by Alexis Ann
On December 11th, at the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa, the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Meeting and Auction. Leading the list of honorees as recipient of the 2008 Community Service Award is the familiar, community-minded, Jim O’Boyle, a Mystic resident since 1962. Hats off to this year’s committee members for their choice, as Jim O’Boyle is well deserving of this award and what it represents.
On a personal note, as a kid, growing up in Stonington in the sixties, I can remember Jim’s volunteer efforts for our St. Mary’s Church. I was honored when as a young teen, Jim recruited me to design some posters for the church’s annual bazaar, a very popular fundraiser. My memory of delivering the finished product to Jim made quite an impression and always stayed with me. Jim reached in his pocket and pulled out $15 of his own money. “Will this cover it?” Jim asked.
Wow! I was just happy being asked. Certainly, I wasn’t expecting payment for my effort, as it was for a church function. I hesitated to take his money but he insisted. It’s uncanny how some of our childhood memories of a person’s qualities are right on target. And, it’s even better when our early perceptions of a person don’t have to change!
Jim moved to Mystic to work for Bill Shea at the Shea-Williams Funeral Home. Later, he worked for the Neilan Funeral Home in New London and became the manager of the Mystic Branch, which they opened in 1982. As a savvy businessman, Jim bought the funeral home from the Neilans and renamed it the Mystic Funeral Home in 1992. Last year, he sold the business to Stephen King.
Jim, always humble, begins his acceptance speech at the podium by recognizing his family in attendance: wife, Thomasine; son, Luke; daughter, LTC Shannon and grandchildren. He thanks people for “paying the $75 to come” especially his poker playing buddies, who, he jokes, “whine about five and ten cent raises.”
Jim reminisces about Mystic back in the 60’s when, “You could eat at the Modern Grill, Seaport, Archie’s, or Hilbert’s Luncheonette. Have ice cream at Janiero’s. Get your groceries at Pic ‘n Pay, and buy the belt for your lawnmower from Speed Doyle. The transaction would take longer than mowing the lawn.”
“There was no Aquarium, Olde Mistick Village, or large hotels. What is known today, as the Golden Triangle was dominated by Russ Welles’ Mayflower Restaurant. The Mystic Chamber of Commerce office was a phone in the back room of Squadrito’s Oasis Package Store on Cottrell Street.”
What do these places have in common? “They’re no longer there,” said Jim. “Mystic has evolved from the quiet little town I came to in 1962… The greater Mystic Community thrives on change.” “The area has become a destination.” “All of the previously mentioned locations have new businesses in their places. The Mystic Chamber of Commerce has rightfully become The Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce.”
“If along the way I was able to make some small contribution to this effort, then, I have given back in a very small way, to the Community that has been so generous to my family and me.”
Employer of the Year Award was presented to Al Dion of Groton Utilities. Volunteer of the Year Award was given to David Clay and special recognition was given to both Doug Teeson and the late Anthony P. Halsey. Outgoing Chamber President Eric Janney passed the torch to incoming President Chris Rixon.
Jim’s contribution to our community:
• Volunteer, Pioneer Hook & Ladder Co., Stonington FD
• Volunteer at Pawcatuck and Wequetequock FDs.
• President for the Wequetequock First District
• St. Micheal’s Holy Name Society
• Pawcatuck Lions Club
• Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Westerly-Pawcatuck
• Past Grand Knight, Nina Council Knights of Columbus
• Faithful Navigator, Nina Assembly 4th Degree
• Secretary, Stonington High School Athletic Boosters Club
• Board of Governors, Stonington Community Center
• Stonington Water Pollution Control Authority
• Vice Chairman, Stonington Plan of Conservation and Development Committee
• Advisory Board, Mortuary Science Program at Briarwood College
• Member, Stonington Lodge #26 Independent Order of Odd Fellows
• Member of CT Board of Directors, Fairview Odd Fellows Home
• Board of Police Commissioners, Stonington
• Town Meeting Moderator, Stonington