Appreciation: Longtime East Boston Activist Dr. Edith ‘Edie’ DeAngelis at 91

When you think of the women that made a lasting impression on East Boston, the names Mary Ellen-Welch, Fran Rowan and Dr. Edith DeAngelis are without doubt the triumvirate, and their contributions to the trajectory of this community was unmatched. 

Dr. DeAngelis, who dedicated more than seven decades to improving greenspace in the neighborhood as well as being a longtime supporter of numerous Eastie organizations, died at Brooksby Village in Peabody on February 28 after a long illness. She was 91 years old. 

Dr. Edith ‘Edie” DeAngelis.

Dr. DeAngelis was born in Eastie on March 22, 1929 and raised in East Boston. She graduated from East Boston High School in 1947, attended Sargent College at Boston University and received a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in 1951, Master’s Degree in 1955, and a Doctor of Education in 1977.

Dr. DeAngelis, or “Edie” as she was affectionately known in the community, dedicated her life to teaching and began her career in Winthrop Public Schools. Later, after receiving her doctorate she taught Physical Education and Recreation, as a Professor and Department Head, at Boston State College (later UMass Boston). 

But it was Dr. DeAngelis’s dedication to the community she loved made her an iconic community leader for over 75 years. 

Dr. DeAngelis participated or volunteered for countless committees here in Eastie and citywide as well as state and national organizations. 

However, she had passion for many organizations that focused on the environment. 

In her youth growing up in Eagle Hill Dr. DeAngelis was well aware of the lack of greenspace in Eastie and the environmental impacts city and state industry was having on her beloved community. 

From a young age she dedicated herself to improving the quality of life for her neighbors through what she called the “Greening and Rebirth of East Boston”. 

Dr. DeAngelis was instrumental in the creation of the Condor Street Urban Wild, and supporter of other greenspace expansion projects like the East Boston Greenway, Piers Park, community garden initiatives as well as environmental mitigations projects throughout the community. 

“Edie planted, both literally and figuratively, the idea of greenspace being essential to humankind and specifically East Boston,” said former City Councilor Diane Modica. “If you marvel at our beautiful parkland in Eastie, think of and thank Edie as she thought of all of us as beneficiaries of her persistence. She lived a number of years with indigenous peoples and her sensibilities were enhanced by that experience. She was a very accomplished woman. She was a formidable advocate for East Boston against the big guns that had endless resources. Whether it was Massport, the City of Boston or any other agency or private corporate mogul she did not back down when Eastie’s interests were being threatened. She was also a warm, kind and humble woman who never forgot where she came from. If you were fortunate enough to walk the path she walked with her then it was a gift.”

Dr. DeAngelis was also a longtime supporter and champion of neighborhood programs like the Trinity House on Meridian Street and the Fran Rowan Meridian House substance abuse treatment center. 

“Edith was a part of all causes great and small,” said friend and neighbor Khrista Crystal. “She could tell you about every detail on the airport expansion and the importance of the Meridian House and motivate you to get involved all in one conversation. She would be at community meetings even when she struggled to move with ease. When she got on in years she moved out of East Boston to housing that better fit her needs. But I will tell you she may have moved but she certainly was still here. In any documentary or case study of which East Boston was the topic, any one producing such would be asked, ‘Before we start, have you spoken to Edie yet?’ You couldn’t really fact check the community’s history unless you spoke to her first. Above all she was a smart, well spoken, caring heart and a friend to all and was passionate about her family and her community. Today I think of her and think of the great loss to East Boston and how many will never know her true contribution but will certainly benefit from it.”

Like Mary Ellen Welch, City Councilor Lydia Edwards said she was influenced by the impact Dr. DeAngelis’s contributions and passion for Eastie. 

“I’m devastated to say that East Boston has lost another giant in our community,” said Edwards. Edie set the standard for activism in East Boston. I am grateful for her wisdom and will never forget her tenacity to champion causes of equity and justice. I, and so many others, stand on her shoulders as we continue her exemplary legacy both in words and action. My thoughts are with her family and friends, especially her dear (sister) Florence, during this difficult time.”

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