I read to my grandchildren, with an odd mix of sadness and enjoyment, an obituary in the Boston Globe of Joseph E. Corcoran, a pioneer of mixed-income housing. Mayor Walsh said Mr. Corcoran was a man of faith who responded to those in need and spent his life improving the lives of others less fortunate. I never met Mr. Corcoran, but he is a man who greatly influenced my life. I suspect he would be happy, but not surprised, to know that he had helped someone he never knew.
Corcoran and his brothers grew up in an Uphams Corner Dorchester in a triple-decker. Other notable Dorchester brothers, Brian and Paul Donnelly grew up nearby. Paul and I were architectural partners for a few years in the late eighties when the Corcoran brothers were pioneering mixed-income housing around Greater Boston.
Paul and I were awarded the commission from Joe’s brother John M. Corcoran to design Riverview Commons in Andover, Massachusetts. It was an assignment that was richly rewarding in its quality and its purpose. At the conclusion of project, I wondered what it was about these Dorchester guys. They were way too much fun to be so accomplished. I never heard Paul Donnelly say a bad word about anyone and believe me I gave him reason to.
Those were wonderful times inspired by wonderful people. People I would be honored to have my grandchildren emulate. In the obituary Mr. Corcoran was quoted as saying to his granddaughter: “First and foremost, my greatest accomplishment is you kids, and watching you get a kick out of each other. Watching you together is my greatest joy.” I agree. And that is why I read to them, of all things, an obituary.
So, to all The Greats from Dorchester who helped a generation of architects, builders, apartment dwellers, and grandchildren—I thank you.