A graduate of Cathedral High School, Boston College and Suffolk University Law School, Marty Cunniffe married his beloved, Jane, and moved to Needham in 1981. While helping to raise their two children, Ellen and Matt, Marty provided his initial Town volunteer service by coaching Needham Youth Hockey and St. Bart’s Youth Soccer. His self-proclaimed lack of familiarity with the ice and the field was more than made up for by his enthusiasm and his love of the kids.
Beginning in 1984 and continuing up through today’s date, Marty has volunteered as a member of the St. Bartholomew Parish choir, including many years of service as a song leader. During these 31 years, Marty also participated on the Parish Council, the Building Use and Planning Committee, and he has been a vibrant leader in the Senior Social Club and has organized the annual St. Patrick’s Dinner and Show.
Beyond his many selfless contributions to the St. Bart’s parish community and beyond, Marty also understands the vulnerability of so many in our society. And Marty has tried his best to get involved and help out where he can. He has provided assistance and companionship to those often suffering souls receiving home hospice care through the Good Samaritan Hospice program. He also has volunteered with the Volunteers of America grant program providing mentoring and guidance to inmates about to be released from the Norfolk County House of Correction.
But perhaps most noteworthy has been Marty’s incredible service at Briarwood Healthcare and the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital -— Needham. Each and every week, Marty visits both, offering communion and the rosary, and also providing support, comfort, and a welcoming ear to any patient who needs a friend and a small amount of understanding and love. Marty likes to roam the corridors at Briarwood, making as much noise as he can,energizing the facility, popping in to any number of rooms, and engaging as many residents as he can. They know he cares deeply about them, and sometimes his visit is the brightest part of their week.
In addition, for the last 15 years, on the 3rd Saturday of every month, Marty also leads a sing-a-long for all Briarwood residents. Of course, by now Marty knows many by name, and he assists in getting them seated, also greeting those family members who sometimes attend. Marty knows the songs that evoke sweet memories of days gone by, and he is able to make them smile and laugh once again. During these events, Marty celebrates the birthdays of each resident who was born in that particular month, singing Happy Birthday to each individually and serving cake and punch. And this upcoming Saturday, he’ll do it all again.
When informed he had been selected for this award, the ever-humble Marty questioned the wisdom of the selection committee. His only other comment was “please don’t forget those in nursing homes or hospice care.” An ordinary person doing extraordinary things, for those who often have no one else. Please join me in congratulating a 2015 Melick Award winner, Martin J. Cunniffe.