Frank Ferro died from heart failure on Feb. 24, surrounded by the love of his family. He was 90.

He was born at home in the Bronx on August 13, 1930, to Jennie (Magliato) and Louis Ferro. His parents were illiterate, and he was the youngest of seven much older siblings. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School. As a child he played stick ball in the streets and saved his money to independently attend home games at Yankee Stadium, where he sat in the bleachers with a score card. As a young teen, he developed a lifelong affection for jazz and used his savings to buy 78s and to travel on his own to Manhattan (a world away) to see many of the jazz greats on 52nd street.

He attended Goddard College, and following graduation in 1952 allowed himself to be drafted into the army during the Korean War. He served stateside as a combat cameraman, and although he was stationed in Queens at the Sony sound stage, he spent his years in the army traveling the country, including the documentation of atom bomb testing at Fort Desert Rock in Nevada. Following his discharge in 1954, he worked as a camera operator, proudly earning his union card in Local One. He received his master’s degree from the New York School of Social Work (now the Columbia University School of Social Work) in 1958 and embarked on a long career serving the well being of others, especially youth.

His first job was working with street gangs in New York city and he rose to become a supervisor. He consulted on shooting locations for the film West Side Story with director Robert Wise and won a Fulbright Award to study gang work in London and other parts of Europe. He later worked for the Office of Economic Opportunity in New York and then for many decades as associate director of the Children’s Bureau at Health, Education and Welfare (now HHS), where he developed legislation and programming for foster care, adoption, Head Start and other federally administered child welfare programs. His achievements included Section 473 of the Social Security Act, which helps adoptive parents of special needs children. He also helped develop the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, and assisted with passage of the Adoption and Child Welfare Reform Act of 1980, enabling foster children to be adopted in a permanent home. Fifty years later, countless numbers of children and families have benefited from Frank’s vision and diligence.

At a New Year’s Eve party as 1958 turned to 1959, Frank met the great love of his life, 19-year-old Ursula Marti. She was raised on a farm in southern Ohio and was working as an au pair. They married on June 12, 1959, and were inseparable. Frank always said Ursula made him who he was and gave him all he had, including two daughters, Tova and Marta.

Frank and Ursula lived in the West Village with a year’s sojourn in London, and raised their family first in New York city and then in Chevy Chase, Md.

They first came to Martha’s Vineyard for their honeymoon, when Ursula’s au pair family lent them their new home at the top of Christiantown Road (and the only one on the road at that time). They bought their house nearby, on five acres, in North Tisbury in 1971 and over the ensuing years, created a beautiful family home to which they retired in 1995. Later they would spend several months of the winter in warmer climes, first on Vieques, Puerto Rico, and then in Santa Barbara, Calif. Wherever they were, Frank and Ursula forged deep and abiding friendships and continued their lifelong love affair.

He was a generous, sometimes boisterous, fun man who often hosted dinner parties, replete with curated jazz and animated discussion. He loved sharing a good meal accompanied by wine, reading, theatre, art and rugs. He was independent until the end of his life, including driving and mowing his property. His life revolved around family; he loved them unconditionally and was a present and supportive presence in all their lives.

In addition to his wife of 61 years and their beloved dog Maisie, he is survived by his daughters Tova Ferro and her husband Mark Grandfield, granddaughter Ava Grandfield, and grand-dog Nellie, and Marta Ferro and her partner Ash Corson of Los Angeles, grandson son Luca Gazzera Ferro and grand-dog Lio. Frank’s ashes will be interred privately at the West Tisbury Cemetery, with a celebration of his life to be held at a later date when it is safe to gather.