The Site

Michael Joyce Memorial Plyground

We encourage you to visit the site at Marine Park at the corner of Farragut Street and Wm J. Day Blvd. in South Boston.

The Joyce Memorial Playground

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Contribute today and help us build a fitting memorial for Mike: a man who continues to teach us the true meaning of life—people helping people.

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Other articles

Mike Joyce, A Biographical Sketch
From May 14,1987

His Heart was an open door
by Mike Barnicle,
The Boston Globe, Tuesday, November 14, 1989

Dream into law
An act designating a playground at the Marine Park in South Boston as the Michael Joyce Memorial Playground

His heart was an open door

by Mike Barnicle,
The Boston Globe, Tuesday, November 14, 1989

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CARS WERE DOUBLE-PARKED on both sides of the street outside St. Margaret’s in Dorchester and inside the church there were about 2,000 people along with enough judges, politicians and priests to win a special election. It was a huge funeral for a big man in a lightweight’s body, Mike Joyce, who made a career out of being nice to others until his life ended last week at age 66, cancer finally wearing out his large heart

Mike Joyce was born in County Galway and came here in 1949. He waited on tables to earn money for tickets of passage so that his wife and young daughter could join him.

He met a lot of people as he passed fruit cup over folded napkins and began the decade of the 1960’s on the State House payroll - in the Speaker’s Office, House of Representatives - where he stayed, a permanent treasure, until death took him off the clock. And although he was deeply, Irish and thoroughly Catholic, be was unlike so many of today’s Celtic fakers who have managed to pollute the grand industry of politics: To Mike Joyce, good news or another’s great fortune was an item to be celebrated not twisted in jealousy or envy.

Joyce’s heart was an open door. Over the years, he helped more human beings, strangers to this land, than 99% of those who beg us to let them serve in elected office.

So, while most of the huge church was filled with titles and those who regard having a bit of power as something quite ordinary, the story of Michael Joyce’s life was right where it should have been yesterday, in the back of the cathedral in the person of Hak Sen, who is 41 and who come from a place that is as far as you can get from Ireland or Beacon Hill. Sen is from Cambodia, a country colored in red from blood spilled in war.

When Hak Ben got to the United States in 1982, he spoke no English and knew absolutely nobody other than the members of his family. One day, Sen was told about a meeting for immigrants to be held in the basement of St Mark’s Church in Dorchester. Sen, eager to learn everything he could about this place of bright lights, attended, only to discover that everyone else there was quite white, illegal and Irish.

But the Irish were from Ireland and thus not yet skilled in habits of name-calling and petty venom that consume too many second and third generation Irish-Americans. He sat and listened and heard a name.

“They tell me I should go see Michael Joyce,” Hak Sen was saying. “They tell me that Michael Joyce, he help me get the rest of my family here from Cambodia. Brothers and sisters,”

When did you see him?”

“First thing is I call him on the telephone,” said Hak Sen. “He was working in the State House and I was very impress by that. I thought he was governor or something.

“He say for me to come see him or he say if I cannot do that, he come see me at my house. I live in Dorchester, too. I go to State House to see him.

“I am very nervous when I do this because it is an important place, Very powerful people there. They run everything there. The army, the police, everything,” Hak Sen said. “Thing I remember most is that Michael Joyce he was so very nice. His voice was very quiet and he tell me how to get help from Immigration.

“Two year later, my family here and I call him to tell him that. I tell him I want to come see him again because I have a gift to give him,” the Cambodian was saying. “Michael Joyce say, ‘Oh, no. No. No. Thank you very much, but you should not be giving me gifts. Your family is a gift. Share with your family. I have everything I need.’ He say ‘God bless you’ and that was last time I talk to him, then I see in the paper he die.

“I am so sad when I see this because he was such a good man. That is why I come here today.-

Now, all the priests on the altar led everyone in prayer. Michael Joyce’s wife, his six children and a host of relatives occupied the first six or seven pews of the church.

Behind them, you could see a jumble of public people: Judge Joe Feeney, Tommy McGee, George Keverian, Bob Crane, Ray Flynn and Billy Bulger who, despite all sorts of bad notices in the public prints, is probably more like Michael Joyce than anybody else downtown. As the service ended, the gathering stood. The pallbearers moved slowly alongside the casket. Then the whole building seemed to swell as it filled with voices singing the great song, “God Bless America.” On the steps, Hak Sen merely hummed. He did not know the words to the song, but Michael Joyce, the man and his life, had taught him the meaning.