In December 1988, Peter Aucella, then-assistant superintendent of Lowell National Historical Park, was at U.S. Sen. John Kerry's birthday party in Boston. So was Ed Asner.
While there, Aucella took a chance and asked Asner to provide the narration for "The American Workers Story," a video being produced for the park's Labor Exhibit.
"When Asner arrived, I introduced myself and told him about the labor video at a national park based on labor history," Aucella said recently. "I mentioned that Kamber Group, which he'd worked with, suggested he might donate his services to do the voice-over, and he said, emphatically, in that Lou Grant voice, 'I'll do it!'"
Asner did the voice-over and came to Lowell in September 1990, for the opening event at the Mogan Cultural Center and video premiere in the Burgoyne Theatre at the then Arts Magnet School, now the Lowell Freshman Academy.
"He spoke about the benefits of the American labor movement," recalled Aucella, who also took him to an exhibit opening at the Mogan Center.
"I introduced him to Lowell artist Janet Lambert Moore, calling her 'Janet Tyler Moore.' We laughed about the Moores in his life. When I introduced my then-girlfriend, now-wife, Rosemary Shea, he told her she looked like Julie Andrews, which she loved."
Aucella, who retired earlier this year after about 35 years with the park, kept photos of Asner and him in his office at the park. Asner, reminded of his visit to Lowell during the Weekender interview, didn't recall it. (He's almost 90, mind you.) But he looks forward to seeing Aucella in Arlington next week.
"You tell him he better be there, or I'll give him a kick," said Asner, a bit gruffly.
Aucella already has his tickets to the show.