Lifelong Hull resident James Leahy, affectionately known as “Jimbo,” was honored this week by the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the AHLA Foundation for his dedication to the industry during a challenging time, as exemplified by his role as a doorman at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf. Leahy has proudly held that position for the past 40 years.
“Everyone who knows Jimbo knows he embodies the word ‘hospitality,'” his wife, Michele Proude, posted on Facebook after learning that her husband had been named the recipient of the prestigious North Star Award: Lodging Employee of the Year during a livestream ceremony Tuesday.
Leahy was among nearly 300 men and women across the United States and beyond who were recognized for having provided selfless service to others during unprecedented times and were nominated for the AHLA award.
“It was an honor just to be one of the finalists, so being named Lodging Employee of the Year is beyond my wildest dreams,” he told The Hull Times. “I’m feeling very grateful that this Hull kid living on a small peninsula could win this international award.”
Leahy and the other two finalists, from Florida and Colorado, were featured in a video explaining what their jobs mean to them and the contributions they are called on to make every day.
Leahy was also the recipient of the 2020 Massachusetts Lodging Association Outstanding Employee of the Year award. Boston Marriott nominated him for that honor, and, after coming out on top, he automatically qualified as a nominee for the 2021 AHLA award.
The doorman is the first individual guests meet when they arrive at the hotel, “laying the groundwork for what they are going to experience once they walk in the front door,” Leahy said of his responsibilities.
“In my role as doorman, I am an ambassador to the city of Boston, bringing love, service, laughter, and cheerfulness to our guests,” he said. “You never know when someone needs a smile.”
He also offers suggestions as to where guests can have a good time with their families, which tourist sites they might enjoy, and the best places to dine.
“I often suggest that they take the ferry to Hull to experience our beautiful seaside community. People think I’m the mayor of Long Wharf,” he said of the hotel’s location.
Because the Hull ferry dock is close to the Boston Marriott, Leahy has the opportunity to greet familiar faces among the Hull commuters passing through the hotel on their way to work.
The hotel industry worldwide has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and Leahy is grateful to be employed. “It’s been a very trying year,” he acknowledged, “and to win an award during these times is very special to me.”
Besides expressing appreciation for his family – his wife and their twin sons, Aidan and Kiernan, for their love and support and also for his late parents, “Ma and Pa Leahy, for instilling in me moral character and a good work ethic” – he is thankful for “the most wonderful people in the world, the residents of the Hull community.”
Fellow resident Mark Abatuno cannot say enough good things about Leahy, not only in his role at the Marriott but also as a longtime Hullonian. “Jimbo is a wonderful man. He coached my older son, Mark, 15 years ago in youth basketball and was an outstanding coach.”
He also knows Leahy from taking the boat into Boston and seeing him in action at the Marriott. “Nobody knows more about everything that’s going on in Boston than Jimbo. He’s also an ambassador to Hull, an outgoing, friendly, and helpful guy.”
Resident Bill Struzziery has enjoyed a long friendship with Leahy, beginning with their Little League baseball days as part of the “Paragon Park” team in the 1960s.
Struzziery and his wife would sometimes run into Leahy when they took the ferry to Boston to have dinner in the North End. “Jimbo, which he has always been called, always greeted me and my family with a friendly smile,” he recalled. “One time when we missed the last ferry back to Hull, Jimbo called a limousine for us and told us no tipping, just pay the fare. He never skips a beat; he’s always on his game.”
It’s all in a day’s work for Leahy. “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You get one shot at this life, and I want to go through it loving and serving people,” he said. “I’m the person I am today because of this job. I’m so blessed.”
Leahy is looking forward to July 25, when he will head for Los Angeles for an in-person gala, at which time he will officially accept his award.