Delahunt remembered for work as prosecutor and congressman

US Rep. William Delahunt speaking against the proposed closure of Otis Air National Guard Base, circa 2005, flanked by US Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Mitt Romney. SHNS file photo

Funeral arrangements for the late former Congressman William Delahunt have been set for this weekend, and Gov. Healey on Monday ordered that state and US flags fly at half-staff until Saturday night in memory of the Quincy Democrat.

Delahunt died at home in Quincy’s Marina Bay on Saturday at the age of 82 after “a long-term illness,” a statement from his family said. The family added, “We could always turn to him for wisdom, solace, and a laugh, and his absence leaves a gaping hole in our family and our hearts.”

A wake is scheduled for Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the United First Parish Church in Quincy (1306 Hancock St.), known as the “Church of the Presidents” for its status as the resting place of former Presidents John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams.

A funeral Mass will be said on Saturday (April 6) at Saint Gregory’s church in Dorchester’s Lower Mills by Rev. Jack Ahern, the congregation’s pastor and a friend of the Delahunts, the family said.

On Monday, the governor remembered Delahunt as “a person who made a tremendous impact here in the state.” She said he “will be missed by many” and “was a friend to many.”

In a statement, House Speaker Ronald Mariano of Quincy called Delahunt the “ the epitome of what it means to be a public servant. From the Coast Guard, to local government, to the halls of Congress, Bill worked incredibly hard on behalf of the people that he served, and on the causes that he believed in. He always made Quincy and Massachusetts proud, and for decades, I had the privilege of calling him a good friend and mentor.”

A graduate of Middlebury College (1963) and Boston College Law School (1967), Delahunt served on the Quincy City Council, then in the state House of Representatives from 1973 to 1975, when he started a more than 20-year career as Norfolk County’s district attorney. The Quincy Democrat represented the state’s 10th Congressional District from 1997 until he retired in 2011.

“Bill Delahunt believed in justice centered on equality and compassion—creating the country’s first ever domestic violence prevention unit & championing citizenship for adoptions from overseas,” US Sen. Edward Markey wrote last Saturday.

Jon Hurst of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts posted on X: “Bill Delahunt did work across the aisle better than just about anybody. The key D supporter on sales tax fairness making sure online played by same rules as local stores. Worked tirelessly on the issue with Ds & Rs. Real friend of #mainstreet #smallbiz.”

Former Boston Globe political reporter Frank Phillips called Delahunt one of the state’s “most significant, brightest public figures,” adding that he “created a whole new model for DA’s offices.”

“I admired Billy before I had ever even met him,” former US Sen. John Kerry wrote on Sunday, “because there was already buzz about this young idealist revolutionizing the justice system in Norfolk County.  So many things we take for granted everywhere today hadn’t been done anywhere at all until Bill came along. “There’s a lot we could all learn from his example: to take the work seriously without taking yourself too seriously, to always keep fighting but know when to take a hard-fought bipartisan deal that benefits the people you represent, and to trust your North Star. Bill lived that way every day of his 82 years.”

And David Axelrod, senior advisor to President Barack Obama in the White House, remembered Delahunt as “a grand old pol in the best traditions.”

“Shrewd, principled, tough when he needed to be but always good-humored, Bill knew how to cajole and bargain with others to get things done,” Axelrod wrote on X last weekend.  “He stayed on in Congress one term longer than he had planned, at the urging of his friend and mentor Ted Kennedy, to help @BarackObama win priorities like the ACA. ... A delightful, admirable man.”

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