The playground was formally renamed for Mr. Lima, who passed away in 2011, when the City Council passed a resolution at its April 15 meeting. City Facilities Director Ed Catelli, also present for the event, and his staff created and erected a sign earlier in the week.
“We grew up here,” said Mr. Lima’s son, Robert M. Lima Sr., as he perused the Hull Street field and gathering crowd Thursday.
“We’re just proud to have something named after someone we admired and who did so much for the community,” he added.
Thursday marked the conclusion of a roughly year-long effort by Robert Lima and friends of the family to have the city recognize the contributions George Lima Sr. made to East Providence.
The son of Cape Verdean immigrants, George Sr. grew up in Harlem, New York, Fall River and Providence before first attending North Carolina A&T State University on a football scholarship in 1939.
From there, he became one of the initial members of the All-African American “Tuskegee Airmen” in Alabama, the renowned group of pilots who fought and flew during World War II. Mr. Lima did not fly in combat, but was the group’s photography officer, documenting the historic accomplishments of the revered aviators.
Upon returning to Rhode Island after the war, Mr. Lima earned a degree from Brown University. He most notably then became a leader in the union movement, the president of the NAACP Providence Branch and a two-term state representative from East Providence in the old District 83. He was married to the former Selma Boone for 55 years.
“We practiced football for the Mohawks on this field 50 years ago,” said George Lima Jr., who flew in for Thursday’s ceremony from his home in Atlanta. The third of the Lima children, Annamaria Bowling, was also on hand for the event.
“That baseball field over there, I led the league in home runs in 1962. We played basketball here. We were here every day — me, my brother and sister, our cousins — for hours and hours,” George Jr. continued. “Knowing that a place where my family spent so much time has been named after my father is very special.”
A reception followed Thursday’s ceremony. And on Friday, May 2, a golf tournament was planned at Triggs Memorial Golf Course to benefit the George S. Lima Sr. Memorial Foundation, which seeks to spark interest in minority youth in aviation and communications, two of the eldest Lima’s greatest passions.