John Beresford was drawn to his home near Ronan Park by the neighborhood's potential. It was a neighborhood poised to round the corner - ready to shake off history and a bad reputation.
All it needed was a little help.
And so not long after Beresford and his partner Adam Greenfield moved into their three decker on Mount Ida Road, they set about giving their neighborhood that help.
It was the breathtaking views of Dorchester Bay from their third floor apartment that first sold Greenfield and Beresford on the home, according to friend, Dan Dowling.
But they could also see down into Ronan Park - the drug deals and harassment, the crumbling pavement, and the broken fences.
Beresford, Greenfield, and another neighbor, Larysa Kulynych, founded the Friends of Ronan Park, a group dedicated to improving the park and making it a positive and beautiful space for residents and families.
"They could see exactly what was going on in Ronan Park," said Dowling. "But they could also see what a beautiful piece of land it was and they decided to make it what it could be."
The group mounted clean up efforts, cutting back overgrown brush and removing trash and debris. It planted an ornamental garden and organized Shakespeare productions and other activities to bring families back into the park.
"I think [Beresford] saw it as a way that he could help his newly adopted community," said Dowling.
The work in the park gave Beresford an opportunity to get to know his neighbors, providing further motivation for his work.
"He really liked the Fields Corner people and he wanted to give them a park that equaled the wonderful people that are there," said Dowling.
Dowling met Beresford and Greenfield in 1999, and he and husband Rob have remained close to the couple since - taking in shows together and studying American sign language as a group.
Beresford was a performer at heart with a gift for singing, and Dowling recalls that he worked a number of part-time jobs instead of becoming locked into a nine to five to allow himself the space to continue performing.
"He was doing what many performers in this area do to keep the option of performing their art alive," said Dowling.
That flexibility allowed Dowling to turn to his friend on a few occasions when he needed a performer.
Dowling works as a Santa Claus in the Enchanted Village, and when there was an opening during the Christmas season in 2003, he called upon Beresford to fill in as the other Santa, which he continued last Christmas as well.
Beresford's background in singing and performance art led Dowling, who manages an acting troupe at the Museum of Science, to again turn to his friend when he needed extra players for a performance. And again, Beresford answered the call for that show and performed in two subsequent shows.
In addition to his performing work, Beresford was also a licensed massage therapist and a graduate of the Massage Therapy Institute in Cambridge. He moved to Boston twelve years ago and met Greenfield four years later. The two moved into their home on Mt. Ida Road near Ronan Park five years ago.
Sadly, Beresford lost his life last week, next to the park he'd worked so hard to rehabilitate.
While walking through Ronan Park on the evening of May 10, Greenberg and Kulynych were confronted by two young men, who allegedly stole Kulynych's purse. Greenberg phoned Beresford, who left the couple's home to come to his friends' aide. He confronted the muggers, who stabbed him, multiple times in the chest. He was taken to Boston Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 7:52 p.m., the city's twentieth homicide victim this year. He was 40 years old.
For those who knew Beresford, the challenge now is in going on.
"John was someone who wanted to directly impact people in a positive way," said Dowling.
For that reason, Dowling believes that Beresford's friends must try to find something positive in his death.
"I think John would really want people to take this incredibly negative experience and somehow, someway let something positive grow from it, in whatever way you can," said Dowling.