LYNN — Retired city Collector and former City Councilor Frederick B. Cronin Jr. was mourned Thursday by friends and colleagues who recalled the helping hand Cronin extended to those in need.
Cronin, 78, died Thursday at Salem Hospital, said longtime friend and Ward 4 Councilor Richard Colucci, who added Cronin had been ill recently. Cronin retired earlier this year in his 41st year as collector.
Cronin and his wife, Helen, are the parents of four daughters.
A familiar face around City Hall and the city, Cronin was known for what former City Council President Salvy Migliaccio described as his dry sense of humor. But he was also known as someone who helped people across the city during his decades of public service.
“We wouldn’t have enough pens and pencils to list the people Freddie helped out. Any time someone was in a jam, he never said no. He never judged people,” said former Councilor Steven Duffy.
Colucci and Cronin were fellow Highlands residents in their youths and it was Cronin who drew on his experience as Ward 4 councilor and vast network of relationships across the city to help Colucci win the 1990 special election for Ward 4 councilor.
As a teenager, Colucci worked in Cronin’s namesake bar under the commuter rail overpass on lower Washington Street. The pair last spoke three days ago.
“I loved him very much. He was a Highlander,” Colucci said.
Ann Marie Leonard retired as a full-time city Community Development employee in 2005 but continued working part-time and enjoyed running into Cronin in City Hall’s corridors.
“He would always joke, ‘Why are you still working?’ He was always a very happy, caring person,” Leonard said.
A member of the English High School Class of 1959, Cronin went to work for the Welfare Department when it was located in City Hall’s basement. He ran for and won the Ward 4 council seat in 1971, losing it in 1975 when a political newcomer named Robert Tucker beat him.
The political foes became fast friends and it was Tucker two years later who cast the deciding council vote to make Cronin treasurer.
“There are hundreds of things people don’t know that Fred did for people, people who were down on their luck,” Tucker said.
Richard Coppinger served on the council from 1980 to 1996, including a stint as council president. He remembered Cronin as a city official “always ready to help anyone who came to him.”
“He came from a different era of politics. He made it his business to help people,” Coppinger said.
State Rep. and former City Council President Daniel Cahill said Freddie was the type of guy someone would know from a number of different ways.
“He ran in a lot of different circles and he was always known as a solid friend who gave great advice,” Cahill said. “I’ve known his family for many years and I can recall the many conversations we had when I first got elected (to the City Council), where he bestowed upon me some of that great advice and gave me a lot of the colorful history and background of the city of Lynn.”
Cahill said one of his favorite memories of Cronin was on the first night he was sworn in as a city councilor. He said Cronin came toward him, grabbed him and said, ‘”Hey kid, just remember one thing. Guys like you come and go, but people like me stay forever.’ I never forgot that.
“I think they built City Hall around Fred Cronin. He helped a lot of people,” Cahill said. “It’s like the end of an era. He was like from a different time. For Fred, a word and a handshake meant something. His word and his handshake was beyond reproach.”
Charles Gaeta, Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development executive director, said he knew Cronin since the early 1970s when Cronin served on the City Council. A couple of years later, Gaeta said he was elected to the City Council and Cronin was appointed city collector.
“He was one of a kind — funny, loyal and a great family man with all his family and friends,” Gaeta said. “The best stories of Fred are best left unsaid. I loved Freddie, as did so many others. He and his family have been staples in Lynn for years. He will be greatly missed.”
Mayor Thomas M. McGee said in a statement that it was “extremely sad to hear of the passing of Fred today and my thoughts are with the entire Cronin family during this time.
“Fred was a deeply committed public servant who dedicated his life to the city of Lynn. We will be forever grateful for his contribution to this community and his presence will surely be missed.”
School Committee member Lorraine Gately said she’s good friends with the Cronin family — she’s known them since she was 2 years old. She remembers Freddie as “such a good guy,” and said his death came as a shock to her because she didn’t realize he was sick.
“He has the biggest heart and throughout my childhood, his family, the Cronins, were always there for the Lynn community,” Gately said. “We both battled the same rheumatoid arthritis. Last time I saw Freddie, he was walking. He was doing much better.”
Peter Caron, who retired as the city’s chief financial officer earlier this year, said he worked with Cronin for 20 years. He described Cronin as “old school,” and said he wished his former colleague would have retired sooner so he could have enjoyed it.
“He was just committed to his job and that was his life,” Caron said. “As long as I’ve known him, he felt at home at work.”