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Ray Flynn: Tom Menino 'Bigger Than Life'

BOSTON (CBS) - Ray Flynn was the Mayor of Boston from 1984 to 1993.  When he left office to become the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Tom Menino took over and eventually became the city's longest serving mayor.

Related Stories: Remembering Tom Menino

Flynn released this statement after Menino passed away Thursday at age 71 after a long battle with cancer:

"Tom Menino and I shared more than the title of being Mayor of Boston, but also had a love for the people of Boston which sustained him every day. This gave him the passion and strength to fight every day to make Boston a better place. Yes, we sometime disagreed about issues, but we never had a difference of opinion about our respect for each other and our pride in making Boston a great city.

"I also admired the courage of Tom Menino in fighting his sickness and his love for his family. Boston is a better city because of Tom Menino and the people of Boston are grateful for his commitment and service."

"The day I left City Hall to become U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, I said, "The City is in good hands." "Today, Tom Menino is in good hands."

Photo Gallery: Remembering Mayor Tom Menino

WBZ-TV's Beth Germano talked to Flynn recently about Menino's time in office:

"It's a fascinating position being the Mayor of Boston, because you're almost in the living rooms with people every night. You're almost part of the family being mayor, and people follow it very closely. They know the smallest detail as well as the big events. So there's a connection, there's a chemistry, there's a relationship between the people and the mayor. And that's what Tommy Menino's been able to generate all these years during his time as Mayor of Boston."

But people like yourself will continue to think of what he's done for the city and all he's done for the city.

"I think that's exactly right, I think people are looking fondly about what he meant for this city. And I think they're looking at the bright side, the optimistic, the positive side of what he's done."

And there's so much going on in the city now that reminds us of him. There's not a construction project going on in a corner of the city that wasn't started by the Menino administration. His fingerprint is everywhere. 

"Yeah, right. He's bigger than life in many respects. He had a mark on this city for two decades and people appreciate that, they understand that. They will remember that."

Watch: Ray Flynn interview - Part 1

What is your personal relationship with Tom Menino?

"He asks about my daughter. And when I got the news (about Menino ending his cancer treatment), I happened to be at the Cancer Center at Mass General Hospital, and my daughter is experiencing cancer. That's what we talk about when we talk about children and grandchildren and how they're doing. My first reaction was that there's a chapel at the Mass General Hospital and I always stop in, say prayers for my daughter and for my grandson and for people that I know. So today I just started adding Tom Menino to list of the people that I pray for."

How difficult was it that he retired and went on the book tour which seemed to be giving him so much joy, and seemed to be entering another chapter in his own life and then he's spelled by this cancer?

"That's the thing that is sad as well; I saw a little spark there with the book when he was out there, talking about it. He seemed to really enjoy that. He was meeting different people and talking with the press about experiences as mayor. We all know there are a lot of stories and experiences that he's had that are unique."

This touches so many people because he had such a legacy in this city. 

"You're absolutely right, cancer affects so many people. People have an empathy, an understanding, and a sensitivity towards people fighting cancer and, of course, we're all rooting and praying for his family. It's got to be very difficult on Angela and the children and the grandchildren. And his extended family of Bostonians. I think everybody is there, behind them, fighting and praying for him."

Watch: Ray Flynn interview - Part 2

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