Gareth P. Kinkead Jr. moved his family to Mattapan at the beginning of the 1970s, longing for a safe community where residents got along and looked out for each other. What he found was a high crime rate and fearful residents, but instead of just complaining, he set to work and organized a neighborhood watch patrol.
“He had a contingent of men and women with walkie-
talkies,” said his wife, Annie. “The men patrolled the neighborhood, and everybody had a set time to patrol. We even had very official-looking signage on our cars.”
Those who knew Mr. Kinkead were not surprised that he created the Messinger Street Citizens Group to protect and enhance a neighborhood he came to call “Shangri-La.”
“Mr. Kinkead cared deeply about his immediate neighborhood, Mattapan and the entire city of Boston,” said Councilor Rob Consalvo. “He always fought to ensure that city and state government was working for him and his neighbors in Mattapan, and he held us elected officials accountable to make sure it was.”
Affectionately known as the “mayor of Mattapan,” Mr. Kinkead died of kidney failure Nov. 12 in his Mattapan home. He was 87.
“My initial impressions of Mr. Kinkead were that he was a gentleman and a kind and thoughtful man,” Consalvo said. “He always understood how important it was to give back to his community, to be involved in improving his neighborhood, and to look after his neighbors. His passing is a huge loss for our community and will leave a giant void in the civic life of Mattapan and our city.”
Mr. Kinkead was born in Roxbury and took pride in knowing that he was delivered by his grandfather, Dr. Edward Kinkead. After graduating from Roxbury Memorial High School, he enlisted in the US Navy, serving at the end of World War II and receiving several commendations.
He returned to Boston and married Doris G. Bradley, with whom he had two children, Gareth III and Gloria. Mr. Kinkead worked first as a truck driver, then for Mobil Oil, and later at a job as a senior computing analyst for Sperry Rand, his family said.
By the time his wife died in 1982, Mr. Kinkead had become a strong community advocate in Mattapan, often working closely with law enforcement officials.
“Mr. Kinkead understood how important it was for the Police Department and the community to work together in partnership,” said Boston Police Captain Joseph Boyle, commanding officer of District B-3. “With his leadership, he fostered a great working relationship between his association and the Boston Police Department. Mr. Kinkead had the ability to bring people together to solve complex and difficult issues. He gave me advice and guidance throughout my time as the captain of District 3, and I’m very grateful for the time I spent with him.”
Mr. Kinkead received numerous awards over the years. His family said the Police Department recognized him with a neighborhood crime watch award and a neighborhood crime fighter of the year award. Mayor Thomas M. Menino presented him with an African-American Achievement Award for community service in 2001.
More than 500 people attended Mr. Kinkead’s funeral, his family said, and the turnout did not surprise his children.
“This man could get in a room and hold everyone’s attention with his jokes and his quick wit,” said his son, Gareth of Roxbury. “He was really a nice person, and people loved being around him. . . . People that I didn’t even know knew he had passed away have been calling, and they all showed up at the wake and the funeral. I don’t know anybody that didn’t like him.”
Mr. Kinkead’s daughter Gloria of Boston wrote a tribute to her father that a cousin read for her during the funeral. In the tribute, Gloria said her father was her hero, mentor, buddy, and friend.
“As you showed the world that it is always better to give than receive, you gave of yourself endlessly and tirelessly to make the world a better place,” she wrote. “For all those that you have met along the way, with a smile and a sincere handshake you said, ‘We can do this.’ ”
Mr. Kinkead married Annie L. Landrum, who had one daughter, in November 1988, after each had been widowed.
Vanessa Wilson-Howard of Boston said her stepfather treated her as if she were one of his biological children and was “a grandfather to my daughter Koinonia since she was born 15 years ago.” Mr. Kinkead, she added, stressed education and shared an inspiring union with her mother.
Gareth agreed, saying his father and Annie “made the perfect couple. . . . If my father had an idea, Annie put it in motion.”
She said that when they met, she was attracted to his character, sense of humor, warmth, and goodness.
“He was my soulmate,” she said. “He would think of something, and I would say it. We were just always in harmony with one another, and there wasn’t a day that we spent apart except when he was in the hospital. We both retired early, and we were able to travel the world together and cruise and just have a wonderful, wonderful life.”
The couple vacationed in places such as Europe, Africa, the Greek islands, Hawaii, and Canada.
Annie said he would like to be remembered as someone who made a difference and gave of himself. She said his legacy of community service lives on in his children: One daughter is a detective, the other is a social worker, and his son is a firefighter.
In addition to his wife, children, stepdaughter, and stepgranddaughter, Mr. Kinkead leaves a brother, John of Mexico, N.Y.
Speaking to the Globe in 1981 about the neighborhood he loved, Mr. Kinkead said that “when they carry me out feet first, it will be out of Mattapan.”
Looking back in 2005 at the changes he helped bring about, he told the Globe his neighborhood deserved a different nickname: “People would call it ‘Matta-bullets.’ I said, ‘Can’t we give it a better name?’ So now we call it Shangri-La.”
Mattapan resident Barbara Crichlow said Mr. Kinkead “has always had the community and friends close to his heart. He was the heart and soul of Mattapan and parts of Dorchester and showed residents that you could stand up for what you believe in and not be afraid. I was encouraged by Gareth and will dearly miss my friend.”