Robert A. Havern III

UPDATED, July 23: As a longtime politician representing Arlington, Robert "Bob" A. Havern III supported gay rights. As a hockey player, he set records at Arlington High School and went on to score for Harvard. Mr. Havern died of brain cancer Saturday, July 19. He was 65.

As a Globe obituary July 23 put it, he was "accustomed to playing above his weight long before entering politics."

His sister Cindy Bouvier, director of wellness and counseling for the Arlington public schools, wrote July 21:"Bob was a larger-than-life guy, who was a great husband, father, brother and family man. His wit and stories will forever be in our hearts. His dedication to the students, schools and community will always be appreciated. We will miss him dearly."

The Globe account called him a key supporter of gay and lesbian rights from the moment he was elected to the Legislature in 1986 and said he could pare down the complex debate over same-gender marriage to a simple question. "How do you compromise someone’s rights?" he asked in 2004 as lawmakers considered constitutional amendments that would ban gay marriage.

"To shift State House votes, the Arlington Democrat displayed his full range of talents, high among them using laughter to genially coerce," the obituary by Bryan Marquard says.

With seven goals in his final regular-season game in 1967 as the center on Arlington High School’s hockey team, Mr. Havern became the highest single-season scorer in the history of the Greater Boston Interscholastic Hockey League. On four occasions his senior year, he scored four goals in a game. He also played football and baseball, leading the league in stolen bases his junior year.

"I think a little guy can play anything," Mr. Havern, who was then 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, told the Globe a couple of weeks before his seven-goal game his senior year. "All he needs is a little bit of speed and the urge to stick his nose in there."

Havern was the oldest of five children. His father played in a world hockey championship in Europe in the late 1940s and was on minor league baseball teams for the Boston Braves. His mother worked for State Street Trust Co. in Boston before marrying.

Mr. Havern may have been the first-born among his siblings, but he was habitually the last to pass through a certain door at home. "He had a classic line when people asked him what it was like growing with four sisters," his son Ned of Boston told The Globe. “He said he went to college to get a hot shower. He was always fifth in line."

Ned was also a hockey standout at Arlington High.

While playing hockey for Harvard University, from which he graduated in 1972, Mr. Havern was an extra in the 1970 movie "Love Story," playing a member of an opposing team in scenes depicting Harvard hockey players, his family said.

After Harvard, Mr. Havern graduated from Suffolk University Law School and started a private practice in Arlington. He soon married Maureen C. Crane, whom he met when both worked summer jobs at a pool.

In the late 1970s, Mr. Havern was elected to the Arlington Board of Selectmen, on which he served as chairman. He won the first of two state representative races in 1986 before spending eight and a half terms in the Senate.

Mr. Havern was in the spotlight for transportation matters including writing an amendment to name the downtown stretch of Interstate 93 the Thomas P. "Tip" O’Neill Jr. Tunnel, rather than then-governor Mitt Romney’s choice, the Liberty Tunnel. But his support of gay and lesbian rights may have had the most lasting public impact.

"He single-handedly garnered one half of the votes we needed on GLBT issues in the ’80s, the ’90s and the [2000s], and he did it without demanding the limelight," Arline Isaacson of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus told The Globe. "He did a lot of his work behind the scenes, and so sadly, in hindsight, many in the GLBT community don’t realize how invaluable he was to our movement, because they didn’t see his name mentioned in the press."

For Mr. Havern, taking such stands was a matter of principle. When lawmakers "understand that it’s more important to be right than comfortable," he told a crowd of same-sex marriage supporters at a 2004 State House rally, “that’s when we take major steps forward."

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Havern leaves another son, Timothy of Boston; and four sisters, Nancy Leahy of Burlington, Kate Boyle of Plymouth, N.H., Cynthia Bouvier of Arlington, and Laura Hegarty of Arlington.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Agnes Church in Arlington. Burial will be in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Arlington.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Havern’s memory may be made to Brain Tumor Research, Office of Development at MGH, 100 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02114, or the Bob Havern Scholarship Fund.

For the obituary, directions or to send an online condolence, visit www.keefefuneralhome.com.


This story was published Monday, July 21, 2014, and updated July 23.