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Obituaries April 25, 1998

  • John P. 'Joli' Gonsalves


John P. 'Joli' Gonsalves

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NEW BEDFORD -- John P. "Joli" Gonsalves, 73, of New Bedford, a well-known figure in the Cape Verdean community and a local civic and cultural leader, died at the home of his sister in New Bedford on Friday, April 24, 1998.
After a promising career as a concert singer in Europe and Africa, Mr. Gonsalves continued his involvement in music and promoted cultural activities after returning to New Bedford.
Mr. Gonsalves was honored by the city in May 1990 for his founding of the Cape Verdean Cultural Center and his singing history of Cape Verdean culture. He had served as director of the center since its inception.
Born in New Bedford, Mr. Gonsalves was the son of the late Frank F. and Charlotte (Pires) Gonsalves. He grew up in New Bedford and attended local schools. A World War II Army veteran, he served in five campaigns in the Europe.
After the war, Mr. Gonsalves was a vocalist and percussionist with the first All-Star Cape Verdean Orchestra to tour the United States in 1947-48. He attended the Arlington Academy of Music in Arlington from 1949 until his graduation in 1952.
In his 13-year professional music career, Mr. Gonsalves worked as a chorister and stage manager with the Leonard de Pour Chorus and as a chorister and arranger for Harry Belafonte and the Belafonte Folk Singers.
During this period, he traveled to 14 countries in Africa under the auspices of the U.S. State Department. In Liberia, he was knighted by President William VS.. Tubman in recognition of his having composed a national anthem for the West African republic.
Mr. Gonsalves, a baritone, established two music publishing companies and recorded with numerous recording artists and as well as making appearances with many on network television, including the Ed Sullivan Show.
A near-fatal auto accident on Dec. 22, 1967, curtailed Mr. Gonsalves' professional singing career and brought him back to New Bedford where he worked as a newscaster for radio station WNBH from 1970 to l972.
He became a director of the Model Cities Community Development Corp., made his first visit to the Cape Verde Islands and founded the Cape Verdean Cultural Center.
In the succeeding years, Mr. Gonsalves was moderator and producer of a bilingual Cape Verdean television program telecast over Channel 6 for six years and served as a member and chairman of New Bedford's Human Relations Commission. He also served as a housing specialist for the city's Equal Opportunity Office at City Hall.
Mr. Gonsalves' civic involvement also included serving as chairman of the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority and as then-Mayor John K. Bullard's liaison to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Community Development. He was given responsibility for establishing and co-ordinating the rehabilitation of New Bedford's housing stock.
Mr. Gonsalves also was employed between 1983 and 1985 as a teacher's aide in the fifth grade in an enrichment program for Talented and Gifted Children and as a bilingual aide in Portuguese and Cape Verdean (Crioulo) at the Sgt. William H. Carney Academy in New Bedford. He also wrote the school anthem.
As founder and director of the Cape Verdean Cultural Center, Mr. Gonsalves made himself available to individuals, organizations and educational institutes as a consultant, educator, historian, lecturer and musicologist. The center is located at South Street and Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford's South End.
Mr. Gonsalves also was very knowledgeable in the field of black history and on the Jewish influences on the Cape Verde Islands.
A communicant of Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Mr. Gonsalves was a member of the Our Lady of the Assumption Club and Seniors, the Lions Club -- he was a past president of the New Bedford Lions Club -- the Knights of Columbus, and Mass Action Seniors.
Mr. Gonsalves came from a musically talented family. He described his father as a "troubadour of sorts" who played the mandolin and entertained the family. A brother played the saxophone professionally and a cousin was star saxophonist in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Survivors include his son, John R. Gonsalves of New Bedford, and a sister, Mary G. Andrade of New Bedford.
He was the brother of the late August P. Gonsalves and Antonio P. Gonsalves.
His funeral Mass will be at 10 Monday at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, 47 S. Sixth St., New Bedford.
Arrangements are by the Perry Funeral Home, 111 Dartmouth St., New Bedford.
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