The mystery of Gertrude Road

A son’s loving tribute to his mother


By Matthew Carroll

The naming of Gertrude Road in West Roxbury, MA, is one of those minor mysteries that occasionally would leave me wondering: Who was Gertrude? Why would someone name a road after her, in this most suburban of Boston’s neighborhoods?

But it was a small mystery — not worth a deep effort to figure out. It’s not a major street or particularly noteworthy, although it’s certainly pleasant. It was just something that would spark my curiosity when I drove or walked past the sign, which is around the corner from my house.

Now the mystery is solved, thanks to the devotion of a loving son. A couple of years ago, I spotted a man putting up a sign similar to this one. He was with his own son.

The man was Gertrude’s son, and he wanted to memorialize his mom. A sweet gesture. He’s put up a sign the last few years. I think he puts it up on her birthday, but I’ve forgotten the details.

He was a nice guy, eager to talk about what a great woman his mom was. I wish I’d gotten his name, but I didn’t.

Anyways, this is the story, as the sign tells: Gertrude Kenney Blais was the granddaughter of builder Charles Jacobs, who constructed many homes in the neighborhood. He named the street after his granddaughter, who was born on nearby Oriole Street. She lived from Sept. 23, 1919 to July 19,2012, dying at the age of 92.

Mystery solved.

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Matthew Carroll lives in West Roxbury and works for the MIT Media Lab, where he runs the Future of News initiative. He often writes about hackathons, such as a video news hack in New York or an Al Jazeera-sponsored event. He can be followed @MattatMIT. He writes fiction under the name of Sean Patrix. Blog posts on everything I write can be found here.

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