The funniest guy at Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast this morning is dead -but God rest his soul never forgotten – the Ultimate Toastmaster and Emcee – the late Kenny Harkins. By opening with a wonderful video* tribute to two greats from past Manager breakfasts – the late Ken Harkins and the late Michael Callahan, a former member of the Governors Council – Mayor Jim Milinazzo set a high standard for those that followed. Kenny’s sharp wit and Mike’s story-telling prowess were always a highlight for breakfast regulars.
Manager Lynch was generally in control this morning and quite funny while jabbing at SUN editor Jim Campanini, UML Chancellor Marty Meehan and his guests on the dias. It was great to see a woman – newly-minted State Senator Eileen Donoghue a “beautiful spot o’ green” – at the head table. She more than held her own with a mix of heritage, history and jokes in her repertoire. Lt. Governor Tim Murray – always sharp on his feet at these events – quipped that having served as Mayor in a Plan-E weak mayor/strong manager form of governmentt prepared him for his role as Lt. Governor. Our new Sheriff of Middlesex Peter Koutoujian was on his game making it very clear that he had Irish as well as Armenian roots with his Cassidy mother and his O’Connor grandmother. Wisely he ended his witty turn by recounting some important bits of Lowell history, proclaiming his membership in the Watertown AOH (Ancient Order of Hibernians) and offering a touching toast to his predecessor the late Sheriff Jim DiPaola – a regular at these breakfasts. Rep Dave Nangle who has brought the house down in the past with his taunts of Lynch using his cellphone as a prop opted to use Bernie’s date book – “found in the parking lot.” No quarter was given as he skewed the Manager on everything but especially his relationships with the delegation, former City Councilor Mike Lenzi and Marty Meehan. Batting clean-up before the “real” comedian – delegation dean – Rep Tom Golden suffering because Eileen used one of his jokes and Dave stole two others – struggled to be funny but his inate charm and good humor and a word-joke about “prostitutes and protestants” saved the day. Boston comic Jim McCue was funny and a bit racy but a good finale for the program.
I can’t forget to note that Congresswoman Niki Tsongas “called-in” to the breakfast from Washington – early-on – with her greetings and a quick joke that got the whole program going. Fr. Jim Taggart, OMI – pastor of St. Patrick’s Church- offered the blessing (he left in time to celebrate the special St. Patrick’s Day mass at 9am) and the highly-regarded Lowell High ROTC Color Guard presented the colors and Eileen Sullivan sang the Irish national anthem.
Also on the bill-o-fare was recognition of Irish Micky Ward – the pride of Lowell – who with some family and friends attended the breakfast. He was warmly applauded and in his shy unassuming way he nodded and tipped his Irish cap to the welcoming audience. Attendees were part of a raffle to win one of the recently released DVDs of award-winning film The Fighter. To my delight, I won one of the “bags’ which included the DVD, a “The Fighter” hooded sweat shirt and a small, red souvenir boxing glove – which thanks to my friend and table host Curtis LeMay – Micky Ward autographed for me. Later Len Tarmey took my picture with Micky. Let’s face – it I’ve become a Micky Ward-Mickey O’Keefe-The Fighter groupie! (See us on Facebook.)
Others noted in the crowd were City Council members Kevin Broderick, Joe Mendonca, Patrick Murphy, Franky Descoteaux and councilors and former mayors Bill Martin, Rita Mercier (sitting with her Sheriff’s department colleagues) and Bud Caulfield- School Committee members Dave Conway, Jackie Doherty, Jim Leary and John Leahy with Superintendent of Schools Chris A. Scott, former City Manager/Mayor Brian Martin, Register of Deeds Dick Howe, Assistant to the Manager Henri Marchand, the Town Administrators from Carlisle and Tyngsboro, former state Senator Paul Sheehy, former City Manager Dick Johnson and many, many more. The business, professional, educational, civic, banking, media and non-profit communities were well-respresented and supportive of the charities and beneficiaries of the breakfast.
Some of you may have heard and enjoyed the breakfast broadcast on WCAP this morning like Rep Tom Golden’s mother. She sent him a text message critiquing his performance. There was a overflow of people at the SUN table – be sure to look for an account of the breakfast in a Jen Myers story in the Lowell Sun tomorrow.
“Good time had by all” – thank you Mr. Manager and all those who helped organize this 24-year St. Patrick’s Day tradition.
*Scroll down to see Dick’s post of two Kenny Harkins clips from past Manager’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfasts. Enjoy!