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‘Can-do’ Arthur DeCoursey left lasting legacy in civic, political life in Neponset

Arthur DeCourseyArthur DeCourseyWord was received last week about the death of Arthur DeCoursey, a Pope’s Hill native who as a young man was a leading activist in parish activities in St. Ann church and in youth and community affairs in his Neponset neighborhood.

DeCoursey, who recently resided in Annandale VA, was a 1961 graduate of Cathedral High School in Boston, was the founding director of community programs at the Richard J. Murphy Community School, now called the Leahy/Holloran center. He left greater Boston two decades ago and in 1991 began a successful role as a campaign organizer for President Bill Clinton. He later had roles in Clinton’s 1996 campaign and Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential bid and worked in several Democratic campaigns in New Orleans and in Pittsburgh.

Word of his death began circulating by email in Boston political circles last week; Facebook postings seen last Thursday for an “Art DeCoursey” showed a recent photo and a message from him that he had suffered a heart attack and was in a Virginia Hospital around the Thanksgiving holiday. It was his last posting; it is believed his death took place on Dec. 11. 

On Friday, the Facebook page was replete with messages of condolences from dozens of subscribers to his page, many saluting him for a role as a political mentor. This week, the Facebook site was unavailable and apparently had been taken down.

DeCoursey was campaign manager for State Senator Paul White when White was first elected to the Massachusetts House in 1972. Recalling him, White said, “The stunning news of the death of Arthur DeCoursey this week brings a torrent of memories from Neponset in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly centering on St. Ann’s. Arthur was one of the first parish lectors in those days. Trained, as many of us were, by Fr. Jack Schatzel. Arthur was a very strong leader and Scoutmaster of Troop 100 at St. Ann’s. 

“He absolutely loved the give and take of politics,” White continued. “He was exceptional at organizing a campaign down to all the critical details. He successfully chaired my first election to the Massachusetts House in 1972. He had earlier campaigned for Paul Murphy.

 “Arthur was later elected Selectman in the town of Carver. Politics and campaigns were clearly his passion. He gave generously of his time and talents to so many candidates and causes; he was a natural leader to the core, and became legendary in Western Pennsylvania where he worked effectively twice for Bill Clinton and later for Al Gore. Arthur’s warm personality and generous heart will be missed by all of us privileged to call him friend.”

Frank Doyle, Executive Director of Boston HealthNet at Boston Medical Center, said, “I first met Arthur DeCoursey in the 1960s when I was a young boy scout at St. Ann’s Neponset. Arthur was the Scout Master and his ever enthusiastic spirit made all of us fall in love with scouting. A few years later when I was the President of St. Ann’s CYO, I would often ask Arthur to get a few of his buddies from Redberry Knights of Columbus to chaperone our CYO dances. Whether as a kid or an adult, Arthur was always there for me whenever I needed him.

“Fortunately, I became close friends with Arthur through our involvement with the Knights where he was our Grand Knight and through our work at the Murphy Community School where he was the first Director. Whenever the community needed one of Dorchester’s finest young leaders to help build a new program, it would look to Arthur, and he never let us down. Arthur would later be an usher in my wedding. Having shared so many important moments in our lives, how could I not have him with me on that most important day,” wrote Doyle.

“Arthur also became deeply involved in local politics when he moved with his young family to Carver, leaving his beloved Dorchester for the first time. He ran a number of campaigns in those days – even some of his own. His many talents and infectious enthusiasm would later catch the attention of Democrats nationally. For example, no one ran for an important office in Pennsylvania without asking him to help lead the campaign. Arthur went on to run many national campaigns and worked for the Democratic National Committee in Washington as its Northeast Regional Director. He was a brilliant strategist, but it was his warm personality that attracted hordes of campaign workers to his side.
“From St. Ann’s to Washington, DC, and across the country, thousands of people from every walk of life lost a friend last Tuesday when Arthur’s stunning smile, huge personality, and enormous heart left this world. He will be dearly missed.”

Longtime friend Jim Hunt recalled, “ Jean and I wanted Arthur to be in our wedding and so did everyone else. He had an infectious effect on events, organizations and people.”

Jean Hunt added, “He was  so full of life and energy and became consumed in so many grass-roots community projects and organizations.”

Jim Hunt added, “From the State House to the White House he became known as a ‘can do’ force in Democratic Politics. Most importantly he was a friend who we might not see every day but when we reunited the conversation would just pick up like the last meeting was yesterday. The Hunts will miss him but know that we will meet again someday.”

Friends say they plan to hold a memorial service to remember Arthur DeCoursey after the first of the new year.