Editorial: Long live Pierre

Pierre image.jpg

“Jesus” died last week.

Not the historic Jesus of Nazareth, the man who, Christians believe, died and then rose from his grave a few days later. I write rather of the 12-year-old “Jesus” of the Morton Street projects, the Haitian American child actor who won the lead role in the musical “Godspell” that was staged at the old St. Gregory’s Elementary School back in May 1985.

That fictionalized Messiah, the one who later became my college roommate, best man, loyal friend of forty years – and uncle, confidante, and protector to my children –was played by Pierre Auguste, who succumbed to a virulent cancer of the pancreas and liver last Wednesday night. He was 50 years old and seemed the picture of health as recently as July Fourth. He leaves behind his wife Ruth and their son, Evan, who is 12.

Pierre was many things in his far-too-short lifetime: a son, a brother, an uncle, a husband, and a father. He was a proud Black man with a distinctly Haitian sensibility infused with a heavy dose of Dorchester and Mattapan. He was a Boston Tech alumnus and a Boston College Eagle, a finance guru, a scholar, a music lover, a flirt, a hip-hop junkie, a Boston sports fan, a dreamer, and a dramatist.

So enamored of the stage and screen was he that at age 31 he left a cozy post at a big-name trading desk, packed up his car, and moved with his wife to Hollywood to pursue his passion. He got a Screen Actors Guild card and auditioned and had small parts on TV shows and commercials. He stayed in California for seven years before coming home with his family.

A part of Pierre never left that stage in the St. Greg’s gym back in 1985. It propelled his dreams and opened up new horizons and friendships, including the one that he and I have enjoyed through the decades.

Pierre’s untimely, unexpected demise is a crushing blow to many here in Dorchester, in particular to his friends and former colleagues at The Reporter. Ruth was a longtime contributor to our sister publication, the Boston Haitian Reporter. And in 2020, when Covid was still a grave and unknown menace to the health and well-being of small businesses like this one, Pierre stepped in to offer his expertise in finance. It was Pierre who made sure The Reporter got essential “payroll protection” assistance and other grants— and in doing so, helped to keep this newspaper alive— even as he grieved the loss of his mom, who died during the pandemic’s earliest days.

His premature death feels like a grave injustice, one of many that we endure in this world. When Pierre portrayed Jesus back in 1985, the original script called for his death on the cross— and then a curtain drop. But this was a Catholic school production, after all. St. Greg’s pastor, Msgr. Paul Ryan, insisted that it end on a more upbeat note. Our solution: Pierre’s Jesus was resurrected amid a chorus of his choked-up classmates singing “Long live God.” That’s our prayer this week for our friend: “Long live Pierre.”

Funeral services for Pierre E. Auguste will be held this Friday (Jan. 5) at Temple Salem Seventh Day Adventist Church, 222 Woodrow Ave., Dorchester. Donations to a Go Fund Me account to assist his family are welcome in lieu of flowers.

Subscribe to the Dorchester Reporter