Rest in peace, Mr. Downtown

Published 10:21 pm Monday, August 7, 2017

Mayors and City Council members come and go, and the simple fact is that, though many would like to think their names will be long remembered by history, the march of time, along with the press of current events and concerns, means that most make a fleeting mark in the annals of a city the size of Suffolk.

Andy Damiani will be an exception to that rule.

When Damiani, who served on City Council from 1970 to 1992 and as mayor from 1982 to 1986, died on Saturday at the age of 95, one of Suffolk’s most interesting chapters came to a close.

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But some of the themes of that chapter — citizenship, stewardship and tenacity among the most important of them — will long resonate through this city’s story.

Andy Damiani truly embodied these characteristics, and his political, business and civic leadership helped define the place that Suffolk is today. There are few people involved in any of those pursuits here who are not familiar with him, whether they are longtime residents or recent arrivals.

Damiani made it his business to get to know the people of his adopted city. His daily walks through the downtown business core made him a familiar face, and his curiosity about others endeared him to those he met along the way.

But it was Damiani’s love for Suffolk itself that gave him the names he was best known by — Mr. Suffolk and, more precisely, Mr. Downtown.

Damiani, even in his 90s, never stopped loving Downtown Suffolk. He was the community’s most stalwart cheerleader, missing few opportunities to lobby for improvements, to entice new entrepreneurs and to seek new solutions to the problems that have plagued the area in recent decades.

Even when investments failed to work out the way he had hoped, even when plans failed, even when he believed he was a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, this prophet of downtown development kept a positive attitude. He kept trying new things, and he kept encouraging the city’s leadership to do the same.

Suffolk has lost a treasure with the passing of Andy Damiani, but there’s little chance he will be soon forgotten. His legacy is secure. His legacy is the great city that he loved so well.

Rest in peace, Mr. Downtown.