(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
If there was one thing that Clarence “Jeep” Jones, the former deputy mayor of the city of Boston, taught Rosemary Duval 50 years ago it was to never give up and value every moment.
As the city unveiled a new sculpture in Roxbury’s Clarence “Jeep” Jones Park on Wednesday that lesson is now permanently instilled in the neighborhood where Jones taught kids to play basketball in and helped shape many young lives.
“I never forgot him,” said Rosemary Duval, 64, who grew up in the neighborhood and who was coached by Jones. “I haven’t seen him in 52 years but I remember him because of his big smile. He was my protector, he looked after me and he was always there for me.”
Duval’s story isn’t that much different from many of the residents and elected officials that gathered in the park on the sunny afternoon.
From Mayor Thomas M. Menino to former friends and colleagues, everyone had something to say about Jones and the work he did to make sure the city and its people were safe.
“This is a blessing that I can’t describe,” said “Jeep” Jones, as he watched youth play basketball in the park. “It’s so much for somebody who was just doing their job. I hope this park can bring some harmony to the community. We all need to be community workers, we need to talk with the kids and tell them an education is important and that they need to stay out of trouble and I hope that is all said in the statue.”
Although the park is named after Jones and many couldn’t help but make him the center of attention, Wednesday’s celebration had to do with the new bronze installation, sculpted by Fern Cunningham.
The sculpture extols many of Jones’ virtues and celebrates the lives of the neighborhood’s children and remembers the ones that lost their childhood to violence.
“I wanted to remember the ones who died because of the violence and commemorate the ones who have lived,” said Cunningham, 63, who has a number of her sculptures scattered throughout the city. “I hope people can take away some peace from this. I want them to think about love and kindness. These are beautiful children and there is value in their lives.”
The sculpture features two children, one releasing a phoenix with another reading a book titled “Book of Hope”. In addition to the two figures, books are scattered about the base, with inscriptions about how violence hurts families and neighborhoods.
“This was a piece that came out of the community to address the loss of life through street violence,” said Karin Goodfellow, director of the Boston Art Commission. “Sometimes through art we can talk about these important issues and maybe touch someone’s heart in a special way.”
Located in the center of the park’s walkway, the sculpture welcomes residents and visitors to the Roxbury Street park that in 2010 was completely renovated, costing close to $975,000.
Although some held back tears as they read the inscriptions on the base of the sculpture, remembering their own loved ones that have been lost, Menino told the crowd Wednesday that it takes everyone, from the police to residents, to make sure the streets are safe.
“The first words I see [on the sculpture] are unity; community coming together, that’s how we solve our problems,” Menino told the crowd. “It inspires us to never, ever stop working for peace. We had some real tragedies in our city last week and our hearts go out to them but that’s not going to stop us.”