Pat O’Neill’s ‘magic’ cited at dedication of her ‘community’ room at Adams Street library
The community room at the new Adams Street branch of the Boston Public Library was filled to overflowing last Saturday (May 14) at a ceremony to dedicate the room in memory of Pat O’Neill, the late president of the Adams Ashmont Neighborhood Association (AANA). O’Neill, who died in 2020 at age 80, was instrumental in the push to bring a new library to this corner of Dorchester.
Saturday’s speaking program included current AANA president Cindy Fadden; the president of the Boston Public Library, David Leonard; Pat’s friend Patricia MacNeill; former City Councillor Andrea Campbell; and Pat’s son Patrick O’Neill.
Gail Ravgiala, Pat’s longtime friend and secretary of the AANA, offered poignant remarks about the honoree’s dedication to the neighborhood.
“Simply by example, Pat taught me, and a lot of people in this room, how community works and why it is important,” said Ravgiala. “It is not a big thing, but a million little things. That was Pat’s magic. Community doesn’t happen in a day, or at one event. It’s a constant, a living thing that needs to be nurtured and cared for. And she never stopped doing that.”
Saturday’s event was followed by a gathering at one of Pat’s favorite Dorchester restaurants, the Ashmont Grill.
Below is the text of comments by Gail Ravgiala in tribute to her friend Pat:
by Gail Ravgiala
My wish for each of you is that you have just one friendship in your life that is like the friendship I had with Pat. It was a relationship of complete trust. And of complete support. We were there for each other for the highs and for the lows. And for the everyday. That trust also meant we could call each other on our stuff. --- and we both had a lot of stuff.
Simply by example, Pat taught me, and a lot of people in this room, how community works and why it is important. It is not a big thing, but a million little things. That was Pat’s magic. Community doesn’t happen in a day, or at one event. It’s a constant, a living thing that needs to be nurtured and cared for. And she never stopped doing that.
Take the story of Rundel Park. She was recovering from major surgery, which, by the way, meant the one and only time she missed the Chili Cookoff. Advised by her doctor to take short walks she rambled onto Rundel Park, a tiny dead end side street just a block from her home on Ashmont Street. On the grassy cul de sac, was a tall wooden flag pole, paint peeling, a tattered flag flying. Within minutes, I got a call. Pat had sprung into action. We needed to fix this. Before you could say “Star Spangled Banner,” she got the city to replace the flag pole with a sturdy metal one, Maureen Feeney procured a flag that had flown over the Capitol building, a team of neighborhood volunteers cleaned up the grassy island and planted flowers from the Parks Department and we were announcing our first annual Flag Day flag raising. It was a small, but meaningful event with kids reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a speech on what the flag means, and hot dogs on the grill. It was – and is – quintessential Pat.
Pat’s secret weapon was her subtle recruiting technique. Many of you here know of what I speak. How many times has someone said, “I just do what Pat tells me!” But while she could spot what I call her worker bees from a mile away, she also did the heavy lifting. . She ran Ashmont Adams as president for 20 years. It has taken four of us to keep up with what she did.
Pat wasn’t a saint, though if there is a heaven, I am sure she is there. She suffered no fools, and despite her admirable capacity for attending every social event on the calendar, she was intensely private. I was honored that she shared with me her hopes and fears.
My mother had a poem hung in a frame in our house that I loved as a child. It sums up my feelings:
A friend is one who takes your hand
And talks a speech you understand;
He’s partly kindness, partly mirth,
And faith unflattering in your worth;
He’s first to cheer you on success,
And last to leave you in distress.
A friend is constant, honest, true –
In short, old pal, he’s just like you!
[“A Friend Like You” by Edgar A. Guest]