Honoring an Honorable Woman

Thursday, February 4, 2010, 17:34 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

The late Ann Marie Hines BluteWe Americans like naming public places after people. I don’t know if other countries do this too, but here, we like to honor significant people by putting their names on streets, schools, community centers, and office buildings. In my town alone, we have the Beal Early Childhood Center (formerly the Maj. Howard Beal Memorial High School, dedicated to a town resident who was killed in action in World War I), the Richard D. Carney Municipal Office Building (colloquially known as Town Hall and named after the man who, at the time of his retirement, was the longest-serving Town Manager in the country), the Irving Donahue Rowing Center (named for a successful businessman who funded the facility), and the Patrolman James Lonchiadis Memorial Highway (state Route 9, a.k.a. Boston Turnpike, and the road on which Officer Lonchiadis was fatally shot in the line of duty in 1975). Mr. Carney is still alive, but he shares with the other honorees a record of distinguished formal service or giving to the town or the nation.

Soon we will have another named building, this one a little different from the rest. For one thing, it’s a federal facility, one of our Post Offices. But what will make the dedication unique is that the person who will be honored was not a soldier, elected official, wealthy philanthropist, or professional public servant. She was a loving wife, a dedicated mother, and a good neighbor. Nothing more, yet so much more.

House bill 4017, a piece of federal legislation on which Representatives of all 50 states voted, reads as follows:

To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 43 Maple Avenue in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, as the “Ann Marie Blute Post Office”.

The bill passed the House unanimously and, on December 11, 2009, was referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where it is pending. The full Senate will take it up eventually and it will pass, I’m sure of that, before the end of this session.

Quite something for a regular citizen, isn’t it? When Mrs. Blute died last spring, she was eulogized by the Boston Globe as someone who gave of herself every day while living a very normal life. No single action or event set her apart from the hundreds of millions of other Americans. What a contrast to Maj. Beal and Officer Lonchiadis, who were recognized because of their violent and tragic deaths, Mr. Donahue, who was recognized because of his extraordinary financial giving, and Mr. Carney, who was recognized because of his record-setting tenure. That’s not to take anything away from any of them; they were all good and humble people who richly deserve the honors that were bestowed on them. But Mrs. Blute proved that everyday people can improve the lives of those they touch without every doing anything dramatic, dangerous, expensive, or record-setting. The difference between her and most of the rest of us is that she actually did it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I knew Mrs. Blute. I am old friends with her son, the ex-Congressman and talk radio personality; her daughter, the television news anchorwoman; and one of her other daughters. I frequently run into her husband and two of their other daughters at church or around town.

But I should also note that my long acquaintance with the Blute family has not biased me in favor of such a special honor for their matriarch. On the contrary, I am somewhat awestruck that our nation’s lawmakers have seen fit to name a federal building after someone I always saw as the nice woman down the street. Federal buildings around here are named after big shots like President John Kennedy and House Speaker Tip O’Neill, not average folks whom few outside their circle of friends have ever heard of.

When you stop to think about it, maybe we’ve gotten it wrong. Perhaps the formal accolades shouldn’t go to those who have achieved public success and fame. In a sense they have already gotten their reward. Maybe it would be more appropriate to honor more of the everyday heroes, those who, in the words of Mother Teresa, “do no great things, only small things with great love.”

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