By Seth Daniel
When the late Judge David Mazzone was a young man growing up down the Line in the 1930s, it wasn’t uncommon for he and his friends to swim in the Mystic River on a hot summer day.
By the time Mazzone (known in Everett as “Mundo”) was a federal judge in Boston, such a thing was an absolute impossibility for Everett kids – as was not the case so long before when he was young. In the early 1980s, his controversial proclamation from the federal bench that the law required that the public “had the right to a clean harbor” set in motion a controversial and expensive clean up of Boston Harbor. A little over a week ago, the late Mazzone’s dream of a return to a clean Boston Harbor was realized as the MWRA submitted its final report on the clean up, which was accepted on Friday, March 18, by Judge Richard Stearns.
Few people in Everett remember Judge Mazzone nowadays, nor Everett’s intimate connection to the controversial, but successful, project.
“Former Everett High principal Eddie Leo used to tell me that he knew Mazzone and they used to go down and swim in the Mystic River when they were kids,” said Supt. Fred Foresteire. “David Mazzone swam in the river and now you can’t go near it. He remembered it back when. From those humble beginnings, he certainly went on to do great things.”
Fred Laskey, director of the MWRA, said his family was originally from Everett and his aunt, who still lives in Everett, attended the Parlin School with Mazzone – who graduated Everett High in 1945-46. The Code written on the front of the Parlin, Laskey said, is very important to his aunt and he believes it was just as important in shaping Mazzone into the man who eventually would order one of the greatest environmental turnarounds in the United States – a story that took the Boston Harbor from a national embarrassment to a sought-after resource.
“He was a classmate of my aunt at Everett High and the Parlin School,” said Laskey. “Those words on the front of the Parlin are very important to her to this day. I believe they probably were to him as well. If you read them, you can see where Judge Mazzone got his values. It’s about citizenship, the rights of others and the public benefit…Judge Mazzone’s decision cast a long shadow on the clean up of Boston Harbor. He was the drive from day one…Even in his last days of life, he hand selected Judge Stearns to finish the job. That’s highly unusual. Federal courts don’t usually let a judge pick a successor on a case. Everett’s Judge Mazzone should be right at the front of the parade of people given credit for this clean up.”
Mazzone certainly grew up in humble beginnings, those in Everett like Foresteire said. He grew up down the Line, in the cluster of homes across from where the Wynn development will be.
He was a first-generation American, with his parents coming to the area from Italy in 1913. His father was a machinist foreman, and Mazzone, or Mundo (his first name was Armando), enjoyed algebra, football, playing cards with his family, and reading biographies.
He worked in a paper box factory after school and football practice nightly from 6-9 p.m.
His love at Everett High, however, was the football field.
The tall, lanky tight end was a member of the 1945 State Championship team and was an all-scholastic at his position. He parlayed his greatness on the gridiron into a college scholarship at Harvard College – where he also starred for its football team.
After college, he entered the Army and served in Korea, returning to the U.S. and landing in Chicago. He worked in several steel mills there and other industrial occupations before enrolling in law school at DePaul.
That took his life in a whole new direction.
He eventually came back to Massachusetts and served in the Middlesex County DA’s Office. Later, former Gov. Michael Dukakis appointed him to state superior court, and former President Jimmy Carter installed him into his federal court job.
In his position, he quietly went about his job.
His crowning achievement, however, was the Harbor Cleanup case. And while it was controversial, the son of Everett has everything to do with the successful clean up operation that was celebrated in Federal Court on March 18. That final report, Laskey said, signified the end of a horrible era for the Harbor.
Now, he said, it’s all changed.
“It’s certainly due to him that it was done and done right,” said Laskey. “I remember interviewing with him before I took this job. After a few discussions, I guess I got his stamp of approval. He really wanted to oversee all aspects of this case. Now, you see that the Charles River, which was an embarrassment, gets water quality grades of A or A minus. The Mystic River is rejuvenating. The casino being named ‘Boston Harbor’ is a tribute to that. For many, many years the properties on the waterfront were constructed away from it or with their backs to the Harbor because it smelled…It’s an incredible legacy for an incredible guy.”
Foresteire remembers that the ‘Harbor Hero’ from Everett enjoyed visiting his hometown in later years. In the early 2000s, they made him the Grand Marshal of the Homecoming Parade.
“He was a great football player for us and went on to Harvard and played there too,” he said. “He had a very humble beginning, that’s for sure. He was the kind of guy that was very unassuming. After we made him the Homecoming Parade Marshal, he would come to our games. Some people didn’t know who he was. I knew who he was. When he found the time, he’d come back to a game, always sitting by himself. It was fun for him. He never forgot Everett.”
Mazzone passed away in 2004.