Editorial: It’s one last lap for Charbo’s Run

Mark S. Charbonnier died in 1994. There’s a whole generation of Dorchester people who weren’t here to witness the trauma of his death and the outpouring of support for his family that followed.

So, it’s no surprise that this weekend’s Charbo’s Run — the road race in his memory that has not hit the streets in a decade— will seem like a new event on the local calendar to many. But for those who were around for the first Charbo’s Run in 1995, it will mark a poignant return for a dynamic salute to one of our fallen neighbors.

Mark Charbonnier was a Massachusetts State Trooper who was shot and killed by a felon whom he had stopped on Route 3 in Kingston. His sudden, violent death at age 31 was a horrible moment for the law enforcement ranks and, of course, for the entire state. But it was a particularly devastating blow here in Dorchester, where Mark was born and raised.

He was a product of St. Peter’s Parish who was revered by peers who saw him as a “class act,” someone whose devotion to his neighborhood and friends was extended in due time to all his fellow citizens when he swore an oath to protect and defend them as a state policeman. His abbreviated six-year career was one of distinction and the gravity of his loss ripples still in the neighborhood he loved passionately.

Last May, a group of his friends and former colleagues gathered along the Neponset River to dedicate a beautiful new memorial named for Mark and his childhood friend, Ricky Dever, another law enforcement officer from Dot who was killed in 2005. At the dedication, his brother Steve Charbonnier— a Boston police officer— captured the importance of remembering his brother and his sacrifice:

“I miss Mark every day. This memorial … tells the story of Mark and Ricky, but also much, much more. It tells the story of how they lived, who they were, and about the family and friends they left behind.”

But, as Steve said that day, the story continues. Over the ten years of Charbo’s Run—along with an annual golf tournament in his name that is still going strong annually— his friends and family have raised close to $1 million. Much of the funds have gone to set up perpetual scholarships in Mark’s name at schools like Catholic Memorial, BC High, New England School of Law, Wenthworth Institute of Technology, and St. Brendan School.

The funds have also gone more quietly to local causes, including youth sports leagues in his native Dorchester.

The 25th anniversary of Charbo’s Run will continue that effort and re-introduce a new crop of young men and women to Mark’s story. At its peak, the race drew as many as 8,000 runners, making it one of the largest races in the state. It’s not likely to hit that high-water mark this Sunday, but there will certainly be detours and road closures along the race route.

But here in Dorchester, it’s considered an honor for our community to host an event that salutes one of our own and his family— whether they be related by blood or by the badge. A quarter century later, Trooper Charbonnier’s life will be celebrated once again on the streets of his hometown.

- Bill Forry