It was a memorable event Sunday morning. Ottavio “Ott” Cerullo, 99 years of age, viewed a motorcade assembled to mark his birthday properly. You may ask – also quite properly – “What about Social Distancing?” Well, the South Boston friends of Ott fully recognized the need for Social Distancing. They assembled in the unused parking lot by the Boston Teachers Union, proceeded along Day Boulevard, made a U-turn onto Columbia Road, and then drove by Compass on the Bay where Ott now lives. All participants in the motorcade stayed in their cars as they drove by, honking and cheering Ott.
All of the Compass staff were arrayed at safe distances from Ott and his sister Yolanda, and of course they all wore masks. Ott and his sister Yolanda, who carried a sign saying, “He’s My Brother. Isn’t He Old?”, stood at the top of the Compass porch stairs, waving to everyone. Guests on foot, including members of the media, also wore masks and kept six feet between themselves and everyone else. It was a truly festive occasion, despite effective Social Distancing, reminiscent of the impromptu motorcade that marked St. Patrick’s Day in South Boston on Sunday, March 15.
Ottavio Cerullo is not only a lifelong resident of South Boston, he is also a bona fide hero. Ott served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and saw significant combat action. We will only mention that he was twice wounded in action and thus received two Purple Hearts – the medal first instituted by General George Washington himself in 1782.
And Ott is a bona fide member of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation”, in Brokaw’s book of the same name. The Greatest Generation, after enduring the privation of the Great Depression 90 years ago in the 1930s, then fought during the 1940s in the all-out global conflict we call World War II. After returning to their everyday lives as civilians, The Greatest Generation proceeded to build a nation of historic strength and good will – a guardian of, and an example to, the entire rest of the world.
Sadly and inevitably, all the members of The Greatest Generation will soon be gone, but we still will have their historic example of courage and endurance to remember. So it was entirely fitting that Ott was awarded a citation and a formal salute from the Mayor’s office of the City of Boston, read aloud and closed with a salute of complete respect to Ottavio Cerullo, one of South Boston’s heroes.
This motorcade showed the real South Boston spirit, during and despite the COVID-19 plague.