, Newburyport, MA

August 6, 2013

For Lawler family, a happy tribute to mayor's legacy

Newburyport Daily News

---- — NEWBURYPORT — The family of the late George Lawler Jr. came from as nearby as Newburyport and as far away as Kazakhstan to honor him in the annual Yankee Homecoming parade.

Sunday’s parade was dedicated to Lawler, who died in February at age 85. He served as mayor in the mid-1960s, and is widely regarded for making crucial decisions that ensured Newburyport’s historic downtown would be rehabilitated and preserved. When Lawler came into office in 1964, the proposed plan was to tear down the then-deteriorating downtown and replace it with a modern strip mall.

Lawler was also active in many civic affairs, serving as city clerk and on the City Council. For decades he helped organize Yankee Homecoming celebrations and served as chairman in 1960.

When family members received word that he would be honored, they were deeply touched, said his daughter, Mary Ann Lawler of Newburyport.

“It was really special,” she said. “I was so happy when (Yankee Homecoming Chairwoman) Tammy Jennings told us that she would dedicate the parade to my father.”

The Lawler family gathered an impressive group together to march in the parade.

Two of George Lawler’s grandsons, Timothy Lawler of Newburyport and Bobby Furber of California, held a banner at the front of the parade.

Walking behind them were his daughters, Mary Ann Lawler of Newburyport and Nancy Furber of California. Behind them, riding in a car, was his daughter-in-law Cathleen Lawler of Newburyport and Bobby Furber’s girlfriend Celia White of California. His grandson, Michael Lawler, and family friend, Gardner Cousins, both of Newburyport, handed out candy to the crowd.

Many families have stretches of High Street sidewalk or corners that are traditionally “theirs” during the Homecoming parade, and the Lawlers are no exception. At the corner of High and Chapel streets, the Lawler family and friends gathered to welcome the parade procession. At that corner there were about 40 people, including George’s son George Lawler III of Haverhill, graddaughter Maggie Lawler, son Tim Lawler of Newburyport, and grandchildren Nathan Lawler of Aktobe, Kazakhstan, and his wife Nurgul.

Mary Ann Lawler said the family received lots of support throughout the parade route, as well as bountiful hugs as the parade wended its way through the city’s South End. She was particularly touched by one friend who was watching the parade live on cable TV and spotted the Lawler family marching. She dashed out the door, drove to the parade route and ran up the street to give Mary Ann a hug — leaving her car door open and motor running.

“It was a really happy experience,” said Mary Ann Lawler.