March 2, 2010
WEYMOUTH — Family brought Sue Kay to Weymouth. Kay and her husband, Frank, were looking for a community with neighborhood schools where they could send their son.
They settled in a house on Broad Street in Weymouth, a mix between the bustle of South Boston they grew up with and the suburbia they were looking for.
More than 30 years later, recently widowed and with her son and grandchildren living in Virginia, Kay is still here for family. But her family now is the entire 50,000-plus town of Weymouth.
“The community adopted me,” she said.
“I don’t think people generally care about politicians necessarily, but this is my family,” Kay said.
When Kay’s husband died more than a year ago, grief took a back seat to her job. And when it rears its head, she dives into work and other people’s problems.
“The health and welfare of this community is so important to me,” she said. “I think that’s where I get out of everything else I’m feeling badly about.”
Residents have repaid her by taking out her trash, inviting her out to dinner, shoveling her driveway. Most of her helpers remain nameless, doing their good deeds while Kay is at work.
The support, practical and emotional, was a surprise, said Jim Wilson, Kay’s longtime friend and colleague.
Wilson, the town’s chief financial officer, said Kay has been there for the town, and the townspeople have been there for her. “That forms a good cycle,” he said.
At times, Wilson has suggested Kay go home and rest, walk away from the mayor’s office for a bit.
“I should have known better,” he said. “I’ve never known Sue to go home and rest. To her … (that) was bordering on insulting.”
In the last year, there hasn’t been a whole lot of time for Kay to relax. But starting this spring, she’s going back to her roots: the soccer fields.
Before becoming “Mayor Sue Kay,” she was known as a soccer coach, referee trainer and volunteer. Her husband was the “hot dog man” for his work at the soccer field concession stand.
“It was my fix,” she said. “I always wanted a lot of children, but my son was very ill and he had seizure problems and it scared me, so we only had one. So that was kind of like my kid fix.”
The girl from Southie had never even seen a soccer ball, and had to go to the library and get a book on the game.
“I fell in love with it,” she said.
Games on Saturday were like a social, giving Kay the opportunity to get to know townspeople, and giving them the chance to know her.
“She was very, very passionate about making sure the players and the referees understood that it was more than just about the game, that there were life lessons that occur out there on the field. She was teaching us that sometimes the breaks go your way and sometimes they don’t but if you keep your nose to the grindstone … there are going to be successes you meet,” said Donnie Norton, a friend of Kay’s son and a graduate of her referee training program.
Kay said that as mayor, she feels more at home when she talks to people out in the community than she does behind a desk or on the phone.
She lingers in the town hall parking lot at the start of the day, chatting with anyone who approaches.
“I hang down there for 20 minutes at a time,” she said, getting caught up in conversation as she goes from her car to the door of town hall.
The same is true when she goes to the laundromat or grocery store.
“That’s where people are,” she said.
Kay said her late mother used to complain when townspeople approached while they were out and about.
“She would start yelling at people, saying, ‘My daughter is here to do shopping!” the mayor said.
But Kay never felt that way. “You’re doing your shopping, the same thing they do. And they can relate and feel comfortable talking to you. And I love it,” she said.