End of an era at the Reporter

It’s a week of mixed emotions at the Dorchester Reporter. We are saying a farewell of sorts to Barbara McDonough, who will “retire” from her day-to-day duties at the newspaper on Thursday, Dec. 31. While she will continue to contribute articles to the Reporter remotely, she will no longer be a regular morning presence in our newsroom.

Barbara is best known for her weekly column, “The View from Pope’s Hill,” which has occupied a space in this newspaper from its very first edition in September 1983.

What most people do not know is that Barbara has been instrumental in helping to run the Reporter in many ways over the last three decades. Barbara has been the cheerful face that greeted visitors to our old office on Neponset Avenue, and, for the last 15 years now, on Columbia Point. In the mornings, hers was the voice that greeted callers who phoned into the paper. Barbara was the person who called parish rectories and principals’ offices and police stations seeking details about Mass schedules and honor rolls and public safety meetings.

Barbara is the reporter who would keep track of the dozens of civic association and crime watch meetings that cycle through our pages on a monthly basis, putting them in order, updating dates and times and meeting places, and condensing them into one section – Neighborhood Notables. For many years, Barbara also maintained our calendar section until our online system took precedence.

Her weekly feature “Bubbles’s Birthdays and Special Occasions” has been another longtime feature of the Reporter. Long before Facebook made tracking birthdays an automatic feature of its members’ daily lives, Barbara compiled individual birthdays and anniversaries on an oversized calendar that she used to plot out dates and names. She also used this throwback system to reference the vast repository of births, weddings, and funerals that populates her column each week.

And we still get calls from Dorchester people who want to be added, or to let her know, sadly, that their relative is no longer among those observing birthdays.

Barbara did it all here at the Reporter. She was the first person in on weekday mornings, often arriving before 7 a.m. to get the office moving. She monitored radio reports on her favorite station – WBZ – to let other reporters know what’s happening. It was she who announced to the stunned newsroom that a plane had hit the twin towers on a sunny day one September.

The Reporter has never once – in 33 years – run too low on office supplies, because Barbara and her indispensable “hubby” Vinnie would stockpile pens and post-it notes and Kleenex boxes on the supply shelves. She would add a post-it note to each item to let us all know which ones should be used first.

At age 81, Barbara is still enamored of, and devoted to, the people who live in this neighborhood. Like many people of her generation, Barbara has always felt that Dorchester got “a bad rap.” In ways large and small – and for more than three decades – Barbara helped to even the score and she did it simply by telling short, sweet stories about her neighbors’ daily lives. In doing so, she helped to humanize a part of our city, a part of our world.

Barbara has done a great service to our community with her persistent and passionate embrace of Dorchester. And at the Reporter, while we are sad to see our friend and colleague “off the desk,” we are thrilled that she will continue to file occasional “View” columns and her weekly Birthdays feature.

Thank you, Barbara (and Vinnie!) for a job well done.