Joseph E. Barton, Local Activist, Dies

Joseph E. Barton ’64, a community advocate who mediated an ongoing battle between the Red Sox and residents of the Fenway neighborhood, died of bladder cancer a week ago Monday.

He was 60.

A former participant in the Peace Corps in Colombia, Barton used his service experience to help unemployed Boston residents and Spanish-speaking hospital patients.

After graduating from Harvard, Barton joined the Peace Corps, where he worked in schools teaching local area residents the necessary skills to form a cooperative society. He also helped unemployed people find jobs and built health centers.

When he returned to Boston he donned the role of filmmaker, independently producing three documentaries.

One of his documentaries explored poverty in rural Colombia.

“You can be poor but still have a much better life than you did in the states,” said his wife, Jennifer Jones. “He much preferred the Latin American way of living.”

Barton combined his passions for social action and filmmaking. He coached unemployed Chelsea residents in the process of job application by staging and video-taping mock interviews. Additionally, he became a fixture in Boston area hospitals as a translator and advocate for Spanish-speaking patients.

“It was an era when hospital patients weren’t treated as well as they are now, so he made sure they weren’t lost in the shuffle,” Jones said.

His most recognized community service effort was as a mediator between community activists, city officials, and the owners of the Red Sox in the late 1990s.

After serving as president of the Fenway Civic Organization, Barton was appointed chair of the Fenway Planning Taskforce. It was his job to serve the interests of both the residents of the Fenway area and the owners of the Red Sox. This proved to be an impossible task, his wife said and Barton resigned after many years of service.

“He always wanted to listen to everybody,” his wife said, “People often criticized him for being too fair.”

Barton’s wife said her husband was also dedicated to his job.

As a systems architect for Fidelity Investments, he often answered phone calls requesting help with computer problems late into the night.

“He had the great ability to define the problem, and have people understand it with a minimum of rhetoric,” said his brother, David Barton, of Lowell.

A lifelong resident of Massachusetts, Barton was born in Lawrence and grew up in Andover. His day-to-day passions were gardening, dancing, and Spanish music.

A funeral mass was held at the Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell on Friday morning.

Mr. Barton is survived by his wife, his brother, his sister Anne Barton and his mother Marguerite Barton.

—Staff writer Steven N. Jacobs can be reached at snjacobs@fas.harvard.edu.