UPDATE: Former Mayor Jim Milano Dies at 102
The long-time and beloved Melrose mayor was a constant presence at city events and gatherings.
Editor's note: This article was updated on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m.
Former Melrose Mayor James "Jim" Milano, a beloved and respected icon of the city, died on Wednesday morning, weeks after turning 102 years old, according to the mayor's office.
Milano served as mayor from 1972 to 1992. A World War II veteran, Milano also served as a Melrose alderman—as did his father before him—for seven years before running for mayor.
During Milano's tenure as mayor, Melrose saw the construction of the current high school, renovations to City Hall and the revitalization of the downtown business district, including the introduction of the now-familiar Victorian lampposts.
Milano remained active in Melrose after leaving public office as a member of the Melrose Rotary Club and playing organ at St. Mary's Church. He was often seen—and heard from—at city events, including those honoring veterans.
Flags will be flown at half mast throughout the city in memory of Milano, the mayor's office said.
'They called him Gentleman Jim for a reason.'
Former Mayor Dick Lyons, who grew to be close friends with Milano and saw him the day before he passed away, took the reigns of the city from Milano in 1993. However, after winning the mayoral election in November 1992, Lyons said he immediately went to work in Milano's office for the two months before he officially became mayor.
The reason? Milano wanted to make sure that Lyons, who had never held public office before, met with all the right people and became familiar with City Hall operations.
"He—above anything else—loved this city," Lyons said. "Even those of us who remember him being in office, he never made a decision that wasn't what he believed was in the best interest of the city. Period. It’s incontrovertible."
Milano's first political endorsement was for Lyons' mayoral bid, which Lyons called an "honor," but also said that Milano would have done the same to help anyone stepping into the mayor's shoes, regardless of politics.
"They called him 'Gentleman Jim' for a reason," he said. "He was just the personification of an ethical man with integrity. There aren’t enough adjectives ... (Police) Chief (Rick) Smith from Wakefield called me this morning. He said that the mayor had helped him personally and professionally. Just hundreds of people. He was just a remarkable person—he probably did more things in his life than 20 of us could do in our lives collectively together. There’s not enough words and time to tell you about eveyrhting he done."
'An indelible mark on every corner of this community.'
In a statement emailed to Melrose Patch, current Mayor Rob Dolan said that Milano and his family left an "an indelible mark on every corner of this community and each of its citizens" over the course of a century. Dolan added that he is a member of a generation of Melrosians who grew up only knowing Milano as the leader of the city.
"There are tens of thousands like me whose childhood was enriched by his leadership, his warmth and caring, and his commitment to education, our parks, and our quality of life," Dolan said. "We look to him in many ways as a second father. He was there during our triumphs on our playing fields, in the theaters, in the classrooms, and in the parks, and he shared life's tragedies with many of us with a special card, a pat on the back, or by going out of his way to make you feel special.
"There are many things people remember about growing up in Melrose, but no one ever forgets Mayor Milano," Dolan continued. "For that gift, this community can never repay him, and without question, he is in heaven today, after a life well lived."
Check back at this article for further updates and leave your remembrances of Mayor Milano in the comments below.