Mural Honoring Veteran Captain Tom Kelley Unveiled
Today, Mayor Michelle Wu joined Boston’s Veterans Services Commissioner Robert Santiago, the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture, the Community Engagement Cabinet, Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans’ Services Jon Santiago, and West Roxbury community members to unveil a new mural honoring Captain Tom Kelley created by local artist Laura DeDonato Wiatt. The Mayor also proclaimed September 7, 2023 as “Captain Thomas Kelley Day,” highlighting his contributions to his country and local community, including a 30 year career in the U.S. Navy. The mural, located on the Boston Ale House, is the result of local residents reaching out to the City requesting a tribute for Captain Kelley, a Medal of Honor recipient who grew up in West Roxbury.
“Public art helps us highlight the values and achievements of our communities, telling the story of sacrifices and leadership that helped form Boston’s neighborhoods and our country. Commemorating Captain Tom Kelley’s decades of military service adds to the fabric of West Roxbury’s character,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I’m grateful to the local artist, community members, and city departments that made this artistic vision a reality, and most of all to Captain Kelley for his example of selfless leadership and dedicated service.”
Captain Kelley was raised in West Roxbury and served in various roles in the U.S. Navy. In 1969 in Vietnam, Captain Kelley was leading eight river assault boats to extract American troops when one craft became disabled. Captain Kelley ordered the remaining seven craft to circle the disabled boat and put his own craft directly in the line of fire, when his boat was struck by a rocket propelled grenade. Captain Kelley was thrown to the deck and suffered head injuries as a result of shrapnel. He was unable to move himself from the deck or speak clearly into a radio, but he relayed orders through his men and successfully moved the boats to a safer area before calling for his own medical assistance.
Captain Kelley was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Nixon at the White House on May 14, 1970. After retiring from the Navy after a 30 year career, Captain Kelley worked for the Department of Defense and then as Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services.
“Medal of Honor recipient Captain Kelley is an American hero deserving of this dedication. This mural is a special 'thank you' from the community for his selfless devotion to our country,” said Boston Veterans Services Commissioner Robert Santiago. “As a city we recognize and honor our veterans and their families everyday. As an example of that, Boston has hosted the Medal of Honor convention for an unprecedented four times with the last one being in 2021. Just recently we dedicated the beginning of Route 20 here in Boston as Medal of Honor Highway and had the honor of having Captain Kelley at that dedication.”
“We’re excited to partner with the Office of Neighborhood Services to welcome this new mural to West Roxbury,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts & Culture. “Public art plays an important role in preserving public memory, and we’re proud to support a mural that uplifts the legacy of a Boston native and Medal of Honor recipient.”
Funded by the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture, Roslindale resident and artist Laura DeDonato Wiatt painted the mural located on the side of Boston Ale House, located on the corner of Centre and Hastings Streets in West Roxbury. The mural depicts Captain Kelley and the not-yet-built USS Thomas G. Kelley. Work on the mural began the first week of July, after Dan Hudson, West Roxbury’s Liaison in the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, was approached by local residents about their desire to tribute Captain Kelley.
“It was great working with Dan Hudson, Boston Ale House, and the people of West Roxbury,” said Laura DeDonato Wiatt, local muralist. “During the process of creating this painting, I learned so much about Captain Kelley through speaking to people who know and respect him. It was an honor to paint a portrait of a local hero.”
“As the Mayor's Liaison to West Roxbury, it is my distinct honor and pleasure to help celebrate Captain Kelley with The Offices of Arts and Culture and Veterans Services,” said Dan Hudson, West Roxbury Liaison for the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services. "I'm beyond grateful for the patience and care that local artist Laura DeDonato Wiatt put into this piece, and I look forward to this mural being a point of pride in West Roxbury for generations to come."
ABOUT THE MAYOR’S OFFICE OF NEIGHBORHOOD SERVICES
The Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services (ONS) encourages, facilitates, and maximizes citizen input and participation through service requests, neighborhood meetings, mailings, and emergency responses. To report non-emergency issues to the City, residents are encouraged to connect with BOS:311 by dialing 3-1-1 or by downloading the free BOS:311 app on iOS or Android platforms.