'We Need People Like Him Every Day'

By Jess Bidgood   |   Tuesday, March 1, 2011
0 Comments   0 comments.

Mar. 1, 2011

BOSTON — The Harvard community — and people the world over — is mourning the death of Reverend Peter Gomes, the man who ran the university's Memorial Church for over forty years.

Gomes died Monday night because of complications from a stroke he had in December. He was 68.

The Reverend Peter Gomes died Monday at the age of 68, after a more-than 40-year ministry at Harvard University. 

Gomes' longtime friend, writer and columnist Mike Barnicle, met Gomes because the two would regularly spend early mornings at the same restaurant. "He was an education to sit with, next to, to listen to, a sheer education. Not just in terms of his moral values but his view on the world,” Barnicle told WGBH's Emily Rooney on Tuesday.

A black, openly gay minister, Gomes was a decided rarity. He came out about his sexuality in 1991. 

He was also politically conservative for most of his career, although he changed his political affiliation to Democrat to vote for Gov. Deval Patrick in 2006.

Barnicle said Gomes learned from his own experience being different, and set out to help others with theirs. 

"He was was an expert at honing in on the demonization of people," Barnicle said. "He could see people and institutions being demonized well before it would become apparent tthat they were being demonized."

That, Barnicle said, gave Gomes a sense of fairness that underguarded his political and religious beliefs.

“It’s not fair to go after people because of who they are, or because of their sexual orientation, or because of their color, or because of their income, or because of their zip code. That’s who he was, he was an expert in what’s fair,” Barnicle said.

Gomes was known for his soaring, intricate speaking style. "I like playing with words and structure," he said once, "Marching up to an idea, saluting, backing off, making a feint and then turning around."

"His sermons were actually high theater in my mind," Barnicle remembered.

Gomes did not leave behind a memoir; He said he'd start work on it when he retired, at 70. It's a shame, Barnicle said. "We need more of him than just a memoir, we need people like him every day."

Gomes reflected on his life's work — and his death — on Charlie Rose's talk show in 2007. 

I even have the tombstone the verse on my stone is to be from 2 Timothy. “Study to show thyself approved unto God a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” That’s what I try to do, that’s what I want people to thnk of me after I’m gone. When I was young, we all had to memorize vast quantities of scripture and I remember that passage from Timothy I thought, 'Hey that’s not a bad life’s work.' And in a way I’ve tried to live into it. So my epitaph is not going to be new to me, it’s the path I have followed in my ministry and my life.

Your comments: Did you ever hear Gomes speak? Share your memories.

Remembering Aloyce Beth DuVal Deare

By WGBH   |   Tuesday, February 22, 2011
3 Comments   3 comments.

Feb. 22, 2011

Beth Deare. (WGBH Archive)

BOSTON — WGBH joins our community in mourning the loss of Aloyce Beth DuVal Deare, the former producer (1978-1988) of Say Brother (now Basic Black) and numerous WGBH documentaries. She died February 21 in a fire at her home in Newton.


WGBH's Callie Crossley remembers Beth Deare

Beth’s talents earned her 13 Emmys and a Peabody Award during her tenure at WGBH—among them, an Emmy for In the Matter of Levi Heart, a documentary about a Boston Police shooting. Her credits include Beacon to Freedom: Black Life in the Bay Colony, which she finished in 2008 while undergoing treatment for throat cancer, and American Experience’s Midnight Ramble, a 1994 film about the history of black filmmaking.  

Beth, who was battling brain cancer at the time of her death, taught in the English department at Bunker Hill Community College.

Her family issued this statement: “We take comfort in knowing that the cancer she fought for more than five years will no longer consume her and that her vast family and extended family–including students, and friends around the world–will keep her in love and prayer.”

“WGBH is saddened by this loss,” says WGBH Vice President for Communications and Government Relations Jeanne Hopkins. “Beth was a very talented producer and someone who helped connect WGBH with others in the community.”

Tributes have been pouring in from Beth’s friends and colleagues. We invite you to add your remembrances below, in the comments section. The DuVal family sent WGBH this statement: 

The family of Beth Deare is devastated by the news of our loved one's passing. We were informed early Monday morning that our sister’s residence was engulfed in flames and shortly thereafter learned that our fears were realized. The police confirmed that we lost our dear one in the tragic fire.

We will spend this time remembering that Beth’s life was full with incredible highs, ranging from her loving daughter and three grandchildren to her many awards and accolades for her acclaimed work in television and film, including 13 Emmys and a Peabody.

We take comfort in knowing that the cancer she fought so valiantly for more than five years will no longer consume her and that her vast family and extended family — including students, and friends around the world — will keep her in love and prayer.

We thank everyone for all the love and condolences already coming in from as far as the African continent. A "Celebration of Life" is being planned for Beth on Saturday, March 26, 2011, and a memorial fund is being established in her honor. A portion of the proceeds from that fund will help the other families impacted by the fire to rebuild. She loved them dearly and with your help we can honor them in her name.


Lynn DuVal Luse and John Aki DuVal, Beth's loving siblings


Share your thoughts about Beth DuVal Deare, who lost her life February 21 in house fire in Newton, MA, after an award-winning WGBH career in filmmaking and 15 years as a passionate, engaging English professor at Bunker Hill Community College.

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