Obituaries
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    Cecil Guscott, developer who was part of legendary trio of brothers, dies at 94

    10guscott -- obit photo of Cecil Guscott (Handout)
    Handout
    Cecil Guscott.

    Boston real estate developer Cecil Guscott was the reserved analytical brother in a trio of trailblazing businessmen who came home from serving in World War II and spent their lives investing in their native Roxbury.

    The Guscott brothers — Cecil, Ken, and George — formed Long Bay Management Co. in the late 1960s with a mission to keep construction jobs and economic opportunities from slipping away to outside investors.

    “Cecil stayed in the community his entire life. He never left,” said Richard Taylor, the business law director at the Center for Real Estate at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School. “He kept his finger on the pulse of the young people and the small businesses.”

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    Mr. Guscott, who was 94 and the last of the Guscott brothers, died Aug. 1 in his Dorchester home after a period of declining health. Last year, his younger brother Kenneth died in a Milton house fire. George died in 2001.

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    “Cecil embodied the business savvy and strong moral fiber that define the Guscott family,” Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement. “He was devoted to making Dudley Square a place that opened doors of opportunity to those who call it home and was a mentor to countless people to whom he offered his time and experience without reservation.”

    Walsh added that “Boston is a better place thanks to Cecil’s love for his neighbors and belief in the future we could all build together.”

    The Guscotts were among a cohort of what was known as “Roxbury royalty” who set an example for younger generations. They fought redlining, school segregation, and lack of investment in the future of Roxbury, according to Taylor.

    “It’s not the end of a chapter. It’s the end of a book,” Taylor said. “The call is whether those of us who remain can fill these shoes. They will be sorely missed at many tables, both uptown and downtown.”

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    By the 1970s, the Guscott brothers were turning dilapidated buildings into hundreds of units of affordable housing and transforming long-neglected parts of Roxbury and Dorchester.

    Mr. Guscott always wore a cap and was known as the quieter brother who sized up investors and bankers while Ken did most of the talking in the boardroom.

    “He had an uncanny ability to analyze people, and his brothers always looked to Cecil to tell them who they could trust,” Taylor said.

    The Guscotts sold their company to their employees, but Cecil and Ken never really retired. They held court on Thursday nights at Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen in the South End, talking about business and listening to music.

    After Ken’s death, Cecil came into Darryl’s a few more times to claim his familiar seat at the end of the bar and sip a gin and tonic.

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    “Ken was the idea guy. Cecil was the financial guy,” said Boston restaurateur Darryl Settles, who also works in real estate development. “They were always good for seasoned advice.”

    Both men still worked for the rebirth of Dudley Square — fueled by memories of the bustling Roxbury they knew while growing up and their determination to improve the lives of younger generations.

    Cecil was part of the project team known as Rio Grande LLC that has submitted plans for construction of the first high-rise residential and commercial tower in Dudley Square. The plan calls for a portion of the units to be offered as affordable housing.

    Born in 1923, Mr. Guscott began his business experience as a boy selling newspapers for a nickel and delivering groceries for a local businessman known simply as “Dolly,” he recalled in a 2008 interview with the Lower Roxbury Black History Project at Northeastern University.

    “One thing Dolly taught me in his store is that any time you go into business, own the place,” Mr. Guscott said.

    After coming home following his service in a segregated Army, Mr. Guscott bought surplus Army bikes and rented them to children for 25 cents an hour at his small shop near Douglas Square. Later, he and his family would sell Christmas trees there each year.

    “And, of course, we bought the building so my mother cosigned for the mortgage,” Mr. Guscott said.

    His father, Henry, and his mother, Rubina, whose last name formerly was Fields, were Jamaican immigrants who had married in the United States. They were “Garveyites” — followers of Jamaican-born black nationalist Marcus Garvey — and strongly believed in self-sufficiency, Mr. Guscott recalled.

    Known as Ruby, Mr. Guscott’s mother was widowed at age 30 and raised her six children during the Great Depression while working as a housekeeper and marching for civil rights. Her son Charles was killed in World War II.

    The Guscott brothers said their mother was the “moral force” of their company who drove its success. She died in 2002 at age 102.

    Mr. Guscott married Blossom Bell, a Jamaican immigrant. She died in 1970.

    A service has been held for Mr. Guscott, who leaves his son, Henry, and his daughter, Patrice, both of Dorchester; and a grandson.

    Burial was in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain.

    Mr. Guscott was a “no nonsense” kind of father who expected his children to succeed, his daughter said. She was surprised to discover later in life that her father was known for his wit and for pranks around his offices.

    He enjoyed international travel not as a tourist, but because of his interest in other cultures, according to his family. He took his son to observe the birth of a post-apartheid South Africa.

    His daughter recalled how her father was deeply moved by a performance in Boston of Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “A Soldier’s Story.” The drama about racism in a segregated unit of the Army moved him to tears.

    “He said, ‘All of that happened,’ ” Patrice recalled. “He was a very simple man. He just believed in working hard, supporting your community, and loving your family.”

    J.M. Lawrence can be reached at jmlawrence@me.com.