Peter Muise, a community bank president whose reputation for community service made him the city of New Bedford’s most ubiquitous businessman activist, died Wednesday, July 6. He was 67 years old and had fought a long and successful battle against acute lymphoblastic leukemia until his final decline.
Muise’s death came after a 19-year battle with cancers and post-transplant complications. He underwent three bone-marrow transplants over the course of that time.
The former president and CEO of First Citizens Federal Credit Union, Muise had been active on a variety of issues in the city and played a key role in efforts to address a growing homelessness problem, the city’s longstanding effort to improve its public school system, the effort to grow the New Bedford struggling economy, and its growing affordable housing crisis.
Peter Joseph Muise was a Marion resident, but he grew up on the South Shore and spent much of his early business career there.
Muise held B.S. and M.S. degrees in accounting and finance from Bentley College. According to his family obituary, he began his banking career in 1977 at Quincy Savings Bank and rose through the ranks to become senior vice president and chief financial officer. Peter joined First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union in 1996 and served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer before his appointment to president and CEO in August 2008 through his retirement in January 2021.
Muise was involved in public service on both the South Coast and Cape Cod. He was the chairman of the board for the Housing Assistance Corporation, Inc. in Hyannis and an Executive Committee member of the Homeless Service Providers Network in New Bedford. He was one of the founders of Rise Up for Homes, a fundraising and advocacy organization to end homelessness. He served as the co-chair of the South Coast Regional Network to End Homelessness and was a member of the New Bedford Regeneration Committee.
Muise was chairman for four years on the Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board and served for several years as the co-chair of the National Academy Foundation’s Advisory Board for the New Bedford High School’s Education and Industry Coordinating Council.
He was the recipient of many awards including the 2013 Standard-Times Southcoast Man of the Year. He served 12 years on the Whitman-Hanson Regional School Committee as well as on many other government and nonprofit boards.
Carl Alves, a longtime friend and collaborator in the fight for housing and the dispossessed, called Muise a “game changer” because he thought about New Bedford ‘s problems differently, bringing his business background into the fray along with his intelligence, his organizational skills, and his generous humanity.
“He was a great guy for lunch. He loved to bring people together to talk about things generally,” Alves said. He usually picked the restaurant, and after the pandemic, he brought the food and the humor. But soon enough, he zeroed in on a major problem like addiction, education or housing and what to do about it.
Alves, along with Gifts to Give CEO Jim Stevens, eventually joined a Muise-led breakfast group that also included Rev. David Lima and former S-T Editor Beth Perdue.
Lima said these groups involved a low-key style. “He didn’t try to push his opinion, but he’d definitely stand his ground if he thought he was right,” Lima said.
“He brought his business style with goals and clear-eyed focus, and spreadsheets,” Alves said.
He kept charts to track weather fluctuation in winter so he could help plan shelter openings for cold weather nights, Alves said. He persuaded other bankers and businesspeople to help as well, pitching in resources as best they could. He became an important fundraiser along the way.
Alves also called Muise a champion for social justice, an advocacy which he said grew out of his Catholic faith. “He was an astute businessman; he was a man of integrity. He was fair and he was kind.” Muise and his wife, Robin, became a dynamic duo, pitching in daily to make sure the homeless were being fed as their population grew, Alves said.
Alves said he remembered that Muise loved to banter with him about football. Muise rooted avidly for the Patriots while Alves is a Steeler fan.
David Prentiss, president and CEO of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, called the death of Peter Muise a great loss to family, friends and the city of New Bedford.
“Peter was an exceptional man in so many ways. Spending time with him was always the highlight of your day. It would take too many words to describe all that he was, but if you want to know what it means to be a friend, or to be a force for good in your community, just look at his life. It teaches us how we all should be. Losing him really hits you hard. You feel a void, not just personally but in the whole community,” he wrote in a statement to The New Bedford Light.
Muise’s funeral Mass will be held at St. Anthony’s Church in Mattapoisett on Wednesday, July 13, at 10 a.m. He will be buried at Old Landing Cemetery in Marion.
Those wishing to honor Peter Muise may make a donation to Rise up for Homes, (℅ Interchurch Council of Greater New Bedford, 128 Union Street Suite100, New Bedford, Ma 02740 or online at riseupforhomes.com) or to the Housing Assistance Corporation (460 West Main Street, Hyannis, MA 02601 or online at https://haconcapecod.org/make-donation/).
Editor’s Note: This news obituary was compiled through the efforts of Ken Hartnett, Jack Spillane and the Muise family’s obituary.
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