UPDATED, Dec. 20: Richard A. Kraus, Arlington's former state senator from 1983 to 1991 whose liberal politics dates to the 1968 Eugene McCarthy campaign, has died in western Massachusetts. He was 82.

Michael CurryKraus

The Leverett resident succumbed at Charlene Manor in Greenfield after long facing Parkinson's disease.

His former wife, Adele, who lives in Arlington, reflected about his life and expressed gratitude. She told YourArlington: "I always felt grateful that, as he completed his doctorate and couldn’t land a professorship in the Boston area, he chose not to uproot our family with children now in school and me with a teaching job to move. Instead, he continued the work at Harvard in administration."

After attending community college in Hutchinson, Kan., Kraus finished at the top of his class at Kansas University in 1959, while working full time, a Globe obituary reports. He won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to Harvard, where he earned his doctorate in economics in 1968.

He remained at Harvard until 1982, where he held senior positions in financial aid and admissions for well over a decade, also serving as administrative dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Kraus's work at Harvard included expanding admittance to students of limited financial means and decreasing student debt loads.

School Committee 1970 to '76

As a resident of Arlington, he served as a member of the School Committee from 1970 to 1976, including two terms as chairman. He was a key leader and local manager of many political campaigns and causes, including successful gubernatorial bids by Michael Dukakis, antiwar and civil rights movements. Kraus left Harvard when he was elected to the Massachusetts senate in 1982.

"His decision to run for School Committee and later state Senate meant extra work for me, as I believed in what he wanted to do," she wrote. "I spent hours going door to door for him." For a Senate run, that canvassing in five communities, "areas I knew nothing about. This also involved holding numerous events at our home for people to gather and discuss the campaigns or to celebrate."

While serving in the state senate until 1990, Kraus worked tirelessly to advance educational excellence and opportunities for all, fair and equitable government funding to support important local community services, and a host of issues including an assault weapons ban, reproductive rights, gay and lesbian rights, minority education and environmental protection.

"I felt proud that our family were weekly worshipers at Harvard Epworth Methodist Church and our two boys were brought up in that church," she wrote, referring top John and Karl.

"And it became even more special when we were able to bring into our family, Lisi Mgojo, whose family were returning to South Africa. He lived with us for four years while attending college and became very special to our family and our church. It was through our church that we made this connection and we were ever so proud later to learn that Lisi’s dad had been a message runner to Nelson Mandela in prison for trying to end apartheid."

She included other family memories: "It was both fun and a challenge to be part of the hiking and bicycling trips that Dick planned for our family. The biggest challenge was to get on a train with our bicycles and get off in Chicago. Then we were to bicycle to Kansas to see family. Only problem with that was that bicycle breakdowns from freshly poured asphalt meant we didn’t make it all the way. But it was indeed a challenge."

His capacity for hard work for the citizens of the Commonwealth was nothing short of awe-inspiring. His influence and ideas are behind more in our community than many realize.

-- Son Karl Kraus, citing expansion of Robbins Library, education funding, the Minuteman Bikeway; suicide prevention.

His son Karl, a Winchester resident who has taught eighth-grade civics and history for 26 years in Needham, commented:

"His deeply held belief that government should create opportunities to improve people’s lives was genuine and inspiring. He was elected because people sensed the truth and integrity behind his convictions.

"His capacity for hard work for the citizens of the Commonwealth was nothing short of awe-inspiring. His influence and ideas are behind more in our community than many realize." He cited expansion of Robbins Library, education funding, the Minuteman Bikeway; suicide prevention, especially in local jails and for young people.

"Before he died, I told him Arlington was finally building a new high school, something he fought hard for dating back to the Save Our Schools Campaign decades ago," he wrote. "He wasn’t able to talk much at this point, but he smiled. He cared and he worked and he inspired."

School connections

Others who recall Kraus were Katharine Fennelly and Linda Braun, both former School Committee members.

Fennelly recalls his endorsing her first bid for office. "I have a chocolate cake recipe from Barbara Vitters that was a Dick Kraus favorite," she wrote. "Apparently, there was a fund-raiser for him featuring all chocolate desserts."

Braun remembers the first time they met: "He rang our doorbell in 1969, shortly after we moved to Arlington, campaigning for some liberal person or cause .... The School Committee was exceedingly polarized during the years that he served, and though he tried to be a voice of reason, it was difficult."

Leadership positions Kraus held included chair of the committees on Post Audit and Oversight, Education, Ethics and cochair of the Special Commission on Local Aid.

His Globe obituary says, "He strongly believed that public service was a noble endeavor and government should exist to improve people's lives by expanding access to education and services, while protecting and increasing the rights of all citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background or sexual preference.

"His command of details while simultaneously understanding big-picture priorities made him an effective public servant."

Cape Cod Community College

From 1991-1998, he served as president of Cape Cod Community College. At the college, he worked with community business leaders to realize the potential of the school as an economic engine and a place that maximized graduates' employment opportunities. Dr. Kraus's private life included an epic, lifelong exploration of family genealogy, tracking his lineage back through centuries of early American, German, English and Scottish history, as well as the grain belts of Russia, where his German ancestors followed Catherine the Great's 1763 Manifesto authorizing foreigners to settle and farm lands along the Volga river.

His eldest son is the namesake of David Kraus who emigrated from Russia to Kansas in the mid-1800s, looking for religious freedom and settling in an area of Kansas now known as Arlington.

A highlight of his life was a trip to Russia in 2001, to visit the villages of his ancestors, which included meeting some distant cousins. During his years in Leverett, Kraus served as president of the Amherst Rotary Club, where he was awarded his second Paul Harris Fellow, the first having been awarded by the Hyannis Rotary Club.

He spent many hours of his retirement years researching the histories and family connections of his fellow Germans from Russia. He was an active member of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, for which he served as the editor and coordinator of the German Origins Project.


Kraus is survived by his second wife, a former state representative from Gloucester, Patricia Fiero. He is also survived by her three children, Drew (Wendy) Fiero, Guy Fiero and Anne Salmon (Richard), along with six grandchildren.

His first wife, Adele, lives in Arlington, where they raised two sons, Karl (Susan) and David (Heather), who runs a health-care research company in Framingham.

He is also survived by four grandchildren, who continue his legacy in their own ways: Chloe, who will receive her doctoral degree from Yale next year in anthropology; William, a junior at Bates College, who majors in English and politics; Zephan, a senior at Belmont Hill School, who excels in history and hockey; and Sophia, who has a gift for the performing arts and music.

Memorial Service plans are incomplete. Burial will be in the family plot in Kansas.

Those who wish to make a donation in his honor are encouraged to provide a gift to the Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU, Trust Women or to the charity of one's choice.

Arrangements are under the direction of Kostanski Funeral Home.  

This obituary was published Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, and updated Dec. 20, to change  the headline.