families in the area.
“I’m thrilled to do this, although it’s going to be cold,” said 63-year-old Willy Ostergary, a retired Boston Fire Department firefighter and lifelong friend of Brian Leahy.
Although the beach may have been beautiful with the sun slowly setting, many who jumped in the water, estimated to be 42 degrees, made a quick exit, with the exception of Annie and Lilly, two nine-year-olds from Dorchester.
“Everyone just goes in and dunks under, but we are going to swim. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Lilly.
It’s hard to believe that anyone would want to jump into the icy water just because it’s 2012, but this reporter, who himself took the plunge, can attest that despite the blue lips and frozen toes, it’s an experience to remember.