HANSON — Bridges over sometimes-troubled political waters — and the late Charles W. Mann’s role in spanning political divides throughout his career in public service — was the theme of the Oct. 12 dedication of the Hon. Charles W. Mann Bridge.
“Today, we come together to commemorate a man who built bridges between communities, parties, people … that when we leave, in the days to come, we would be able to help build bridges, as well,” Pembroke Assembly of God Pastor Joe Quaresimo prayed in his invocation.
The Charles W. Mann Bridge, spanning the Drinkwater River — which flows under Winter Street — connects the towns of Hanson and Hanover. Mann’s public service, too, spanned the two neighboring towns. A very short distance downstream the Drinkwater joins with Indian Head Brook to form the Indian Head River and further downstream it is joined by Herring Brook in Pembroke and there turns into the North River.
Most of Friday’s emotional ceremony was moved from the bridge to Hanson Town Hall, where a collation had already been planned in the Selectmen’s Meeting Room. But once the morning rain abated, the actual unveiling of signs took place at both ends of the bridge.
“It’s very evident that Charlie did not have many ‘fair weather friends,’” quipped host and Hanson state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, about the large turnout as torrents of rain fell outside. “I think it’s very appropriate that we’re here at Hanson Town Hall in the Selectmen’s Room. … We know that Charlie was a consummate public servant who served his district and Commonwealth for five decades.”
Cutler added that the only location that would be as appropriate was Sandy’s Coffee Corner, where Mann often held forth over coffee with members of the community.
“He loved to talk to people, connect with people and help people,” Cutler said, noting that Sandy’s is where he first met Mann while campaigning for Mann’s old Sixth Plymouth District Seat. “Even though we were from different generations, different towns, different political parties, I’ve always admired him, and respected him and appreciated the civil discourse he brought to his endeavors.”
Friends and political colleagues and family members spoke at the ceremony about Mann’s dedication to reaching across the political aisle in the interest of serving his state and constituents back home.
Fifth Plymouth District state Rep. Dave DeCoste, R-Norwell; state Sen. Mike Brady, D-Brockton, Hanson Selectmen Chairman Kenny Mitchell and retired sheriffs Peter Flynn and Charles Decas shared memories of their work and friendships with Mann before his daughter, Karen Barry spoke for the family.
Brady noted that Mann’s service in the State House in 1966, “when I was only 4 years old,” noting that Mann was an Army veteran who epitomized bi-partisanship.
“Unlike what we see in Washington today, we were very fortunate to have people like Charlie Mann, because he was able to work across the aisle,” Brady said.
Cutler and DeCoste — who co-sponsored the bill to name the bridge after Mann — also alluded to the bipartisan effort to honor Mann, whose legacy was one of bridging the political divide.
“I was a strap-hanger in this whole effort,” DeCoste demurred. “Josh is the guy who did it. … There were so many people who came out of the woodwork [to support the bill]. They saw it on the agenda that the [Hanover] Selectmen were going to approve it.”
DeCoste said Mann’s legacy has lived on as one of the people who went to Boston to get something done and not for political perks.
“Your dad was able to put together coalitions of people on a broad political spectrum and make things happen,” he told Mann’s daughters Barry, Theresa Cocio, Debbie Stauble and Jennifer DiCristofaro.
Mitchell also continued the bridge metaphor in his remarks, while noting Mann also served on the School Committee, the North River Commission and as a Town Moderator.
“I think it is very fitting that we are dedicating this bridge in his memory,” Mitchell said. “Charlie was a uniter — someone who tried to bring people together and bridge divides, just as this bridge does now.”
He thanked the Mann family for sharing him with Hanson all these years.
Flynn and Decas, who were close friends of Mann’s shared personal stories of the Charlie Mann they knew — a guy who loved a card game and a good cigar with a close friend who was fighting a losing battle with cancer, Flynn’s brother David.
“I was on the periphery, but they were really friends,” Flynn said In a choked voice. “David was dying … I’m sure they talked about the past, I’m sure they talked about the present and I’m sure they talked about Dave’s future.
“I think that was one of the toughest bridges that Charlie had to build — the bridge, for my brother, between here and there,” he said, pointing skyward. “Charlie probably didn’t know how much he meant to our family for what he had done.”
Decas said passing over the bridge will be sure to bring back memories of Mann to all who knew him.
“When special people touch our lives, then suddenly we see how beautiful and wonderful our world could really be,” he said.
Barry said Flynn and Decas were a tough act to follow, and thanked all those who attended. She also thanked Mitchell and the selectmen in both towns who chose to dedicate the bridge to her father.
“More than anything, it’s the wanting to do this that’s most meaningful,” she said. “I believe that our father considered his public service as a privilege, not a job, he loved these communities, never left them … and he loved the people in them.”
She said the bridge was a fitting legacy to a man who believed in bridging divides.
“He made it clear that he represented everyone,” she said.
Among the people thanked by Barry and Cutler were the Hanson and Hanover town administrators and boards of selectmen, Hanson Selectmen’s Assistant Meredith Marini, the Hanson Historical Commission, Hanson Police, Fire and Highway departments, Plymouth county DA Timothy Cruz, the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department, Country Ski & Sport, Legislative Aide Cole Angley and the staffs of Brady and DeCoste.