MAYOR MIKE PETERS- “I HAD A GREAT LIFE.”
One of the hardest assignments as a reporter is doing the “eulogy story” after someone dies. It’s hard because you want to do them justice. You want people to see the side of the person you saw, or family members saw, or even strangers saw. You want the viewers to get a sense of the person’s character, to get a sense of what made them, what drove them, who they loved, what they loved and who loved them.
I spent most of the day working on my Mayor Mike story. I looked through old videotape, I went to Hartford City Hall. I went to Firehouse 15. I went to the State Capitol. I went to “Mayor Mike’s” on Asylum Street.
For a moment, all of the roads this “larger than life character” travelled intersected in one moment in time, as we covered the journey of a man, who he was and how he got there.
I spoke with people who knew Mayor Mike best–the firefighters, the politicians, the people who worked with Mayor Mike at his restaurant in downtown Hartford. They all had such profound and eloquent things to say about the beloved Mayor.
Mayor Eddie Perez told me despite Mike Peter’s long and difficult battle to save his life, Mayor Perez was still shocked to learn about his death. “Shocked,” Mayor Perez told me because Mayor Mike was such a fighter, in every sense of the word, if anyone could beat this, he could. It’s what we all had hoped, even Mike Peters.
Mary Glassman, the First Select-woman of Simsbury worked with Mayor Mike on a committee to bring back the Hartford Whalers. (technically Glassman is the town selectman but I refuse to say that just because of some old Simsbury statue, clearly she is a woman) Anyhow, Glassman called Mayor Mike a larger than life character, the last of his kind really, a cheerleader for both Hartford and The State.
A worker at “Mayor Mike’s” called the former fire fighter turned mayor turned restaurant owner, “the best boss he had ever had.” James Stone told me Mayor Mike would always ask him how he was doing and he meant it. “Sincere” was the word Stone said that described him the most.
As a reporter who has known Mayor Mike for almost 14 years, I wanted to do him justice. The quotes I got from people from all aspects of his life told a story I wanted everyone to hear. However, it was back at the station that I got the most profound quote of them all. It was from none other than Mayor Mike himself. I interviewed Mayor Mike back in September shortly before his liver transplant operation. He looked frail. He was very thin and looked much older than he really was. His fight was obvious. I have to admit, I was a little nervous before the interview. How do you talk to someone about what it is like to die? Mayor Mike made it easy. Despite the change in his outer appearance, The Mayor Mike I knew was still there, inside, cracking jokes and smiling.
When I asked Mayor Mike if there was anything I could do to help, he said, ”Yes, could you give me your liver?” Despite his devastating diagnosis, his sense of humor was very much still alive.
I looked through the taped interview some more and there it was–the quote that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it now. When I asked Mayor Mike about how he took the news , he looked at me and said essentially, if things didn’t work out how he would like them too, “I’ve had a Great Life” then he beamed a smile that filled up his gaunt face and for a split second I forgot about the difficult journey he was facing and so did he. It wasn’t so much about where he was heading but rather, where, he had been.
Mayor Mike, may you rest in peace.