Last week, long-time Boston mayor Tom Menino passed away, and yesterday, as Mayor Menino was being laid to rest, news broke that Tom Magliozzi, one half of the wise-cracking duo from NPR’s “Car Talk,” had also died.
Although Tom Menino and Tom Magliozzi had wildly different job descriptions–one was a beloved politician, and the other a goofy mechanic and radio personality with an infectious laugh–I can’t help but think of the similarities between these two men. Both hailed from the working class, both were Italian-American, and both grew up in the greater Boston area: Menino in Hyde Park, and Magliozzi in East Cambridge. Both men died too soon of diseases that rob us of too many of our elders: cancer claimed Menino at age 71, and Alzheimer’s disease took Magliozzi at age 77. I never met either man, but I somehow felt I knew them both. Both Tom Menino and Tom Magliozzi were always there doing what they did with characteristic aplomb. A world with these two Toms feels like a lonelier, sadder place.
How Tom Menino and Tom Magliozzi made their individual impacts varied wildly, but they each do leave a legacy. Menino was known as the “urban mechanic” because of his hands-on approach to improving Boston one neighborhood at a time. Magliozzi was an MIT-trained chemical engineer turned actual mechanic who alongside his brother believed talking to radio callers about cars was a way to educate and entertain. With both Menino and Magliozzi, you got the sense that these were men who truly loved doing what they did, and they did it in a way that only they could. Menino and Magliozzi didn’t fit the mold of a typical politician or a typical radio personality: instead, both men made their own mold by throwing themselves wholeheartedly into their work and somehow trusting that work would be helpful to others.
I don’t believe heaven is a place with clouds, harps, and pearly gates: none of us knows where (if anywhere) we go when we die, and in the meantime we comfort ourselves with stories and symbols. But I’d love to think that somewhere, elsewhere, Tom Menino and Tom Magliozzi are together and laughing, the two of them freed from pain and earthly troubles as they trade stories from Hyde Park, East Cambridge, and the many places far and wide where they were admired and loved.
This is my Day Four contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.