Former state senator (D-Arlington) and educator, Dr. Richard A. Kraus of Leverett died peacefully on Sunday December 8th with his wife, Pat Fiero, by his side. He died at Charlene Manor in Greenfield after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 82.
Kraus and his brother John, who survives him, were raised in Kansas by their hard-working and community-minded parents, Walt and Wanda Kraus
After attending Community College in Hutchinson Kansas, Kraus finished at the top of his class at Kansas University in 1959 while working full-time. He won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to Harvard University, where he earned his doctorate in economics in 1968.
He remained at Harvard University 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’ work at Harvard included expanding admittance to students of limited financial means and decreasing student debt loans.
As a resident of Arlington, MA, he served as a member of the School Committee from 1970-1976, 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, anti-war and civil rights movements, and the campaign of Eugene McCarthy in 1968.
Kraus left Harvard when he was elected to the Massachusetts senate in 1982. 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. Important leadership positions included chair of the committees on Post Audit and Oversight, Education, Ethics and co-chair of the Special Commission on Local Aid.
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, socio-economic background, or sexual preference. His command of details while simultaneously understanding big picture priorities made him an effective public servant.
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, life-long 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.
Dr. 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, still resides in Arlington, Massachusetts, where they raised their two sons: Karl (Susan), who teaches middle-school social studies in Needham; and David (Heather), who runs a healthcare 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 at this time. 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.
For condolences, please visit www.kostanskifuneralhome.com
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