The SouthCoast lost a true champion when Robert Correia left us on Friday night. His death from heart failure at 82 was sudden and unexpected. His passing leaves a gap in the community because though Correia retired in 2009, he remained active in the background guiding, advising, mentoring, and teaching. I learned something new about life every time I spoke with him.

Correia preferred to be called Bob by the legions of people who knew, loved, and respected him. I called him "Mayor" or "Mayor Bob." He was also known as a legislator. For 30 years, Correia represented Fall River in the Massachusetts Legislature. He was a gentle but fierce competitor, always fighting for his beloved fall River and all of the SouthCoast. He delivered.

For several years I saw Correia almost daily. We loved to talk politics, but he also wanted to talk about me. He wanted to know what was happening with my life and my family. Was I traveling enough? "See the world first while you are young enough and healthy enough to get around," he'd say. He and Pat, his wife of 60 years, loved to travel.

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Correia's interest in people was genuine. There was no pretense there as with many other political types. When I spoke with him, it was as though he were with an uncle or a father figure. Even when he was upset with something, he was even-tempered. My discussions with Correia were often inspiring.

Correia, a life-long Democrat and staunch party activist, broke ranks with his party. He supported Republican Donald Trump, and in 2018 he backed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Geoff Diehl over incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Warren. I asked him if he planned to leave the Democrat Party, and he told me, "No, I have been a Democrat all my life." Correia felt the party had lost direction, and while he supported Republican candidates, his goal was to fight to bring his party back closer to the center. He was a moderate Democrat. Correia did not abandon his core beliefs.

Before he was a legislator and a mayor, Correia taught junior high school. He had the patience and the temperament to make him a good and memorable teacher. I learned a great deal from Bob Correia and will never forget him.

Rest easy, Mayor Bob.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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