Paul F. “Chip” Alford, a long-time Allston resident and a reliably vocal, strong-willed presence at meetings of the Harvard-Allston Task Force, died Nov. 1. He was 67.
Alford died in a car accident, according to his wife, Michele D. Alford. Services, including military honors, were held Nov. 9 in Brighton to commemorate Alford, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
“He was all for his community, he was all for supporting his neighbors in any way he can and that’s what he felt really strongly about,” Michele Alford said, reflecting on her husband’s life. “He was a strong advocate for his community. He was a force to be reckoned with.”
Alford was born and grew up in nearby Dorchester, Mass., and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After serving in the Army, Alford moved briefly to California before returning to his home state. He lived in Allston for more than 30 years, according to his wife.
He was “always in for social services,” Michele Alford said. He worked for many years at MassHealth, a government program that provides healthcare in Massachusetts, before retiring at age 60. Even after retirement, he continued to volunteer at MassHealth, his wife said.
Allston residents and Harvard officials who knew Alford remembered him as an outspoken but courteous man who always put his neighbors first.
Over the years, Alford fought for what he felt were the interests of his neighborhood: he pushed to make task force meetings accessible to all Allstonians, questioned the transparency of the body’s operations, and often challenged Harvard's construction plans for the Allston area. The task force is a neighborhood advisory body on issues related to Harvard’s developments in Allston.
“He advocated for this neighborhood on a level that in some ways would make you cringe,” Joyce Radnor, an Allston resident and old friend of Alford’s, said of his legacy. “He made sure that change happened and we see the fruits of that when we drive on the streets everyday.”
John A. Bruno, the interim chair of the Harvard-Allston task force, said Alford had “a role to play” within both the community and the task force. He said Alford always “added to the conversation” during task force meetings, and that his contributions—both “positive and negative”—helped to advance progress in the Allston area.
“I think Chip will be missed. There will be a void there,” Bruno said. “It’s hard to replace someone like Chip, what he said, what he did, how he acted…I certainly will miss him, because he gives a different perspective.”
Bruno added that Alford could sometimes wax passionate, but emphasized that, even in “his most intense moments,” Alford remained “cordial and polite,” always addressing Bruno as “Mr. Chairman.”
Harvard spokesperson Kevin Casey, who often saw Alford at task force meetings, wrote in a statement that “Chip was passionate about his community” and that the discussions he brought to the table “typically resulted in improved plans and projects.”
“Our thoughts are with Michele and his entire family this holiday season,” added Casey, who attended Alford’s wake.
Apart from her husband’s public advocacy, Michele remembers Alford’s personal side: his love for his grandson, his passion for his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and his evergreen fondness for home improvement projects. Their marriage, she said, was “a love connection” forged between two friends who “made each other laugh.”
“One of our favorite things to do was in the summer, after he’d done all the watering of the flowers and the watering of the grass and the mowing, just the two of us would sit right on our front step and have a nice cold beer and watch the sunset,” she said. “That’s one of the things we loved to do.”
Alford is survived by his wife, his stepson Kevin Hart, and his grandson Chastyn Prichard. Alford’s son from a previous marriage, Alex Alford, passed away before his father.
Michele said she thought her husband would most like to be remembered as a stalwart advocate for those who most needed one.
“He was always someone who stood up for the underdog, for the person who could not have a voice of their own or could not speak like he could, he was there to be the one,” she said. “He meant what he said, he said what he meant.”
–Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.