Obituaries 06-24-2021

Norman Richard Herr

October 18, 1934 – June 6, 2021

If you met Norman Herr, it was likely for one of two reasons. Either you were part of the West End or North End communities and were struggling with housing or other issues, or you were in a position of power in government or the local institutions and could do something about the community issues Norman saw as his duty to correct. Either way, Norm would find you.

Over the many decades he lived as one of the last residents of the old West End of Boston, on Anderson Street and later on Michelangelo Street in the North End, Norman Herr fought for tenants rights, challenged institutional expansion to do better, brought attention to quality of life issues like noise and air pollution, trash, handicapped accessibility and all those small things that people come to accept as part of life in the city, except Norman didn’t accept it. Well known for going from office to office in City Hall and at the State House, Norm would find out what people did and where they had authority and then proceed to enlist them in solving some community issue. It was nearly impossible to say no when Norman brought a problem to your attention and then follow-up, week after week until it was resolved. “I always deliver on my promise,” he would say. “I’m a man of my word.” 

Norman Herr had a special place in his heart for seniors of the North End, pushing for accessible crosswalks and leveraging the “donation” of grocery carts to seniors on the North End. While not much is known of his methods, his motive was always to make the world a better place for the poor and elderly. As he would tell you, “I speak for the people who don’t have a voice.” Norman’s most lasting legacy may be the annual Christmas Tree lighting at Cardinal Cushing Park that he has organized since 1995 at the corner of Cambridge and Bowdoin Streets.  The week after he would start fundraising for the next year. 

Norman grew up on Sydney Street near the Polish Triangle neighborhood in Boston, the son of the late Leo Ira Herr and Veronica Ursula (Aleksun) Herr. Norm held a number of different jobs throughout his life including as a longshoreman and as a bartender at a bar called Backstreet in what was known as the Combat Zone, where he made news by bringing in live music and notable jazz artists . But his favorite job was always as “Grand Marshall” of the Tree Lighting at Cardinal Cushing Park. To continue that legacy, the friends of Norman Herr have set up a gofundme.com at: bit.ly/NormansTree 

One of his favorite songs was “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing,” with lyrics like “Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living. The golden crown that makes a man a king.” Norman was a loyal friend and was loved by many. His personal credo was, “One man can do a lot of good.”

On Norman’s behalf, we his friends would like to thank the many caregivers, visiting nurses, physical therapists, and the good people at Massachusetts General Hospital who took care of him when his health began to fail. He may not have said it in so many words, but he was truly grateful to you. 

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on  Monday, June 21 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 68 Cardinal O’Connell Way in the West End of Boston. Burial will follow in St. Michael Cemetery, Roslindale.

Rollie O.T. George

1943 — 2020

One year ago, on June 20th, our friend and neighbor Rollie George passed away in the town of his birth, Nazareth, PA.

A long time resident of Beacon Hill, Rollie was a fixture in the neighborhood, often seen riding his bicycle (in either direction) on Charles Street in the execution of his duties as a building superintendent, always on a mission.  Some may remember his Friday evening “concerts” in the garden at 10 Charles Street, with pals, playing his favorite Martin guitar, also a product of Nazereth as he would proudly delcare.

After serving with the US Army in the Canal Zone, Rollie put his genuine affability to work.  For many years, in New Orleans, New York and then Boston, he was famous as a bartender at Your Father’s Mustache in those cities.  In 1990, he changed gears, and found steady work at 68 Beacon Street, where he stayed for 16 years.  Upon retiring, he pulled up stakes, went touring and visiting family, only to return to Beacon Hill and Byron Street where he became a companion and care giver for an elderly gentleman until 2018.

Rollie’s health declined and in his last decade he was hospitalized numerous times for a mysterious and still unidentified arterial disorder.  Ultimately, Rollie succumbed to a form of blood cancer, while isolated and alone in the Grace Hill Nursing facility because of the pandemic.  He leaves his sister Karen Snyder, and his loyal friend Tommy Konya, both of Nazareth.

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