Revere’s Woman and Man of the Year: Eileen Merullo Turns Thoughts into Action for a Better Community

December 31, 2013
By
Revere’s Eileen Merullo shown her with an award given to her in November at the State House when she was named the state Woman Veteran of the Year.

Revere’s Eileen Merullo shown her with an award given to her in November at
the State House when she was named the state Woman Veteran of the Year.

There are a lot of people who have ideas about making the community better.

Few of those people actually put action behind those ideas.

Even fewer of them find a successful ending to such a thing in less than a year’s time.

One of those rare figures, however, is Revere’s Eileen Merullo – who thought it would be a good idea to memorialize the numerous women from Revere who served in non-combat support roles during World War II.

And it’s a good thing she did, as their names and contributions were nearly lost to history.

Starting late in 2012, Merullo said she began to think back to her own service as a physical therapist at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the efforts of her cousin and sister – all who served along with more than 100 Revere women. She said she wanted to let people know what happened during those times and what women did during the war.

“In 2012 I was honored to read the names of some of the war dead at the Memorial Day Services,” she said. “As I read, a lot of the young men I knew because I played hockey with them, ice skated with them and went to the Beach with them when I was in high school. Then I realized there is nothing for women in the entire City about our service during the war. There isn’t even a plaque or a corner marker to recognize them. I decided right then to get together a list of all the women who served and maybe do something.”

Using connections from Revere to Washington, D.C., she was able to procure a list from an old, anonymous friend – working around some privacy rules. With that list, and some other names she had compiled through her own memory and numerous telephone interviews with relatives, she was able to get to a starting point.

“Getting all the names was a starting point – a beginning,” said the life-long Revere resident, who grew up on Olive Street.

Following that, she went on a fund-raising campaign that garnered contributions from Broadway to Virginia, and she secured a spot on the American Legion Lawn for an official memorial from Mayor Dan Rizzo.

By September, the memorial was sitting on the Lawn with all the names inscribed and a new generation of men and women learning about how these Americans – some still living – distinguished themselves during a time of national crisis.

For that, Merullo is the Revere Journal’s 2013 Woman of the Year – a person who took a small idea and made it one of the top community news events of the year.

“I just wanted to let people know what happened during the war,” she said. “It’s been a long time.”

Chief Cafarelli and the North Metro SWAT helped in capturing Tsarnaev

There is no question that the story of the year in Boston was the tragic events from last April when the Boston Marathon was bombed in such surreal fashion by terrorists who lived in Cambridge.

Who can forget the days and hours afterward, when the entire region was on lockdown, the streets were empty and everyone was glued to their computers and televisions for news involving the capture of one of the suspects – who was at-large following an unbelievable firefight under the cover of darkness on a quiet Watertown street.

That said, it cannot be understated or forgotten the joy that everyone felt when suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found hiding on a boat in Watertown, and our own Police Chief Joe Cafarelli and his North Metro SWAT team moved in and apprehended the armed and infamous Tsarnaev.

The world cheered while Cafarelli and several other Revere Police officers on the team led the man out of the boat and into custody.

For that act alone, Cafarelli and the team could be singled out for accommodation. When the world watched, Revere’s contingent was there and ready for anything. Then, when called upon at one of the most critical times in Greater Boston history, they executed their assignments and got the job done.

“At one point there was an arrest team put together while we were on Franklin Street in Watertown last Friday,” said Cafarelli in a Journal story last April. “Revere, Everett, Malden and the T Police happened to be the officers there when it formed. We weren’t singled out or anything. We were just there and ready. We were fortunate enough to be the team that took him in.

“We pulled him off the boat,” Cafarelli continued. “Our fear was that we had heard he could have explosives on him. We went in and quickly searched his torso for explosives and didn’t find any. I just jumped in the boat to make sure we didn’t miss another person in there who might come up from behind and ambush us. I just went in there to make sure it was all clear.”

However, Cafarelli and the SWAT team can be further heralded for pushing for the creation of the team as early as 2005, and then maintaining it on a nearly volunteer basis since then – often without overwhelming help from the powers that be. Before Cafarelli was even being thought of as chief, he and others on the department saw the need for a tactical unit that could respond to a local attack or disaster – or one that could assist a larger regional force in the event of a terrorist attack on the metropolitan area, which is exactly what transpired last April.

“We needed all the equipment, training and more,” he said in last April’s story. “Last Friday justified all the training and equipment and everything else that has gone into law enforcement over the last several years. We had an international terrorism event in Boston and I’m proud to say we all rose to the occasion.”

And for that, Chief Joe Cafarelli and the rest of the Revere contingent on the North Metro SWAT team (who prefer to remain anonymous) are our 2013 recipients of the Journal Man of the Year.

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