by Rick Winterson

Retirement parties are joyful celebrations – perhaps the single most joyful way to say “Goodbye” to a much-loved individual. Such was the gathering in the Seapoint Ballroom that celebrated the retirement of Mayra Rodriguez-Howard, one of South Boston’s many angels. Mayra was best known locally for her work at the South Boston Community Health Center (the SBCHC). Her creation, if you will – the Youth Ambassadors of South Boston.
Her accomplishments are far too many to describe in just a few words, but you could see from the variety of well-wishers who showed up how much Mayra will be missed. There were her colleagues from the SBCHC, of course, especially Linda Doran. Activists like Helen Allix and Ed Flynn were on hand; Ed presented Mayra with a certificate of honor from Rep. Nick Collins office during the program. Police officers from the Station Six Community Services office came by. Her family – her beautiful family – and many, many of her friends all showed up.
But most impressive of all were the past Youth Ambassadors who came – many of whom organized the party and prepared a feast for the ages. These grown-ups once were “young adults” themselves, a.k.a. teenagers from 12 to 18, who wanted to have one, final party with their mentor, Mayra Howard. They are now fully grown up, and party they did – Mayra was dancing right along with them to the musical spinning of DJ Crandon.
During the program, Mayra received a “Butterfly Wings” Award. This is a special Award within the Youth Ambassadors that is based upon the story/legend about how the tiny breeze from a butterfly’s wing in Central America, at the right time and place, can lead to the most humongous hurricane ever seen. This echoes an Award she received from the SBCHC ten years ago called the “Breakfast of Champions” Award – a box of Wheaties, with her picture on it.
During the program, there numerous comments that began with, “Over the years (15 of them) Mayra has …” You can add your own ending, because Mayra has probably done it already herself. The program closed with a song recorded by the Youth Ambassadors called ”We Dare to Dream”. And then the dancing began.
Underneath it all was a tinge of sadness, as there is at all retirement parties. But overall, it was a memorable and meaningful occasion. Godspeed and farewell, Mayra.

A friendly “Goodbye, Mayra” from a Youth Ambassadors caravan.

The gentlemen in blue – Officers Frank, John, and George, with Maya and Linda Doran – are really sad to see Mayra go.

Many of the Youth Ambassadors – not so young any more – bid Mayra goodbye during her part in Seapoint Ballroom.

The neighborhood ladies are in hand to say goodbye to Mayra.

Mayra receives her Butterfly Award from the Youth Ambassadors – “one stroke of a butterfly’s wing can start a hurricane …”

The gang – Mayra’s family, friends, and the Youth Ambassadors – gather to salute her accomplishments.

You didn’t know Mayra was such a good dancer, now did you?

Linda Doran, Ed Flynn, and Helen Allix gather to bid Mayra an enjoyable retirement.