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Mattapan loses a civic ‘giant’

Gareth P. Kinkead, Jr.: 'Mayor of Mattapan' mourned. Gareth P. Kinkead, Jr.: 'Mayor of Mattapan' mourned. Gareth P. Kinkead, Jr. passed away on Tuesday after an illness that had slowed him down considerably in recent months. Mr. Kinkead and his devoted wife Annie were at the center of civic life in Mattapan for decades. His death at age 87 leaves a giant hole in the neighborhood that he lovingly called “Shangri-la.”

If this section of the city comes even remotely close to the idealized vision of that term, it has everything to do with the involvement of the Kinkeads, who have served their community with distinction and without fanfare since the 1970s.

He was particularly instrumental in planning for long-needed improvements to Almont Park, his favorite walking circuit in the neighborhood. Mr. Kinkead also played a key role in organizing community input into changes at the Wheelock-Mattahunt Community Center, which closed for a time as the city set up a new partnership with Wheelock College.

But he also spent his lifetime cobbling together the essential building blocks of a neighborhood worth living in. His wife Annie, whom he met and married 25 years ago after both had lost their first spouses, was his partner in all of it. They organized walking clubs and bowling leagues and set up a pair of community gardens in their beloved Almont Park.

“He was a grand man,” Annie Kinkead said. “He was beloved by all people who met him – including me.”

“His life’s work was bettering the community and the neighborhood in which he lived,” said his daughter Gloria Kinkead, one of three children he leaves behind. “He always was about enriching young people’s lives and making sure seniors had a good life as they aged. He always believed that one person could make a difference.”

Mr. Kinkead’s optimistic outlook on life and on his neighbors was leavened by his capacity to show up and do the quiet work necessary to make Mattapan a desirable, comfortable place to live.

“We’ve lost a special friend, an ambassador, one with great humor as he went about the work of the community,” said Dr. Azzie Young, president and CEO of Mattapan Community Health Center. “We were blessed to have him as part of our team as we are trying to build our new health center. He was one of the first people I met with in 1996 when I arrived in Mattapan and he always gave great advice, support and encouragement.”

City Councillor Rob Consalvo, who worked closely with Mr. Kinkead over the last decade, summed up his life nicely: “Mr. Kinkead was a true gentleman and that was conveyed in everything he did. He could be forceful when it came to making sure that City Hall and elected officials delivered for Mattapan, but he always did it in a positive way. He always saw the good in people and in his neighborhood.”

“I remember him back in the 1970s, when Gareth started Shangri-La around the Messenger Street area,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino in an interview with the Reporter. “When everything else was falling apart, he brought people together. He’s the ultimate person who made Mattapan what it is. He’s a model for everyone. Guys like him are the DNA of our community. They’re different than most.”

Mayor Menino called on Mr. Kinkead regularly to join city committees and advise him on everything from elder affairs to the design of a tot lot in Almont Park.

“I always looked to him for advice on what we were doing and what could we do better,” said Menino. “I see him as a real hero there. There was something special in his blood.”

Rep. Dan Cullinane remarked: "Mattapan lost a giant yesterday."

"For decades Gareth Kincaid has been a cornerstone of the community and his impact can be seen all across Mattapan. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten."

Donald Caisey, who runs the Mattapan Patriots football and cheerleading program, will miss Mr. Kinkead’s advocacy, good humor, and jokes. He told one at the end of every civic meeting— and drew a laugh every time.

“He was a mentor to so many young people on the way to conduct yourself. He was a gentleman, but he commanded the room,” said Caisey. “And when things needed to get done, he was the one. He was our best advocate. He was the mayor of Mattapan.”

– Bill Forry

Mr. Kinkead will be waked on Mon., Nov. 18 from 6-8 p.m. at Charles Street AME Church on Warren St. His funeral will be Tues., Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. at Charles Street with internment at Forest Hills Cemetery.