A Lowell Story
By Kendall Wallace
LOWELL—This is a Lowell story about three guys who grew up in different Lowell neighborhoods, came from different backgrounds, pursued different careers, had a love for the city and have remained friends for more than 60 years. It struck me last week as the three of us were chatting at the Whistler House where about $25,000 was raised for scholarships for students who reside in Lowell Public Housing apartments.
Mayor Bill Samaras, former Senator Phil Shea and I had no idea when we first met at Lowell High School in the late 1950’s that we would have opportunities to play key roles in the city for six decades.
Shea grew up in the Acre. In fact his family lived in The North Common Village housing which was now home to some of the young men and women who were receiving the scholarships that night.
Shea is the only Lowell resident who was elected to the Lowell city council, the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts State Senate. While serving in those positions he was able to play major roles in helping to fund many of the key projects that have change the face of the city over the years.
Samaras grew up in the Christian Hill neighborhood, went on to a great career in Lowell public schools, including two decades as Headmaster of Lowell High and is now the Mayor of the city.
I grew up in the Highlands and went on to a career of more than 50 year at The Sun as reporter, editor and finally as Publisher. It gave me a ring side seat to all the good things that helped change the city.
Sometimes it was hard to take serious the fact that the guys you went to high school with were key players in making Lowell a better place. We still laugh about it. But as I look back we three are just examples of what this city has been all about. An Irish Catholic from the Acre, A Greek Orthodox from Christian Hill and a Protesent with roots in Scotland all coming together for the common good.
While I no longer have any role at the newspaper, I am proud of Phil and Bill who continue to serve. Bill, after retiring as Headmaster, decided to run for the city council and was elected Mayor by his colleagues. In that role, he has guided the city through two major issues that will impact the community for decades. He has brought sound guidance and progressive steps to the controversy concerning the city’s election process and has advanced the High School project to the construction bid stage. Samaras knows the city’s future rests with a quality High School. The final plan will give the city a spectacular urban campus and a facility that will provide great resources to the city’s diverse student body. The new high school will help prepare the next generation of city leaders.
Shea, who has held many public positions over the years, is most proud of his new role as a member of board of the Lowell Housing Authority where he can be an advocate for quality public housing.
Caring public officials and a local newspaper that advocates for quality of life issues in its market was a winning combination for Lowell for many years.