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February 23, 2020
From David Sumner, Maitland, Florida:

My great friend Richard Gonci dreamed of producing both Broadway, and cabaret shows. Though Richard produced a plethora of shows and projects over four decades and had co-founded Portland Stage Company, and as a young man, worked at Charles Playhouse on their most successful show ever “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well Living in Paris”, that Broadway dream failed to materialize until the final years of his life. When opportunity knocked, Richard responded.
In the early spring of 2018 my close friend, Chet Walker, a famed Broadway director who I’d known since the mid 80’s called asking if we might put our former creative team back together. He said he had a new business partner from London, playwright, Shaun McKenna, who had written a number of musicals they wanted to produce. One of those scripts “Maddie and Me” was a funny romantic comedy in the Hepburn/Tracy style but with a serious twist- Maddie was to be a projected holographic ghost. They were pitching an idea where the lead actress in the show was a projection. This had never been attempted on Broadway.

Shaun, Chet and I tossed out some very preliminary ideas, and shared our thoughts. Given the extreme projection challenges, I quickly suggested we bring in someone onto the team comfortable with film production. Financial experience and some knowledge behind a winning prospectus would be an added plus. Of course, I had Richard in mind.

When later that summer I broached the idea of Richard, both Chet and Shaun instantly agreed. We quickly set up a subsequent meeting for late August 2018 in New York with Richard. On a perfect summer day we four sat curbside at a small café on the upper west side in New York making our introductions, discussing Broadway shows, and outlining a road to funding a proof of concept video shoot. Richard was an instant hit as he began laying out the tasks before us.

When Richard returned to Boston he instantly caught fire. It didn’t take long before the man had lined up potential funding with School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, had interested investors lined up based upon his brilliant track record, had created a visual storyboard, informed us that he’d reached out to Industrial Light and Magic in LA for some special proof of concept special effects reels, and had consulted with numerous creative specialists about our visual challenges. Richards revised CV now read:

“Currently Executive Producer for a (hopefully) Broadway–bound musical comedy now under development.”

We four spoke numerous times in the subsequent months, each of us with a mission. By the late spring of 2019 our new LLC.“Maddie and Me” was born. It was a joyous day. That joy proved short lived. With summer Richard started having serious medical issues. Yet, still, we kept at it. That fall we agreed to meet in Florida come mid-January because David had moved to Florida earlier that year and Shaun announced that he had plans to in be in Florida as well. But when we turned around next, Richard was suddenly gone.

That our dearest friend spent the final months of his life filled with so much hope and joy and that he got so very close to such a life-long dream means everything.

Richard, we remaining three are agreed, you were such a bright light, are truly missed, and were so very loved. RIP.

- David Sumner, Maitland FL 2/2020

Richard's Obituary

February 15, 2020
The obituary below is from the Hartford Courant.  The link below is to the obituary in the Boston Globe, which is slightly different due to the different reference points.

On February 11, 2020, the life force known as Richard Gonci went off to his next adventure. Born on February 22, 1950, and raised in Marlborough, he was the son of the late George and Elinor (West) Gonci and a 1968 graduate of RHAM. Richard was the beloved husband of Joanna Fink, and father of Noah Gonci. He was the loving brother of David Gonci, sister-in-law Noreen Cullen, brother-in-law of Aaron Fink & Anne Mastrangelo; proud uncle of Paul Petro, Nathaniel Fink (Dave Bermingham) and Abigail Fink.

Richard began his career in theatre, was a founding member of the Portland Stage Company (Maine) and later a lighting designer at Boston’s Charles Street Playhouse. He produced corporate shows for leading tech firms, while also designing discotheques internationally, as well as entertainment venues for the 1980 Winter Olympics. In 1994, Richard co-created and produced America’s first national TV series on landscape architecture for HG/TV, “Breaking Ground." He was creative director for several communications groups and film/animation studios in the Boston area, producing virtual animations of major new commercial and residential buildings, schools, hospitals, museums, and other public places in the U.S. and abroad. Richard’s creative work was recognized with national and international awards. Richard served on the boards of several non-profit organizations and produced broadcast documentaries as well as public service messages for the state.

Richard managed Boston’s Harbor Rowing Club, and later he and his wife founded the Cygnet Rowing Club in Newton. He competed regionally and internationally, and coached from novice to Olympic levels. Richard was most happy skippering a boat, enjoying time at the family vacation home in Rockport, MA, or helping someone in need. Richard was a prolific writer, with commentaries published in major national media, as well as stories and articles in various periodicals. He brought clarity and elegance to worthy causes. He was often called on to produce and speak at special events. Words were Richard’s lifeblood and now the silence is unimaginable.

A celebration of Richard’s life will be scheduled in the future. Remembrances may be posted to

Virtual Animations

February 15, 2020
Virtual animations for which Richard was the creative director:

A Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) film depicting the proposed parcel developments on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Received three EMMY nominations for writing, producing and musical score. The voiceover is by S. Epatha Merkerson, star of "Law and Order."

Created for the competition submission by architect Daniel Libeskind for the new Vilnius-Guggenheim Museum. This animation won the SIGGRAPH Jury Prize and the CINE Gold Eagle. Richard was the Director/Creative Director. Studio and created the work

Animated TV spot produced to promote the emergence of a new city in Saudi Arabia, to be founded on principles of renewable energy. Richard was the Producer/Director/Creative Director.

Richard's Published Writings

February 15, 2020
Richard's writings were published in many places, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Nation magazine, and his most prized one - The New Yorker. Most of these can be viewed in the Gallery section of this website. We are still chasing after a copy of the article in The New Yorker.

Genealogy Highlights

February 15, 2020
Richard's father, George Gonci, was first-generation Hungarian-American. Using DNA, the Gonci lineage has its home village in what is known as Leukerbad, Switzerland. This goes back to where his ancestors lived in 1,000 C.E. (Common Era/A.D.) His Hungarian grandparents came over to the U.S. in 1910 to escape the unrest in Hungary. They settled and farmed in Hebron, Connecticut, raising their twelve children on their farm.

Richard's mother was English on her father's side, a lineage that went back to Reverend Brewster on the Mayflower. That lineage is very well documented, with many historical figures in it: William the Conqueror, Charlemagne, King Cole (of "Old King Cole was a merry old soul" fame), Bouadicea (Celtic Warrior Queen), Vikings (hence, Richard's red hair), the Iceni Celts (a royal line), and also English royalty. These all were direct-line ancestors, that is, each was a great grandfather or grandmother by blood.

His mother, Elinor West, had one brother. Her father, Seymour West, married Lena Flemke. Her maternal lineage includes a Jewish line (Flemke) and a German/Teutonic line (Schadtle). These ancestors arrived in the 1890s and 1880s, respectively. They settled and farmed in East Hampton, Connecticut.

Boston Rowing Stories

February 15, 2020
Richard introduced himself to rowing in his 20s and it became a passion throughout his life.
For a number of years he was manager/director of the Harbor Rowing Club.  Among the many rowing clubs in Boston, this club was distinguished by rowing in the harbor, which presented unique challenges and dangers.  The club was located on a wharf in Fort Point Channel off Congress Street - just across from the Boston Tea Party boat, with the Boston Fed across the street, and the Cheers Bar just down the block.   For many years, Richard lived on the yacht "Lily" featured here.  Richard invested great energy into this vessel, including rebuiding its massive diesel engines, which he proudly showed to his mechanically minded father.   His brother liked to refer to this colorful and central residence as "Sausalito East".   It was here that he met his future wife, Joanna Fink, and they were a rowing couple for many years.  Together, they founded the Cygnet Rowing Club in Newton (near the Marriott).   Richard coached rowers from novice through Olympians.  He rowed doubles competitions with longtime rowing partner Robert Sproull.  Bob joined RIchard and Joanna on their honeymoon trip to Hungary, where they participated in an international rowing event.  A photo of Richard and Bob graced the cover of the racing program of the Head of the Charles one year.  

Richard's letter to the Cambridge City Council

February 15, 2020

Subject: Airbnb Hosting

Date: July 17, 2016

Dear Council Members and Fellow Cantabrigians,

My wife, Joanna Fink, and I have been Airbnb hosts at both our Cambridge home and our Rockport, MA cottage for three years. We attained "Superhost" status some time ago. This citation is awarded by Airbnb as a function of guest reviews, which must remain stellar through quarterly reviews by Airbnb. Last year, we were also nominated as "International Hosts of the Year." Out of over 600,000 hosts worldwide, only 2000 were so honored. The nominations were provided by our guests, and we were not even aware of this program. It was very touching that our guests took the time to put our names forward for consideration.

On the other side of the equation, we have had the most extraordinary guests. Individuals and couples from their 20's to their 70's. Young families with infants and toddlers. Numerous non­English speaking guests. For us, it has been like traveling the world without the hassle of TSA. But, it really comes as no surprise that all of our experiences have been excellent. More than part of the "shared economy," the Airbnb community is a "peer­to­ peer" family. Just as we are evaluated ahead of time by potential visitors, we likewise can view their profiles and reviews. I have never actually turned down a guest request for any reason other than scheduling conflicts. Maybe that's because the vast majority of users on both sides are like­minded folk, with a great sense of respect and appreciation for the "value" of the service.

In our case, in Cambridge we rent a bedroom with private bath on the lowest level of our townhouse. We stock a mini­fridge in the bedroom with breakfast treats based on guest preferences that we learn in emails before arrival. To that point, we always have extensive email and phone interaction before guests arrive, which they all appreciate, as it is such a more personal connection than one has with a hotel.

To be candid, there was a relevant monetary consideration for us when we undertook hosting. The company for whom I worked suffered a couple of major shocks, and though I was not laid­off per se, I only received our health insurance coverage and a modest monthly stipend for a long period of time. Our Airbnb setting was not only home to travelers... it helped keep us in our home. But, we have enjoyed hosting so much that even when finances improved, we didn't think for a minute that we would stop.

A large number of our guests attend seminars, conferences and other special programs at Harvard, MIT and Lesley University. Many of them are with us for a week or more. We always hear tales about the dearth of affordable hotel rooms in Cambridge/Boston. Even with the relatively high number of Airbnb offerings in our fair city, I know anecdotally (at least) that we hosts are not eating into hotel revenues in any meaningful way. It bears mentioning that in many cases we have hosted the parents of young adult residents in our very own neighborhood. In every suchcase, our walking proximity for those sons and daughters to their homes was very important. I would humbly assert that this is another service we hosts provide to the city through our broad geographical distribution.

In a small way, we are also ambassadors for Cambridge. As longtime residents, like many of our fellow hosts, we have intimate knowledge of the city. We act like a concierge for our visitors, always providing recommendations for dining and recreation. Every host keeps a roster of menus for local restaurants... so, we act as a "feeder" for those businesses, as well (pardon the pun.)

From a "regulatory" perspective, neither we, nor the mother company, have any issues with appropriate taxation, either at the state or municipal level. And, while the press (print and electronic) have a fondness for re­ cycling tropes about whole buildings given over to Airbnb, I will tell you as a host (Superhost, that is) that would be a poor business model in my mind. The level of attention that has to be paid to our transient guests and their individual needs would be a substantial limiting factor in the decision to become a de facto hotelier. The Airbnb experience is all about quality... not quantity.

In reviewing this email, my wife suggested the following: It is the very combination of relative affordability and room availability that redounds to the benefit of the city as a whole. Simply put, many more people can stay as travelers in the city proper, hence using all the services provided by other merchants and hospitality venues.

We appreciate your thoughtful review and consideration of the full scope of the Airbnb "footprint" in Cambridge, and we trust you will find a means of reasonable accommodation (oh no, another pun) for all concerned.


Richard Gönci Joanna Fink

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