A local political provocateur who grabbed headlines with antics intended to draw attention to alleged government corruption died Thursday of a heart attack at 52, according to his family.
Kevin McCrea ran for Boston City Council in 2005 and challenged then-mayor Thomas M. Menino in 2009, before returning to politics two years ago to campaign again for council under the name Pat Payaso.
“Payaso” is Spanish for clown, and McCrea campaigned for the at-large seat in a clown suit, running an outlandish campaign that included a music video set to the Beastie Boys song “Sabotage.” He garnered 2.3 percent of the vote.
McCrea, who was born in Brighton but grew up in Ohio, both decried and mocked the circus of modern politics, but behind the public shenanigans was a man focused on family, his beloved Red Sox, and building communities wherever he went, his siblings said.
“He was politically active, but impolitic, because he didn’t like facades; he didn’t like fakeness,” his sister, Meighan McCrea, 45, of Cambridge, said in a phone interview Sunday. “I think there’s sometimes a caricature of Kevin as just a gadfly, and that’s not who he was personally.”
The three-time candidate’s attention-getting behavior was driven by a passion for justice, the McCreas said.
His brother, Brendan McCrea, 50, of St. Louis, said, “He had very high standards of moral and ethical behavior for those around him.”
Meighan McCrea quickly added, “But also those particularly in public life. He felt very strongly that people who represent The People should be moral and of high integrity.”
Brendan McCrea said his brother was “a larger-than-life force in our family,” as well as the Boston political scene.
“Kevin really made it a point in his life to keep our family connected, driving family reunions. Kevin always made it a point to travel and keep in touch with our uncles and cousins,” he said.
Before launching his political career, McCrea built a business, Wabash Construction, which was named for his Indiana alma mater. In recent years, he had split his time among his lovingly restored South End home, a place on Cape Cod, and New Orleans, where the McCrea brothers had spent nearly two years helping restore homes after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“There was so much destruction, and it was a very difficult time for both Kevin and I to see this,” Brendan McCrea recalled of the hurricane’s aftermath. “It’s hard to comprehend unless you were there at that time, but that was a city that was completely out of control. There were no services. There were wild dogs. There were rows and rows of refrigerators on the street, rotting.”
Kevin McCrea maintained his connections to the city, joining a Mardi Gras krewe and becoming involved with charity work there, as he was in Boston, where he supported Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, the Travis Roy Foundation, and South End Baseball.
He found happiness in recent years with his second wife, Viktoria Kravtsova McCrea, and their 8-month-old son, Kieran Robert McCrea.
“He was very, very proud of his family and loved his son dearly. His son is the spitting image of Kevin as a baby,” Brendan McCrea said.
Kevin McCrea also leaves behind his parents, William McCrea, of Indianapolis, and Joanne Fitzgerald McCrea, of Ipswich, and a half-brother, Jaron Henrie-McCrea.
Some of the family’s fondest memories, the siblings said, are of Red Sox games spent with their brother, who began buying season tickets in the team’s championship year of 2004. He made sure he and Brendan were there for the team’s ALCS victory that year over the New York Yankees and their World Series championship over the Cardinals in Brendan’s adopted hometown.
Boston fans were allowed to remain in the old Busch Stadium to celebrate, Brendan McCrea recalled, but not everyone made them feel welcome.
“Cardinals fans shouted, ‘Boston go home!’ ” he said, “Kevin and I turned around and said, ‘Oh we are.’ ”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name McCrea used during the 2017 City Council campaign.