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Former ABCD head, Coard, dead at age 82

Former ABCD head, Coard, dead at age 82
Robert M. Coard, longtime community activist and head of the anti-poverty agency Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), died Tuesday, Nov. 3 after suffering from heart disease for several months. He was 82.

WEST ROXBURY — Robert M. Coard, age 82, longtime community leader and head of Boston’s antipoverty agency for 41 years, died Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009, at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale.

Mr. Coard retired as president/CEO of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) on Nov. 1. He had suffered from heart disease for several months.

Mr. Coard died just days after 1,500 people, including Gov. Deval Patrick, Mayor Tom Menino and Attorney General Martha Coakley, celebrated his retirement at the gala ABCD Community Awards Dinner on Oct. 30 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. He was too ill to attend.

Under Mr. Coard’s watch, ABCD grew into a $150 million operation that serves 100,000 low-income and disadvantaged people annually, providing education, child care, fuel assistance, career development and other programs that give people in need the tools to move permanently out of poverty.

Born on the island of Grenada, Mr. Coard loved Cape Cod and since the 1970s stole away whenever possible to his vacation homes there, first in Brewster and, since 1988, in Harwich.

He was a nationally applauded institution builder, founding the Urban College of Boston to provide low-income people with access to higher education, the National Community Action Foundation in Washington, D.C. to secure and protect legislation supporting community action nationwide, CAPLAW to provide legal assistance to community action agencies, and more.

When Mr. Coard announced his retirement plans last July, then U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy said: “Bob’s impact has been felt in ways large and small, from the food pantries and city streets of Boston, to Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill and the White House. Bob’s a dear friend and he will be missed.”

Mr. Coard was the husband of Donna Makin Coard; father of David of New York City, Ronald of Norwood, Mackie of Jamaica Plain, and Janet of South Boston; and grandfather of three grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Robert’s memory may be made to the Robert M. Coard Hope and Opportunity Fund, c/o ABCD Inc., 178 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02111.