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1924 - 2015
Gaines, Dr. Berthe' M. 91, of Boston passed away at her home on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Born in Newport, RI, February 26th, 1924, she was the daughter of the late Lillian Trent (Phinney) and the late William Thomas of Newport, RI. At a young age and as an only child, Dr. Gaines developed a love for reading, thus launching her passion for literacy. Before graduating from Rogers High School in Newport, RI in 1942, she was the first African American woman employed at the United States Torpedo Station in Newport, RI in an administrative position during WWII. Later moving to Boston, MA, Dr. Gaines held secretarial and typographical positions. In the late 60s she worked at Model Cities, followed by Teradyne and Women, Inc. Employed at the Boston Globe Newspaper in 1973 as a proofreader/typesetter, she was a member of Typographical Union # 6, and a union organizer until her retirement in 1984. She held volunteer roles at the Greater Boston Guild for the Blind and Women, Inc. Advisory Board. In 1999, Dr. Gaines received an Honorary Doctorate in Library Service from Simmons College, Boston, MA. In 2014, she was featured in Who's Who in America. Dr. Gaines spent her life breaking barriers and was a vocal advocate for human rights. In 1984, Dr. Gaines was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Boston Public Library by Mayor Raymond L. Flynn serving until 2011. She is the first African-American woman to serve as a trustee of the Boston Public Library, which was established in 1848. Her appointment followed a time of fiscal crisis for the city (1981-1984) when she was a Co-Founder of SAVE OUR LIBRARIES, a citywide multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural group of men and women committed to keeping neighborhood libraries open. Dr. Gaines served as the first female president of the Board of Trustees from 1993-1996. Knowing that reading is fundamental, especially for children, and that access to information is vital to everyone, Dr. Gaines leaves this legacy to her community of Dorchester/Roxbury and the city of Boston through her determination to ensure that libraries are accessible to all neighborhoods. A motto she strongly believed in is "Lift as you Climb." Known to read an entire book in one or two days, Dr. Gaines enjoyed going to the library and coming home with a multitude of books and documenting them all, mysteries being her favorite. Crossword puzzles and reading the newspaper were also daily activities. An enthusiast of classical and contemporary jazz music and a culinary expert, she hosted many memorable dinner & holiday parties and enjoyed fine dining at restaurants. Elegant fashion style was her hallmark. During her lifetime, she was blessed with lifelong and enduring friendships. She loved her family. Her wisdom, kindness, generosity and activism will be greatly missed. She is preceded in death by her former husband, William J. Gaines of Newport, RI and son, William J. Gaines, Jr. She is survived by her son, David Gaines (Pamela Vickers) of Canton, Massachusetts; daughter, Bettina Taylor (Gregory Raleigh) of Boston; grandchildren, Evelyn Nellum (Jennifer Trapp) of Boston, Greshen Gaines (Kevin Martin) of Maryland, Matthew Hammond (Jordan Hammond) of Boston; great-grandson, William Martin of Maryland; cousins, Michael DeLuz of California and Penelope Alexander of Rhode Island and other relatives and friends. A special Thank You to Maria Carmen Castaing, PCA. A Memorial Service will be held in the Guastavino Room at the Boston Public Library, McKim Building, 230 Dartmouth St., Boston, MA 02116, on Friday, June 19th, 2015 at 10:00 AM.
Published in The Boston Globe on June 16, 2015
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