Friends and supporters of the progressive political movement in Watertown are mourning the loss of one of its most active and powerful voices.
This week, Richard Marcus passed away at the age of 71. He supporting Democratic and Progressive candidates and issues in town, in Massachusetts and nationally. He also started the Progressive Watertown Group.
His passing came as a shock to Caroline Bays, a Town Councilor who was co-chair of Progressive Watertown along with Marcus. He was like a brother to Bays, and she said that she would not be the person she is today without his support.
“He encouraged me to be better, stronger, and braver than I ever thought I could be,” Bays said. “He thought he could change the world, and he convinced the rest of us that we could, too.
“It is still hard for me to believe that so much energy, passion, drive and enthusiasm could just vanish from this world in an instant.”
Progressive Watertown member Barbara Ruskin was waiting for the bus to attend an event with Marcus when she heard the sad news. She said his knowledge and enthusiasm will be missed.
“Richard was remarkable in his breadth of interests and his political skills were top notch,” Ruskin said. “He was one of the earliest supporters of Elizabeth Warren and organized many, many hours of campaign work by a lot of Townies and others on her behalf. Similarly with Katherine Clark and now with Ed Markey.”
State Rep. Jonathan Hecht said that Marcus provide much help to candidates over the years.
“No one could sound the clarion call like Richard,” Hecht said. “He was a tireless campaigner for justice and will be hugely missed.”
Steve Owens, chair of Watertown Democratic Town Committee, also recalls how much Marcus helped him over the years.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have thought to myself, ‘Thank God for Richard Marcus’ over the past decade,” Owens said. “He made us all better activists with his contagious enthusiasm for candidates and causes.”
Among the causes he was most passionate about in recent years was Restorative Justice. He helped organize a recent panel discussion on the subject in Watertown, Ruskin said. And he was pleased with the results, Bays said.
“At our forum in March, when (Watertown Police) Chief (Michael) Lawn announced that our Police Department was going to join the other communities around us in participating in the restorative justice consortium, it was a dream come true for Richard,” Bays said. “But, he didn’t stop there. He was working hard to popularize the practice of restorative justice across the nation. His philosophy was: today Watertown, tomorrow the world.”
He also pushed for reforms in the Massachusetts criminal justice system. Marcus took a hands on approach, visiting courts to try to figure out ways to help people, said State Sen. Will Brownsberger.
“He identified with people who had something to overcome and cared enough to get engaged in their personal struggles,” said Brownsberger. “He was someone who observed the world acutely, cared deeply, trusted his instincts and was never afraid to take action. He joined battle as a joyous political soldier on all the largest issues of our time, but he also cared about individual people and just wanted to help.”
Owens said Marcus will continue to be a guiding light for local Dems and progressives.
“His absence leaves a big hole, but I know that he would want us to keep working for a fairer, kinder, more progressive Commonwealth and country,” Owens said.
A memorial service for Marcus will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 4 at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center, 47 Nichols Ave., Watertown.