Obituaries

Richard Beinecke, professor who wrote about Mystic River

Dr. Beinecke spent years paddling along and fishing in the Mystic Lakes and Mystic River north of Boston.

In the introduction to a 2013 guidebook he wrote about the Mystic River, Richard Beinecke described himself as “a water person,” and added that some people thought he was “a fish in a past life.”

When he moved from Concord to Arlington about eight years ago he “began paddling, fishing (mostly with little success), and birding the Mystic Lakes and Mystic River and Spy Pond, biking in the area, and walking to work via Alewife Station. I became curious about what I was seeing along the river — the old pilings, the dams, the marshes — and discovered surprises such as Grandfather’s House and plaques on the Middlesex Canal, and on the ice and farming industries,” he wrote in “The Mystic River: A Natural and Human History and Recreation Guide.”

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His search for guidebooks on the Mystic turned up empty, so Dr. Beinecke, a professor and department chair in Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School, decided to write one himself, with support from the Mystic River Watershed Association.

“When I asked people about the Mystic, few knew much about it except that there was a movie of that name or, for fishermen, it was a great place to dock your boat and easily get into the harbor,” he wrote. “The Mystic seemed to be one of the best undiscovered resources in the Boston area and one that if more people knew about it, more would come to it.”

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Dr. Beinecke died June 19 of a heart attack he suffered while riding the Red Line to Suffolk University, where he taught mental health, public health, and leadership. He was 68 and lived in Arlington.

His Mystic River book took two years to research and write, said Dr. Beinecke’s longtime partner, Carol Philipps of Belmont. Upon its publication, he “peddled it around” at area bookstores and other spots, delivering PowerPoint presentations and answering questions. He also crafted an accompanying website, mysticriverrick.com. “There was just no stopping him, he had so much energy,” she said.

Along with teaching, Dr. Beinecke had been an administrator at Suffolk and headed the university’s faculty senate.

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“Rick was exceptionally kind, and he had an amazing knack for bringing people together,” Marisa Kelly, Suffolk’s acting president, said in a statement. Being a trained clinician in mental health “no doubt shaped his ability to listen, to understand, and to make sure everyone was heard.”

Dr. Beinecke “believed in the power of leadership and the importance of bringing all voices into the process,” she said. “He was exceptionally positive, and his first question was often ‘How can I help?’ And his students loved him. Rick was valued and appreciated for his teaching, for his listening, and for his genuine care as he guided so many young people on a course to success.”

He had a “youthful exuberance” that belied his age and an unusual appreciation for forming lasting relationships with students and colleagues, said Doug Snow, a Suffolk professor and longtime friend. He recalled an occasion where he asked Dr. Beinecke for advice, which led to the two canoeing on the Concord River.

“Once you knew Rick professionally, you knew him personally,” Snow said. “He was a big fan of transformational leadership. He believed in being changed himself by the people he led, and then that change would work in a reciprocal way.”

One of Dr. Beinecke’s students, Kevin Renna, recalled that at the bottom of a form letter from Suffolk informing him that he’d received a graduate school scholarship was a handwritten note of congratulations from Dr. Beinecke, who at the time chaired the department of public health administration.

“That personal touch was pretty indicative of who Rich was as a person,” said Renna, who took many of Dr. Beinecke’s classes and worked with him on his research about the mental health impact of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“Rick was so engaging and very charismatic in the classroom,” he said. “He had a vast knowledge of so many different subjects and a genuine desire to make a connection with each of his students. His loss is devastating to everyone, even students who had him for just one class.”

Born in New York City, Richard H. Beinecke grew up in New Jersey, a son of Herbert Hinrichs and the former Mary Ann Hamachek. Dr. Beinecke was a stepson of Walter Beinecke Jr., his mother’s second husband. His stepfather was a developer and preservationist who helped shape modern-day Nantucket, and an heir to the S&H Green Stamp fortune.

Dr. Beinecke was known to many as Rick, and was nicknamed Rickles by his 26-year-old twin daughters. After graduating from St. George’s School in Middletown, R.I., and Williams College, he received a master’s in social work from the University of Chicago. He later received a doctorate in public administration from George Washington University.

Since his college days, his family said, Dr. Beinecke was a political activist at the local, state, and national levels. “When he really believed in a cause, he threw himself into it,” said his daughter Emily of Cambridge. “And connecting with people was just something he loved to do.”

Emily, who played on the softball team while a student at Tufts University, said her father called her freshman year to tell her the softball field was just three miles from his new apartment in Arlington. “He was at just about every single game,” she said. “There were very few things that could keep him from the sidelines.”

That was the case when Dr. Beinecke lived in Concord, and was raising Emily and her sister, Katrina of Columbus, Ohio. “He was like a sports cheerleader for us,” Katrina said. Her father, who was 6-foot-7, was “very goofy and very extroverted,” she added. “He was so proud of us and told everyone he met, including complete strangers, that he had twin daughters.”

His daughters recalled kayaking on Squam Lake in New Hampshire, hiking on Cape Cod, and bird watching with their parents. Dr. Beinecke’s marriage to their mother, Deborah Richardson of Concord, ended amicably in divorce. He was active in the Massachusetts Audubon Society and led canoe and kayak tours on the Concord and the Mystic rivers.

In addition to his daughters and his partner, Dr. Beinecke leaves two sisters, Julie Stackpole of Waldoboro, Maine, and Louisa Hamachek of Portland, Ore.; a brother, Robert Hinrichs of Waldoboro, Maine; a half-brother, Walter Beinecke III of Manchester-by-the-Sea; and his stepmother, Barbara Hinrichs, and stepsister, Sally Shear, both of Richmond, Va.

A private service has been held; another service will be held at Suffolk in September.

An avid reader who wrote many academic papers and articles, Dr. Beinecke was also a big fan of the Red Sox and the Patriots, and he had an extensive collection of T-shirts and baseball hats.

“If he saw someone with a T-shirt with the name of a place he’d been, he’d start talking to them and next thing you know, they were best friends,” said his partner, Carol Philipps. “Rick knew everyone everywhere, and if he didn’t know someone he’d get to know them. He was gentle and kind and so unselfish. He would do anything for anybody.”

Kathleen McKenna can be reached at kmck66@verizon.net.
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