Tears of laughter and sadness fill church as a political era comes to an end City bids farewell to Mimi DiPietro


There were a few tears but much laughter at Our Lady of Pompei Church in East Baltimore as Highlandtown neighbors and Maryland's highest elected officials came this morning to say goodbye to former City Councilman Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro.

Mr. DiPietro -- known for energetically arranging to have potholes fixed, finding constituents jobs, and getting alleys cleaned and parks spruced up, all while fracturing the English language -- died Friday at 89. He had represented Baltimore's 1st Councilmanic District from 1969 to 1991.

Bishop John H. Ricard presided at the Mass of Christian burial along with Our Lady of Pompei's pastor, the Rev. Luigi Esposito.

And while Mr. DiPietro's family and closest friends, plus dozens of his political colleagues, filled the church, dozens of his Highlandtown neighbors stood outside -- watching respectfully from the steps of their rowhouses.

"It really is the end to a whole era," said 1st District Councilman Perry Sfikas, who was elected in 1991. "And it was a good era."

Inside the church, Father Esposito noted that Baltimore's weather, so oppressive most of the summer, had been glorious since Mr. DiPietro's death. He said he could hear the councilman greeting the Lord last Friday: "Listen, God, it's something about the heat back in Baltimore."

And Father Esposito smiled as he spoke of Mr. DiPietro's mangled English, his way of creating words. At the funeral home, the priest said, one visitor whispered, "Imagine the meeting between Mimi and Mr. Webster in heaven."

Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer paid tribute, along with former mayors Thomas J. D'Alesandro III and Clarence H. Du Burns. Mayor Kurt Schmoke smiled as he recalled how the councilman, agitated over some constituent's problem, would call the mayor directly -- and put the voter on the line as well. When he needed something for constituent, Mr. DiPietro charged right to the top.

Maryland's senators, Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, attended. Ms. Mikulski, who shared a council office with Mr. DiPietro when they represented the district together from 1971 to 1976, said she saw herself as a reformer, while he reveled in old-time politics. But over time, she said, they learned from each other. She taught him how to work with community groups; he taught her how to get a pothole fixed.

He wasn't speaking just English, she said. "Mimi spoke the language of the heart."

Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a former councilman who now heads the ZTC Congressional Black Caucus, said he and the 1st District councilman got along, despite their different styles. "Mimi just wanted to make sure you were a man of your word," he said.

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