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Activist For Boston’s Poor, Robert Coard, Dies At 82

Longtime Boston community activist Robert Coard has died at 82. Coard, who suffered from heart disease, only officially retired from his post as chief of Action for Boston Community Development on Sunday.

He had been with the anti-poverty agency for 45 years.

His successor, John Drew, said that under Coard’s leadership, ABCD found housing, jobs, food and heat for countless Boston residents.

“He had ideas that the city could be better, that those who were left behind by the economy, by other means — because they were disadvantaged because of their race or color or creed — could all do better if they were given opportunity. That was his life’s work,” Drew said.

Coard was a native of Grenada who took a job as a planner with ABCD in 1964. Under his leadership, the group grew to have a staff of about 1,000 and a budget of $132 million.

He is remembered as a force in the local community.

Patricia Landry was struggling on welfare when she got involved in Head Start, which eventually paid for her to complete her education. She is now the director of Native American Head Start in Jamaica Plain.

“I was depressed enough that I considered suicide,” Landry said. “And the fact that I was able to go and volunteer in the Head Start program saved my life. And Bob, as a person, is a supporter of people like myself, people in my position.”

Former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn said that Boston without Robert Coard is like the public garden without the swan boats.

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