V. James “Jim” Popeo, an East Boston native who dedicated his life to helping underserved families in from Springfield to Boston, has died. He was 90.
Popeo and his brothers and sisters never forgot where they came from. Up until his final years, Jim would get together regularly for dinner at Santarpio’s with a group of his old friends and talk about their old days boxing in East Boston, his family said.
Memories of an Eastie before the expansion of Logan International Airport was always a fond Popeo family memory, including for brother Robert “Bob” Popeo, one of Boston’s top attorneys.
“Prior to the great Logan Airport expansion, Jim had many fine memories of playing in the airport hangars, mostly with his younger brother Bob, as being up close to the sights and sounds of the Airport were a constant part of growing up for the Popeo children,” the family wrote in a remembrance shared with the Herald.
Jim Popeo was a leader of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.
When he was 13 years old, Jim met Joan DeCristoforo while attending the East Boston Camp in Westford. Jim went on to marry Joan and the couple celebrated 68 years of marriage last summer. He is survived by his wife, seven children along with 14 grandchildren and three siblings.
Jim worked for many years in the City of Springfield, running the Greater Springfield Community Center Association and its network of three community centers that were dedicated to helping children and families living in poverty.
Jim was also named executive director of the “War on Poverty” for the City of Worcester. This pioneering program was established by the Economic Opportunity Act introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Former Gov. Francis Sargent created a new state Cabinet system to address poverty, installing Jim Popeo as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs. That’s where he helped establish community health centers in Boston, Worcester, Springfield and beyond.
His family added: “Jim was always the life of the party and but his most cherished place to be, any time of year, was his beloved cottage on Newfound Lake, his true home with his beloved Joan.”
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