On the way to his job on the Globe’s metro desk one day in the mid-1970s, Dick Powers asked his wife, Doris, to stop their car on the Southeast Expressway as she drove him to work.
Demonstrators blocked the Globe’s front entrance, protesting the newspaper’s reporting and editorials on court-ordered busing to end school segregation.
“Dick had me pull over by the Globe, telling me he had to get to the office and this was the only way he could,’’ his wife said.
As she watched, he vaulted over the guard rail along the expressway and scaled a fence to get to the rear entrance of the Globe, where he was part of the staff that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for meritorious public service in 1975 for its coverage of school desegregation.
Mr. Powers, who spent 35 years at the Globe, died of cardiopulmonary arrest and lung cancer Nov. 8 while under hospice care at his daughter’s home in Leominster. He was 77 and had moved to West Boylston a year ago, after previously living for decades in Randolph and in Sterling.
“Dick was a team player, through and through,’’ said Timothy Leland, a former Globe managing editor. “In a profession that frequently features big egos, Dick never looked for personal credit. He just did his job and did it extremely well, whether as a general assignment reporter, an editor serving on the night desk, or, near the end of his career, when he was assigned to a group that was trying to figure out how the Globe could make use of the Internet.’’
When Matthew V. Storin moved from the Globe’s Washington bureau to its main offices in 1971 to become metro editor, he soon knew who would be his best deputy.
“Dick was a lifesaver with all he knew about the Boston area,’’ said Storin, who later was the Globe’s top editor. “But more importantly, his upbeat manner, his optimism, his humility, and his kindness were qualities that endeared him to his colleagues. In a job like this, Dick might have reporters grumbling from time to time, but I don’t think anyone disliked him, which is quite a feat in a newsroom.’’
Mr. Powers started out in the Globe’s library in 1959. Subsequently, he worked as a reporter assigned first to the suburbs, then the city desk. He was promoted to assistant city editor and spent about a decade as senior assistant metro editor.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, he was manager of the Globe’s photography department when Stan Grossfeld was director of photography.
“I stole Powers away from the city desk,’’ Grossfeld said. “He was the greatest gentleman in The Boston Globe. It was absolutely impossible to dislike him.’’
Grossfeld said that when he asked Mr. Powers to handle complaints, photographers “would charge into his office with steam coming out of their ears and walk out giggling and feeling like they were making a difference in the world. I swear he could have brought peace to the Middle East.’’
Richard A. Powers was born in Randolph. He and Doris Willis were high school sweethearts at Randolph High, when he was a senior and she a sophomore.
Mr. Powers graduated from Northeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in history in 1957, the year he and Doris married.
He worked at the Standard-Times in New Bedford before moving to the Globe, where he was respected for his news instincts and organizational skills. In 1969, when a car driven by US Senator Edward M. Kennedy went off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, off Martha’s Vineyard, and his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, died, the Globe sent Mr. Powers.
“Dick was the perfect person to send first, as he made great contacts with the local police chief and other officials involved, and skillfully deployed the phalanx of Globe reporters and photographers,’’ said Stephen Kurkjian, a former Globe reporter and editor, who was among those sent to Martha’s Vineyard.
Thomas. F. Mulvoy Jr., a former managing editor at the Globe, said that “from the get-go, Dick, who had a keenly honed sense of humor about the wacky business of big-city journalism, was a newsman pure and simple.’’
John C. Burke, a former assistant managing editor, said he admired “not only Dick’s approach to his work as a Globe newsman, but also his warm personality and the way he handled the various editing and administrative assignments he was given.’’
In the newsroom, Mr. Powers served as “a surrogate father to the young,’’ said David Richwine, who was a student co-op on the metro desk in the early 1970s and is now copy desk chief for the Globe’s regional editions. “Dick would walk us through the bureaucratic maze.’’
Doris Powers said her husband was just as calm and loving at home, where his grandchildren called him Bubba. Despite long hours of newspaper work, Mr. Powers always attended his children’s and grandchildren’s games, recitals, and other events.
Ann Marie D’Olimpio of Leominster said her father taught his children to live by his favorite quotations. One of them, she said, was: “I shall pass this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.’’
In retirement, Mr. Powers tended his garden, his wife said, and enjoyed playing tennis and racquetball.
“Dick always liked to keep busy,’’ she said. “We had a beautiful marriage. Dick was really a sweetheart of a guy.’’
Services have been held for Mr. Powers, who in addition to his wife and daughter leaves a son, Richard Jr. of Ashby, and five grandchildren.
When Mr. Powers knew that his illness was terminal, his wife said, he wrote a letter to his children about the arrangements for his service. For flowers, he only wanted two red roses as a symbol of the love he shared with his wife. She had one rose placed in his hands. The other she kept for herself, to be dried and framed.
Gloria Negri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.