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Reaction in Bulger's neighborhood: 'I almost fainted'

Posted by Roy Greene  June 23, 2011 03:45 PM

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By Cara Bayles, Town Correspondent

In the South Boston neighborhood that James "Whitey" Bulger once called home, the reaction to the infamous mobster's capture was mixed this morning.

"I almost fainted when I heard it on the news this morning," said John O'Neil, who was waiting for the bus outside the Broadway T station, across the street from what used to be Triple O's, Bulger's onetime hangout.

"It doesn't matter much to me that they caught him," said O'Neil, a Dorchester resident. "But he is like a mystery figure or a legend or whatever you would call it."

Another man, who declined to give his name, said: "I was just at a bar where a lot of people knew him, and they were all glad he was caught. "He killed a lot of people.''

David O'Brien, a South Boston resident who grew up in Rhode Island, said that he was surprised that FBI officials caught Bulger in the same week they announced they were targeting his girlfriend, Catherine Greig.

"My first reaction was they didn't want to catch him in the first place," he said.

Bulger would scarely recognize parts of Southie, where expensive condos and high-end restaurants have sprouted. Both natives and new residents have spoke of the tension caused by gentrification.

At Sophia's Cafe on Dorchester Avenue, Sebastian Lange, who has lived in South Boston for three years, said Bulger's arrest would help "end the saga."

"As long as he remained on the run, the old guard could say to us, 'Get out, yuppies, this isn't the real Southie.' Well, the 'real Southie' is over. The yuppies are moving in, and they're going to have to deal with it."

He said he opened the café as new developments like the nearby Macallen Building opened.

"It's an up-and-coming location," he said.

Virginia Donato said she knew of Bulger, who had celebrity status when they both lived in the Mary Ellen McCormack housing development. She said her daughter lived next door to him for years, and always felt safe. She described Bulger as a "wonderful neighbor."

"He had two lives," said Donato, as she walked up Gavin Way. "I know he has to pay for what he's done, but there was never any violence around here. I couldn't say anything bad about Whitey, from what I knew of him."

E-mail Cara Bayles at

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