By Ray Lamont
---- — GLOUCESTER — Richard Gaines, the award-winning 40-year New England journalist who spent more than a decade as staff writer with The Eagle-Tribune’s sister paper The Gloucester Daily Times and carved out a national niche with his coverage of the commercial fishing industry, was found dead yesterday in the swimming pool outside his home in his beloved Bay View section of the city.
Gaines, who was 69, was found by his wife Nancy — also a longtime writer and editor and a Times correspondent — at around 2 p.m. yesterday when she returned to the couple’s Quarry Street home from Boston.
Nancy Gaines said she was initially surprised that Richard did not pick her up at the Gloucester commuter rail station as they had planned. She then made her way home, and found him already dead in the pool.
“We had plans to try to clean the pool,” she said last evening. “And I’m guessing he either got up very early — as he often did — and was working on the pool, or was examining it. It looked as it he may have had a heart attack.”
Police and fire emergency crews responded to the scene as an unattended death. Authorities said there is no suspicion of foul play.
“I’d like to think that maybe the last things he saw were all of the trees and plants that he had worked on and cultivated all around him,” she said.
Gaines worked 11 years at the Times, delivering a passion to his news coverage and writing that led to a number of honors, and he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the paper in 2010. In fact, two stories written by Gaines on Friday evening appear on Page 1 of today’s Times.
But he previously worked as Massachusetts State House political writer for United Press International in the late 1960s and 1970s, then became political writer and later editor-in-chief at The Boston Phoenix, from 1979 through 1989. The Phoenix was a runner-up for a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting during his tenure there.
He then moved and worked as a journalist and consultant in Florida, helping to run a congressional, campaign there, and he later worked in political consulting and marketing when he returned to the Boston area.
He joined the staff of the Times in 2002, and worked initially as local political and city reporter covering Gloucester.
When the Times restructured its coverage beats in 2008, however, Gaines — who always enjoyed recreational fishing — jumped at the chance to take on what initially began as coverage of the fishing industry and the harborfront.
He then quickly dove into extensive coverage of the issues that were confronting fishermen in Gloucester, across New England and, in many ways, across the nation. His coverage helped spotlight efforts by fishermen and lawmakers alike to challenge the actions of NOAA — particularly its law enforcement wing — leading to a federal Inspector General’s investigation and findings of wrongdoing in 2010.