Appreciation: Former State Rep. Richard Voke Dies at 76

Richard Voke, who served as Charlestown’s state representative from 1978 to 1996, died on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, at Massachusetts General Hospital Boston. He was 76.

Voke was first elected in Chelsea to the House of Representatives in 1976 when it consisted of 240 members. When the governmental body was reduced to 160 members and the Chelsea and Charlestown districts were merged, Voke ran for the seat and defeated Rep. James P. Collins of Charlestown in a hard-fought election.

Richard Voke.

Voke rose through the ranks and served as Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and as House Majority Leader. Voke lost a battle for the House speakership to Thomas Finneran in 1996 and decided to step down from his position as state representative.

Visiting hours will be held on Saturday, Jan. 6, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, at Carafa Funeral Home, 389 Washington Ave., Chelsea. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow the visitation at 12:30 p.m. at the Our Lady of Grace Church, 59 Nichols St., Chelsea.

The following are remarks from local leaders and friends on the passing of Richard Voke:

Josh Kraft, former Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston president and CEO, on the passing of Richie Voke:

“Thousands of kids and families have been impacted by the club. He’s touched all of them because of his passion and commitment to and making a difference for so many. Personally, he was a great mentor to me. I learned so much from him. He’s a mentor and a friend, and I will miss him dearly.”

Former state representative Gene O’Flaherty on the passing of Richie Voke:

“When I succeeded Richie in the House in 1996, it was very evident of how effective a legislator he was for the district and the Commonwealth. His years of exemplary service improved the quality of life of so many and not just in Charlestown and Chelsea but throughout Massachusetts. His colleagues held him in high esteem, his constituents re-elected him year after year and it’s easy to understand why. He was a model public servant. May God rest his soul.”

Tom Cunha, Chairperson of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, on the passing of former state representative Richie Voke:

“Richie was someone that Charlestown could call a friend. He was an incredible state representative. He made sure that the elderly in our community were always taken care of. He did a lot for Charlestown.”

State Sen. Sal DiDomenico on the passing of former state representative Richie Voke:

“Richie Voke did so much for Charlestown and Chelsea and his accomplishments and achievements will continue to benefit residents for decades to come. He loved the people he served and they loved him. He was admired and respected on Beacon Hill and his leadership in the House of Representatives gave his district a strong voice and advocate to deliver for our communities. His legacy will live on through the great work he did, especially for those who needed help the most. Richie never forgot his roots and always looked out for everyone.”

Helen Chin Schlichte, a proud Townie, the eldest of nine children.  Whose grandfather opened a laundry on Main StreetIn the early 1900’s; that her father came to join him in 1918 offered the following reflections on Richard Voke:

 Monday morning at 6:30 a.m., New Year’s Day, I read in the Globe that one of my best and treasured friends, Richard A. Voke, passed away.  I was stunned. I am heartbroken.

Following his retirement from the House, we kept in touch.  We are privileged to be Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston board members.  It’s a near 50 year friendship.

Richard and I would check in every two weeks or so.  We last chatted following the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston special governance meeting on December 14.  He was in Fort Lauderdale and shared his holiday plans.  He lamented coming to Boston more frequently than he would like to take care of medical issues.

I have spent most of the time since Monday thinking about all the good Richard did from the time I first met him when he went to the House in 1978 to now.  I was working as an Assistant Secretary in the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.  We each had an interest in politics and in public administration, making good policy.  Many of his initiatives from his House days are documented; the new schools, the parks, remaking Chelsea during its worst days, helping Charlestown rebuild after removal of the Southeast expressway, funds for City Square Park.  Not so well known are his many generosities to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston ($30,000 this past summer for Charlestown Green Street), the scholarships to Suffolk, Stonehill and Xavier in Louisiana are ones which come to mind and so many other organizations, including South Cove Manor, a 141 bed non-profit long-term care facility for the Asian elderly, where I am a co-founder..  Richard rarely spoke about his generosity.

I can’t believe my last conversation with him was on December 14.  He sounded fine, was alert, and looking forward to holiday festivities.

Richard was such a fine person, kind, thoughtful, generous, positive.  I am very fortunate to have the pleasure of knowing and working with a great man. I will miss him a lot.

It’s the New Year.  I am very sad; Richard would want me to be positive and remember all the good things, which I will.

Happy New Year.  May He Rest In Peace.

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