(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
As Boston prepares to lay to rest Kevin Hagan White, the former mayor’s statue outside Faneuil Hall has become a place for paying respect and reflecting on the life of the man who remade Boston’s skyline and saw the city through some of its most tumultuous years.
White died Friday after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a decade earlier. Out of office for 28 years, the former mayor is something of a mystery to younger residents and those who moved to Boston after his four terms in office ended in 1984.
But almost everyone who passed Pablo Eduardo’s 2006 statue of White on Monday afternoon paused, or at least turned to look up at its pensive bronze face.
At the statue’s base was a large arrangement of roses, spider mums, and snapdragons supplied by the city, joined by more than a half-dozen smaller bouquets and several individual roses dropped off by anonymous admirers.
Even those who didn’t know White’s legacy or who didn’t realize that the statue represented him were drawn in by curiosity about the flowers. For those who remembered White, the spot presented an irresistible occasion to recall his years as mayor and how the city, the country, and they themselves have changed in the past 28 years.
Peabody resident Michael Cram, 52, lived in the North End in the years just after White left office but remembered the former mayor for his powerful political machine.
“And he was able to use that power not just to … benefit himself, but he used that power in positive ways. And like these footsteps,” Cram said, pointing to the oversized tracks that mark White’s progress across the plaza, “he left some big shoes to follow, as Flynn found out and as Menino found out.”
Cram, who grew up in Beverly, just happened to be downtown and was inspired to pay his respects after he noticed the flowers at the statue’s base.
College buddies John Cowden, 50, and Joe Corcoran, 51, who live in Norwell and Needham, respectively, paused by the statue to take a photo after having lunch downtown. Their memories of White went back to their high school days, when Corcoran was a student at Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury during the busing crisis.
Corcoran had “good memories of what [White] did,” he said. “We saw we were here on this historic day and thought we should drop by.”