by Rick Winterson
South Boston Online will begin this story with its ending first – not recommended journalistic practice, of course, but essential in this case. The news – the good news – is that South Boston’s Collaborative Center, which has done so much to help those suffering from addiction and substance abuse, has been officially named for Joseph “Dodo” Nee, a founder and key supporter of that organization. The sign rededicating the Collaborative to him now proudly hangs over the walkway leading up to its facility at 1226A Columbia Road (see photo). Look for it the next time you’re in the neighborhood.
The Collaborative was founded an even ten years ago in 1997, in response to a wave of teenaged suicides. These suicides were drug-related, so a center for counseling, getting medical referrals, and providing a just plain “get-off-the-streets” refuge was set up, originally on Rev. Burke Street in Old Colony (now Anne Lynch Homes). Among the many who served with the early Collaborative were Mayor Marty Walsh, then Mayor Tom Menino, Jon Cronin, Cathe Walsh, Michael Kineavy, Peter Welch, Bobby Sances and Darlene Sheehan. These “angels”, along with many, many others, were chaired and led for a decade by Collaborative President Joseph “Dodo” Nee.
A celebration of Dodo’s life took place last Tuesday evening, June 6, at the Convention Center’s Lawn on D. It was a warm, joyful event, attended by an overflow crowd of many hundreds – all of them friends of Dodo. Quite fittingly, the event was also a fundraiser for the Collaborative, which is now South Boston’s Joseph “Dodo” Nee Collaborative Center. Jon Cronin sponsored the celebration; pianist and singer Kenny Morrell entertained. Dodo was certainly there in spirit. He continues to serve South Boston although he has left us.
Online talked informally about Dodo with Andy Ward, Executive Director of the Collaborative Center. Andy feels that Dodo possessed an unusual talent for connecting with people – in person, bringing them together to accomplish something worthwhile. And somehow, he made it seem “easy”, according to Andy. More than most people, Dodo’s entire life was a life of service, from his early enlistment as a Marine and continuing with his career as a Boston firefighter. In his later years, Dodo was everywhere. He’d stop in briefly at the Collaborative a couple of times a week just to see how everything was going – always in person. In Andy’s words, “Dodo didn’t make much of what he got done, but how was he able to do as much as he did? Well, he just did it, that’s all.”
We’ll close by partially quoting Dodo’s Proclamation from the City of Boston’s Mayor Martin J. Walsh:
“WHEREAS, Joseph Nee dedicated his life and career to the service of others, and was beloved by his entire community,
“WHEREAS, throughout his lifetime, Joseph Nee provided extraordinary leadership in being President of the South Boston Collaborative Center; Board Member of the South Boston Community Development Corporation, the South Boston Neighborhood House, Julie’s Family Learning Program, and at the Laboure Center; Director of the Boston Firefighters Credit Union, and Former Trustee of the Boston Fire Relief Fund,
“NOW THEREFORE, I do hereby proclaim June 6, 2017, to be Joseph “Dodo” Nee Day.”
How fitting! You’ll not be forgotten, Dodo. Godspeed and farewell.

Tom Tinlin, a surprise guest at Dodo Nee’s memorial celebration, with Willie and Karen. Looking good, Tom. Really good!

Andy Ward, Executive Director of the renamed Collaborative Center, opens the program at Joe “Dodo” Nee’s memorial celebration.

Boston Fire Commissioner Joe Finn speaks about the life of community service led by Joseph “Dodo” Nee, who himself was a career firefighter.

State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry describes Dodo Nee’s lifelong community service.

Chris Connolly, lifelong friend of Dodo Nee, at the memorial celebration of his life.

Marissa and Cathe Walsh of Cranberry Café at Dodo Nee’s memorial celebration.