The Friends of Richard Cardinal Cushing Memorial Park sponsored its 25th annual tree-lighting while also remembering the event’s founder, the late Norman Herr, on Saturday, Dec. 4, in the park located at the corner of Cambridge and Bowdoin Streets.
The tradition began when Herr, a community activist in the West End, as well as in the North End who died at age 76 in June of this year, organized the first tree lighting in December of 1995 in the park.
This year’s interfaith event drew 10 participants from the West End, St. Joseph Parish, and Suffolk University communities, including Bryan Glasscock, a friend of Herr’s for about 30 years.
Glasscock got to know him when he was working for the city’s Environmental Department and Herr would regularly visit his office to voice his concerns regarding potential air and noise pollution.
“He’d come to my office nearly every week with a new problem, and we’d try to fix it,” said Glasscock, who added he was “appreciative [of Herr] as a community activist.”
And when Herr first told him of his plans for the first tree-lighting at Cushing Park, Glasscock said he eagerly hopped on board and is now “happy to carry on the tradition.”
Jim Nelson, retired athletic director from Suffolk University, got to know Herr around 20 years ago when they served together on the Community Impact Community for the redevelopment of Charles River Plaza. The two quickly became “good friends,” said Nelson, who soon became involved with Herr’s tree-lighting efforts as well.
Martha Maguire, a longtime fixture of the West End community, has been involved with the annual tree-lighting efforts for around the past 10 years and said she had made a promise to Herr that she would continue helping out with the annual tree-lighting “for as long as I’m here.”
Likewise, Gil Boule, who has been involved in the tree-lighting for “at least 15 years,” said Herr has planned the event “in a way that things would continue even in the case that he didn’t.”
Before the pandemic, the tree-lighting celebration also included a gathering at One Bowdoin Square., which drew local children and included a visit from Santa Claus, as well as Christmas carols and musical performances. (While the tree, which was donated by the city, was lit for the holidays last year, there was no gathering for the occasion due to the ongoing pandemic.)
In the new year, a plaque will be installed in Herr’s honor beside the tree in the New Year, which would be emblazoned with his name and the dates of his birth and death (Oct. 18, 1934 – June 6, 2021) while acknowledging his role as a “community activist,” said Fr. Joe White of St. Joseph Parish, who was also on hand for the event.