North Reading High School Alumni

North Reading, Massachusetts (MA)

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Rita J. Mullin

Class of 1967

If you ask Rita Mullin, the 2009 North Reading Citizen of the Year, why there is a park named after her, she’ll tell you “it just happened that way.” And if you continue to talk with her, you may find that she says that about many of her contributions.

North Reading resident since 1954, Rita Mullin has been civically active since she attended North Reading High School. As an athlete she played various sports and attended clubs; she was involved enough for town officials and teachers to ask her to be on the Youth Services Committee. That set the path for a life-long commitment to North Reading’s youth and its efforts to preserve open spaces for recreation.

Mullin moved to town when she was five. Her father Walter worked on the railroad, while her mother Lena stayed at home. She had five siblings --three brothers and two sisters -- and today she is raising her two sons here with her partner, Lisa Bernstein. The boys, Zachary and Jacob, now attend her alma mater, North Reading High School, where her legacy of volunteerism began.

“In high school we were fortunate enough to have teachers in those days -- they knew our names, they knew our families names, our brothers and sisters,” she said in a recent interview.

The Neighborhood Files, Local ConnectionsRita Mullin Dedicates 50 Years to North Reading
Patch recognizes Rita Mullin's lifetime commitment to North Reading.

By Esther Ruth Friedman Email the authorOctober 28, 2011 Email Print 6 Comments
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Doug VB Goudie interviewing North Reading's Rita Mullin. context
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North Reading resident since 1954, Rita Mullin has been civically active since she attended North Reading High School. As an athlete she played various sports and attended clubs; she was involved enough for town officials and teachers to ask her to be on the Youth Services Committee. That set the path for a life-long commitment to North Reading’s youth and its efforts to preserve open spaces for recreation.

Mullin moved to town when she was five. Her father Walter worked on the railroad, while her mother Lena stayed at home. She had five siblings --three brothers and two sisters -- and today she is raising her two sons here with her partner, Lisa Bernstein. The boys, Zachary and Jacob, now attend her alma mater, North Reading High School, where her legacy of volunteerism began.

“In high school we were fortunate enough to have teachers in those days -- they knew our names, they knew our families names, our brothers and sisters,” she said in a recent interview.

Mullin helped to establish a youth center that was housed in the Edith O’Leary Senior Center. It had a ping-pong table, a pool table and a room for the Youth Services Committee. It was her first experience in civic involvement which eventually led to her experience coaching softball. Her coaching days solidified her lifelong commitment.

In 1973, she joined North Reading’s women’s softball league and a friend asked her to coach the girl's team.

“Of course, because I was kind of an athlete at the time,” she laughed, “I coached and I realized that we didn’t have really any equipment.”

According to Mullin, the softball team had one set of balls and equipment to be passed around between eight teams.

Mullin said, “If you were going to have a practice, you had to go pick up the equipment at somebody’s house and return it.”

Based on the model her father set when he drummed up sponsorship for a Little League Baseball team, she visited various businesses one weekend and drummed up eight sponsors who each paid $150; this enabled the Recreation Department to buy equipment for every team. Eventually the team grew from a casual recreational activity to an official league team.

“That was probably the beginning of doing anything where you felt like, oh, if you step up you can make a difference,” she said.

Since then Mullin’s passion for youth, recreation and open space shaped her service. She has served on the Land Utilization Committee, which established, developed and built Ipswich River Park. Her dedication to the Youth Services Committee continues, as she emphasizes the importance of countering the influence that drug use can play in a community.

“Back 50 years before, when we were kids, I saw how important it was for us to have a place to hang around that was – you know – safe and something to do,” she said.

Still, when asked why the Rita J. Mullin Recreational Park, was named for her, she shrugs it off.

Recent Members

Barbara Meshna 1976
Joe Mccarthy 2019
John Waitt 1979
Joseph Mondello 2019
Linda Smith 1970
Mary Savioli 1969
Paul Jones 1970
Tom Stewart 1977

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