The Boston Neighborhood That Made John Kelly

On a brutally dangerous late spring day in 1945, a young Marine Corps rifleman ran across the scarred earth, through shrapnel coming from Japanese mortars on Okinawa, desperately looking for a foxhole in the hope of finding a fleeting moment of safety.

He was 18-year-old Bob Crane from the Brighton neighborhood of Boston, and being a sensible young man, he was scared.

“Petrified,” he said the other day.

At 90, having survived Okinawa as well as a long career in Massachusetts politics he is still struck by the randomness of fate.

“I end up in a foxhole with a guy from of all places in the world, Brighton. Leo Edward Kelly was the other guy’s name,” Bob Crane recalled with a laugh. “John Kelly’s uncle. Imagine that. And a great guy too.”

After the war Crane went to Boston College, put his name on the ballot for a seat in the Massachusetts legislature, won, got married, and began raising his family on Bigelow Street in Brighton. There, he was four doors down from the Kelly family, a growing tribe with a son, John—Leo’s nephew.

“I remember him,” Crane was saying. “I remember General Kelly very well as a little boy. Kind of a shy kid. Given the job he just got, I hope to God he’s over being shy.”

Their neighborhood was a familiar pocket and portrait of 1950s post-war America. Largely Irish and Catholic, nearly each apartment and almost every two-family home touched by the impact of World War II and Korea. There were more veterans on the block than there were hydrants. And there were gold star mothers too.

The sidewalks echoed a sense of duty and a sense of history just past. Memorial Day and July Fourth brought everyone and everything to a halt. And for those families that had lost a son in either war, Christmas Eve always had a touch of the tear for the boy, the brother, husband, or father lost.

Read more at The Daily Beast.