Jack Spillane/The Standard-Times
New Bedford social worker Tryne G. Costa (1922-2018) lived by a poem that she learned as a young girl, “Let me live in my house by the side of the road / And be a friend to man.” After her son’s death in 1969, Tryne founded AID for Addicts, New Bedford’s first drug treatment and prevention program. Committed to prevention of family violence and separation, Tryne helped to establish New Bedford’s Community Center for Nonviolence. As the president of Family Nonviolence, Inc., Tryne focused on building strong families through parenting classes that taught conflict resolution.
Empowering families became the lifework of New Bedford social worker Tryne G. Costa (1922-2018). When her son Stephen died in 1969, Tryne committed herself to supporting children and families who struggled with substance use disorder and other issues.
Tryne Griek was born in West Sayville, New York, to Albert and Gabrielle (Claus) Griek. Tryne grew up on Nantucket island and spent most of her life in New Bedford and Dartmouth, where she raised four children. Her son Stephen died from colon cancer, misdiagnosed for years and for which he used drugs to ease pain. After experiencing the agony of substance use disorder, a terminal illness, and the death of her child, Tryne founded AID for Addicts, which met in the basement of the First Unitarian Church in New Bedford. The city’s first drug treatment and prevention program, AID for Addicts later became the Aid Center, as its services expanded beyond addiction. Tryne educated herself and found government grants to support the organization for 10 years, through 1981, when cuts were made to federal addiction programs. By then, Tryne and her agency had supported recovery for hundreds of New Bedford residents.
In the 1980s, Tryne began working with runaway children. In her sixties, she returned to school and graduated from Southeastern Massachusetts University, now the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, with degrees in sociology and psychology. She was “grandmothered” in as a licensed clinical social worker, and her interests extended to family mediation and reconnection. Tryne attended seminars on parenting and began teaching parenting classes called Active Parenting. She opened up her West End home to runaway children and their parents to facilitate reconnection. Her goal was to assist area parents in managing their children without resorting to the Department of Social Services. Over the years, she herself took in more than 20 foster children, with problems including substance use, epilepsy and emotional trauma. Most of these children have gone on to lead productive lives with families of their own.
Committed to the prevention of family violence and separation, Tryne helped to establish New Bedford’s Community Center for Nonviolence in the early 1990s with the Rev. Bob Heskett. She believed that most parents love their children, but not all have the capability to show love and kindness. As the president of Family Nonviolence, Inc., Tryne focused on making families strong and emphasized that “Parents don’t have to scream at their kids … hit, spank, yell, ground them, or have lots of time outs.” Instead, she showed parents and children how to resolve conflict through communication. Tryne worked with numerous organizations, including People Acting in Community Endeavors (PACE), Salvation Army, Center for Human Resources, Fall River Mental Health Program, Head Start, the Patient Information Network, and New Bedford Public Schools. Later in life, she worked with struggling fishing families to find money for food, health care and heating oil.
Tryne was the wife of the late Paul Dillingham, Ralph Metcalf and Manuel Costa. A member of the First Unitarian Church, her memorial service was held there on February 4, 2018. Tryne’s life echoed an 1897 Sam Walter Foss poem that she learned as a young girl, “Let me live in my house by the side of the road / And be a friend to man.”
Spillane, Jack. “A Lifetime of Helping People by the Side of the Road.” SouthCoast Today, 4 Dec. 2011, https://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20111204/NEWS/112040340.
“Tryne G. Costa.” Currentobituary.com, 24 Jan. 2018, https://www.currentobituary.com/obit/216677.