For over a half century Mary Ellen Welch was the steward of social, political and environmental activism in the neighborhood.
Welch, a longtime community activist and school teacher, sought to house the poor, improve the air quality in Eastie and helped bring a neighborhood with the least amount of open space to a community with award winning sprawling parks and greenways.
Sadly, on Thursday, March 7 Eastie lost Welch, a legend and an icon.
While tributes poured in from every corner of the neighborhood of Welch’s work in her beloved community, one cause was near and dear to her heart.
As one of the founding members of the Friends of the East Boston Greenway, Welch worked for decades to take a neglected stretch of the old Narrow Gauge Railroad and transform it into a system of lush landscaped park so residents could enjoy a stroll from Jeffries Point to Orient Heights.
“Mary Ellen (Welch) was one of a small group of Eastie residents who believed the trash filled, abandoned freight tracks could become a welcoming, safe Greenway that would remove years of contamination in the midst of the neighborhood,” said Welch’s longtime friend and Greenway President Karen Maddalena. “The Greenway would become a beautiful green space for children to ride their bikes, seniors to stroll and residents to make connections through and across the neighborhood. She was sure Eastie would rally to the Greenway. “Oh, yes, they will love it!” she replied about the far fetched idea in 1990. And she was so right.”
Now the Friends of the East Boston Greenway have established the Mary Ellen Welch Memorial Fund to help raise money for future Greenway improvements and programs.
“When we lost Mary Ellen on March 7, 2019, we lost a dear friend and neighbor, a community leader, a wise advisor and passionate advocate for social and environmental justice, a devoted daughter of East Boston and a proud Bostonian,” said Maddalena. “A school teacher for decades in East Boston, Mary Ellen was a born teacher, helping us all to learn, to advocate and to demonstrate for a more just world for everyone. How generous she was with her encouragement, how gentle she was with her correction. We all learned from her, and those lessons are now part of us.”
Maddalena said she and the entire Council are now inviting the community to join in the efforts to continue enhancing the Greenway along the path that Welch led.
“We also wish to create a special location along the Greenway by way of honoring Mary Ellen’s vision, her compassion and her faith that East Boston deserved this new parkland connecting East Boston’s harbor, beaches, parks and marshes,” said Maddalena. “Please help us honor Mary Ellen by helping us continue her work and to create a beautiful special site for all to enjoy and remember. We appreciate gifts of all sizes.”
Ways of contributing to the Friends of East Boston Greenway are available on the contribute page of the website: https://eastbostongreenway.com/contribute/ or can be mailed to Mary Ellen Welch Greenway Memorial Fund, PO Box 74, East Boston, MA 02128.