The Charlestown Recovery House recently held its fifth annual gratitude fundraiser at the new Knights of Columbus with a crowd of over 250 supporters. The annual gratitude fundraiser is an opportunity for the supporters of CRH to get together and reflect on the past year.
Last year, the Charlestown Recovery House initiated the Peter Looney Public Service Award in memory of one of CRH’s greatest supporters, Peter Looney. CRH recognized Judy Evers at last year’s event for her public service and support of the House.
This year, CRH presented the Looney Award to Tom MacDonald for his work at Harvest on Vine. MacDonald has been working in Charlestown for eight years as a director of Harvest on Vine and a member of the St. Mary and St. Catherine’s ministry. Thanks to MacDonald's hard work, with the help of a group of volunteers, more than 12 tons of food will be given to neighbors in need this year. Furthermore, Harvest on Vine, with the support of the Knights of Columbus, has been assisting families who are relocating to Charlestown.
In recognition of Looney's commitment to the neighborhood, last year's recipient, Evers, was asked to share her remembrance of him and their work in the community:
Who was Peter Looney?
He was many things to many people. He was my friend starting when we lived in the Bunker Hill Housing Development over 50 years ago. His friends included Mayor Tom Menino, Congressman Mike Capuano, Senator Sal DiDominico, Representative Eugene O’Flaherty and Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina, yet he still valued his old friends.
When I went to work at the Mayor’s Office, Peter was chairman of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council; in that capacity he would call me every day to see what was going on in Charlestown. When I was called to the community on an emergency he’d say, “Pick me up on the way by.” He was there when we had racial issues at the BHA, which spilled over to the high school. Along with Father James DiPerri, we spoke to many young teens about the consequences for their actions and the need to work together. Peter took a leadership role in training a group of community residents to deal with the teen suicide issue.
He was there when we attended several heated community meetings, trying to convince the residents of the need for a sober house in Charlestown. When Mayor Menino appointed the Police Station Advisory Committee, Peter was elected Chairman. He was a stubborn and opinionated man who would not or could not delegate. He needed to do it himself. Peter didn’t have time for gossip, or any conversation that put anyone down. In fact, it made him angry. He never gave up on anyone with an addiction. He felt there was hope, no matter what.
Peter was sober for 29 years. When we talked about his “Bad Time,” and how he felt it affected his family, I was uncomfortable with this conversation saying, “It probably wasn’t all that bad.” He got angry with me and said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I wasn’t there when my family needed me. Any other wife would have thrown me out.”
At the groundbreaking for the new police station, it was obvious Peter was getting weaker. He was at the podium with the Mayor and other dignitaries and he wasn’t steady on his feet. I left my chair in the audience to see if he wanted a chair. He said “No.” It was a very hot day, so I went up again to ask if I could get him water. He said “No.” I could see it was taking a toll on him, so I went up again and said, “Get me your car keys so I can get your oxygen.” Now he was really angry at me, he said “No.” “Fine,” I answered, “I’m going to call Mae, she’ll put you in lockdown.” He didn’t want to get into trouble with Mae.
When the power went out at Mishawam, the manager and several of his friends were concerned about his oxygen situation. They offered him a generator. Peter’s response was, “Are there any other tenants getting a generator? Then I don’t want it.” They convinced Peter by explaining he was the only one on oxygen 24 hours a day, and the others were being monitored as well. Then he accepted.
Even though he was getting worse, he wanted to be part of the Charlestown Against Drugs team. If it wasn’t for Mike Charbonier and Don Young, he couldn’t have stayed involved as long as he did.
I was visiting Peter and Mae when a young man came to his door looking for help. Peter told Mae to invite the teen in. The young man seemed surprised to see Peter was so sick. Needless to say, Peter gave him the donation.
People would go to his home quite often, and he never turned them away. It was not unusual for Peter to take money out of his own pocket when someone was in need. His philosophy was, “If they asked for it, they must have needed it.” And that was the end of that.
Peter had many awards and trophies, but what made him the proudest was his wife Mae, his two children Peter and Michelle, and his five grandchildren.
If I was asked, “Who was Peter Looney?” My answer would be: “He was a family man, a religious man, a community activist, a union man, a kind and compassionate person, and finally, Peter was my friend.”