On a bus trip back from a field trip to the Salesians Boys and Girls Club in East Boston a group of camp councilors thought it would be a treat if the bus stopped at McDonald’s to eat. Once they pulled into the famed fast food restaurant all the counselors and kids jumped off the bus and ran in to get their fix of burgers and fries–except for four brothers huddled in the back of the bus.
Wally Bowe, Boys and Girls Club director and mentor, quietly approached the brothers and asked what was up.
“We have no money,” the brothers told Bowe. The four brothers were from a single parent home being raised by their mother so money was scarce.
Bowe, stood up, reached into his pocket and quietly gave each brother $5 so they could get something to eat.
That was the type of guy Wally Bowe was.
Bowe, a longtime East Boston resident that grew up on Chelsea Street and dedicated his life to the youth here, died suddenly on Sunday, January 31 at his home in Saugus. Bowe was 53 years old.
Bowe’s death came as a great shock followed by tremendous sadness from residents across East Boston. By Sunday night, as news spread of Bowe’s death, a facebook page was established in his honor with over 2,000 immediate members posting thousands of comments, stories and even poems about Bowe. Also, Eastie based blogs like The Hubster, were welcoming comments from friends and family members of Bowe.
“There are no words to describe the grief I feel over the death of my friend,” said State Representative Carlo Basile. “Growing up, Wally was like an older brother that looked out for me and my family. I can’t even begin to name all the things he had done for the Basile family over the years. He was always there for us and this void in my life will never be filled.
A hero to thousands of kids through his work at the Boys and Girls Club and the former Savio High School, Bowe was a quiet, unassuming leader that was not looking for riches in life for his deeds in the community.
All Bowe simply wanted to do was help kids, especially at-risk teens on the verge of becoming delinquents.
Bowe didn’t believe in punishment but mostly believed in making sure kids knew the mistakes they made and how to fix these mistakes.
“Mr. Bowe touched our hearts and I will never forget his quote to me, “You are a great kid, I like you a lot, but your temper will not help you in life…I will always be here for you to talk to and turn to,” wrote one blogger.
Others just wrote simply “We love you Wally”.
“I have known Wally my whole life growing up on Chelsea Street,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “Wally was truly an East Boston hero. He has been a role model to thousands of children in East Boston. A perfect role model who I will surely miss.”
Senator Anthony Petruccelli added that Bowe represented all that is good in Eastie.
“His loss will create a deep void in the neighborhood,” he said. “He had a profound impact on the lives of so many young men and women from our community. He is irreplaceable.”
Father Bill Frizzy of the Boys and Girls Club said anyone who was in any way connected with the Boys & Girls Club during the past quarter-century knew who Wally Bowe was.
“For many of the young people who came to the Club, Wally was the Boys & Girls Club,” said Fr. Frizzy. “So many club alum come back and one of the first persons they ask for is Wally. He meant so much to them. We learned of Wally’s passing just after celebrating the Mass of Don Bosco, on his feast. How symbolic that Wally should be called home to God on the feast of the Salesian Founder. He made Don Bosco real in East Boston.”