Longtime Bristol resident leaves a lasting legacy

Affordable senior housing among the many gifts that Richard Simpson, the writer, historian, artist, and philanthropist, left for his beloved town

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 7/2/20

It has been nearly three years since High Street resident Richard V. Simpson died on July 4, 2017, while preparing to participate in the Fourth of July Parade. Always one of his favorite days of the …

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Longtime Bristol resident leaves a lasting legacy

Affordable senior housing among the many gifts that Richard Simpson, the writer, historian, artist, and philanthropist, left for his beloved town

Posted

It has been nearly three years since High Street resident Richard V. Simpson died on July 4, 2017, while preparing to participate in the Fourth of July Parade. Always one of his favorite days of the year, Mr. Simpson knew it well — in fact, he wrote the book on it. It was just one of many he penned on Bristol history throughout the years.

An Edgewood native, Mr. Simpson made his home in Bristol for half a century, many spent with his late wife Irene, whom he married in 1958. A writer, painter, historian and antique collector, Mr. Simpson’s various interests and careers left his estate with a seven-figure sum. He left much of it to projects and philanthropy here in Bristol, including the gazebo on the Town Common, St. Mary’s Church, the Herreshoff Marine Museum, the Bristol Statehouse, Rogers Free Library, and a scholarship for Mt. Hope High School students.

He also bequeathed his home at 330 High St. to the Bristol Housing Authority, with the intent of using it to provide housing for low-income Bristol seniors. The Housing Authority determined that they were unable to accept the property due to HUD regulations, and that the spirit of the gift could be fulfilled by East Bay Community Development Corp., an organization well positioned to carry out the wishes of the Simpson Trust.

The job of changing the grantee fell to attorney Joe Proietta, who brought the case to Superior Court in February on behalf of the Bristol Housing Authority, to allow for the conveyance of the property to the East Bay CDC. Mr. Proietta successfully argued that the doctrine of Cy Pres applied, and that the transfer to East Bay CDC was truly in the same spirit as what Mr. Simpson intended.

“It’s been about a year since Candy Pansa of the Housing Authority reached out to us and said we have this property on High Street that was bequeathed to us by Mr. Simpson,” said Diane Mederos, executive director of the East Bay CDC. “She told us they would like to give it to East Bay CDC, but we had to go to court because wishes were a little different from what he had stated.”

Other stipulations included in Mr. Simpson’s will were that the residents should be of high moral character, and residents of Bristol for more than 10 years — stipulations that might be more challenging to enforce. “We do have a background check in place for our residents, though,” said Ms. Mederos.

The property, which comes with funds to help with its maintenance, will require some TLC and accessibility renovations, but when the work is completed it will provide four housing units for local seniors.

On Tuesday, June 30, Mr. Proietta met Ms. Mederos and other representatives of East Bay CDC to turn over the keys to the property.

According to Ms. Mederos, “Acquiring this property for the use intended by the Simpson Estate is perfectly in keeping with the mission of East Bay Community Development Corp. …to preserve the quality of family and community life in the East Bay by ensuring that a full range of attractive housing opportunities are available to meet the needs of all our residents.”

“He loved Bristol, so much,” said Ms. Mederos. “This is a big day for us.”

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.