Kip Tiernan memorial recognizes contributions of Boston activist

Bill Brett took this portrait of Kip Tiernan about 15 years ago and it was part of his fifth book, “Boston: Irish.”

BACK BAY — The three arches on Dartmouth Street near Boylston Street mark the extraordinary life of Kip Tiernan, founder of Rosie’s Place and champion of those who others often overlooked, who died of cancer on July 2, 2011 at the age of 85. Dozens of people turned out on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 as the memorial to Kip Tiernan was dedicated by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Approved by the city in April, the stainless steel sculpture is just the fourth memorial in Boston that honors a woman. People will be able to walk through the arches and read quotes from “Urban Meditations,” a book that Kip co-authored with her advocacy partner Fran Froehlich, who attended Saturday’s dedication.

When Kip founded Rosie’s Place in the South End in 1974 it was the first homeless shelter for women in the country. Her efforts for the homeless didn’t stop there and Kip co-founded Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program. Other programs that Kip and Froehlich founded or help found include: Greater Boston Food Bank, the city’s Emergency Shelter Commission, the Poor People’s United Fund, Community Works, Aid to Incarcerated Mothers, Finex House, Food for Free, John Leary House, My Sister’s Place, Transition House, and the Greater Boston Union of the Homeless. Kip was one of the founders of Victory House, a residential alcoholism treatment program for homeless, alcoholic men.

The memorial cost about $150,000 and was funded privately, with the majority of the money donated by the Fish Family Foundation. It is located near her Kip’s former office at Old South Church. Rosie’s Place and the city marked the dedication by throwing a block party that featured music by Aardvark Jazztet.

During the ceremony Mayor Walsh spoke of meeting Kip and Rosie’s Place President Sue Marsh recognized the importance of Kip’s work. Kip’s wife, Donna Pomponio, also spoke at the dedication.

“I’m not sure how she would have responded to the attention today, but if the commemorative sculpture helps keep the needs of the underserved in people’s hearts and minds,” Donna said, “then I know she’s smiling on all of us today.”

All photos by Bill Brett

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