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Clementina Ponte

Boulevard Funeral Home

Union leader. Political activist. University trustee. In these roles, Clementina “Tina” Rodrigues Ponte (1922-2013) worked to make the South Coast a better place. As a first generation Portuguese American in New Bedford, Tina left school early to work at John I. Paulding, where she became a rank-and-file union leader in the United Automobile Workers (UAW). Tina was active in the Democratic Party and served on the Board of Trustees of Southeastern Massachusetts University.

Union leader. Political activist. University trustee. In these roles, Clementina “Tina” Rodrigues Ponte (1922-2013) worked to make the South Coast of Massachusetts a better place.

The daughter of Portuguese immigrants Maria daCruz and Crisostimo Rodrigues, Tina left school early to work at John I. Paulding, an electrical wiring device plant in New Bedford where she remained for 44 years. As a first generation Portuguese American in New Bedford, Tina bonded with immigrant factory workers and joined the struggle for job security, dignity and fairness. She became a rank-and-file union leader in the United Automobile Workers (UAW).

Tina reinforced her work for equality through membership in the Democratic Party. She was a member of the Democratic City Committee, where she also served as chairperson for several years. Tina was also a member of the State Democratic Committee and was twice elected as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention. She campaigned enthusiastically and became lifelong friends with many candidates.

Governor Michael Dukakis appointed Tina to the Board of Trustees of Southeastern Massachusetts University (now University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) and she served for two terms. Janet Freedman, Dean of Library Services at the university at the time, wrote, “She was warm, supportive and smart. We also shared a strong commitment to fight for social justice for working people, women and all individuals and groups denied opportunities for lives of full dignity. Tina was and will remain an inspiration to me.”

After her retirement in 1985, Tina advocated for the elderly. She worked at the Council on Aging and was instrumental in getting transportation vans for seniors. Later in life, when she resided at Taber Mill apartments, Tina organized a craft group there called the Buzy Bees who made birthday cards for the residents.

Tina passed away at age 90 at the New Bedford Jewish Convalescent Home on January 6, 2013. She was predeceased by her husband John Ponte, to whom she was married for 59 years. Tina is survived by two daughters, Louise Bizarro and Maryann Palestine.

Ann O’Leary and Kim Wilson

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