Hector Berube awarded Joseph Bradley Varnum Award

Great Story from the Sun on the award to Mr Berube.  Front page story, excellent work.

30 Years After He Retired, Dracut’s ‘Everyman’ to Be Honored
By Todd Feathers, [email protected]
Hector Berube, winner of Dracut’s Joseph Bradley Varnum Award, at his home on Monday afternoon. Berube was valedictorian of his class and an athlete

Hector Berube, winner of Dracut’s Joseph Bradley Varnum Award, at his home on Monday afternoon. Berube was valedictorian of his class and an athlete at Dracut High School just before entering the Navy and serving in the Pacific in World War II after Pearl Harbor was bombed. SUN/JOHN LOVE

DRACUT — When Hector Berube appears before the Board of Selectmen on March 22 to receive the Joseph Bradley Varnum Award, it will be the first time he’s set foot inside Town Hall — any town hall — since he retired in 1986.

But for the 40 years Berube served as assessor, town clerk and tax collector, Dracut’s business was his business. He was there when Town Meeting voted to approve Dracut’s first stoplight — at Lakeview Avenue and Pleasant Street. He was the first town employee to use a computer.

His house was a satellite office where his spare time was unpaid overtime. His children sat on the floor and stuffed hundreds of tax bills into envelopes. He performed marriages there, and issued everything from dog to pistol licenses.

Berube in his Navy uniform.Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

Berube in his Navy uniform.

If someone couldn’t make the trip to his home or Town Hall, he went to them. If someone couldn’t pay their tax bill, he often paid it for them.It was, as he says, a different time. And it was all recorded in Hector Berube’s tight, black-ink scrawl.

“He was a quiet type of person,” said Don Morowski, who nominated Berube for the award. “He wasn’t flamboyant or anything. He never played the game of politics. He was a straight shooter.”

“When you look at the guy and what he did for the town, it was actually incredible. He was the perfect employee,” Morowski added.

Berube is now 93, although he rounds up to 94 for the sake of his life insurance actuary, and his doctor tells him he’ll live to be 114.

He was born in Dracut on July 29, 1922. At the Greenmont High School he lettered in football and baseball. He was class president three out of his four years and graduated as valedictorian.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Berube and a friend were walking back to Dracut from a movie in Lowell when they heard that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

He soon signed up for the Navy and was off to the South Pacific, where he participated in some of World War II’s most famous battles.

Hector Berube enjoys a visit at his Dracut home on Monday afternoon with his granddaughter Angelina Berube. SUN/JOHN LOVESun staff photos can be ordered by

Hector Berube enjoys a visit at his Dracut home on Monday afternoon with his granddaughter Angelina Berube. SUN/JOHN LOVE

He and his fellow sailors watched as five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raised an American flag over the island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945. It didn’t seem particularly important at the time.

“We didn’t even think about it. We just said, ‘Hey look, they’re doing something,'” Berube said.

At the time, he was more focused on the room-sized shells whistling overhead and the typhoons that rocked his small ship so violently that he tied himself to the depth-charge rack on the bow to keep from drowning in case it capsized.

After recuperating from an undisclosed injury at Chelsea Naval Hospital following the war, Berube returned to Dracut unsure of what to do next. One day he walked down the stairs to breakfast to find his father’s friend sitting at the table.

Hector Berube, far left, with his Navy shipmates in World War II in the Pacific. Watch video on this story at lowellsun.com. courtesy photoSun staff photos

Hector Berube, far left, with his Navy shipmates in World War II in the Pacific. Watch video on this story at lowellsun.com. courtesy photo

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

“He says to me, ‘Why don’t you go run for assessor of taxes.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘Oh, you’ll find out.'”

Berube went to the post office and bought 3,000 “penny” post cards for a total of $30 and mailed them out to voters. He still has a copy of his first campaign sign, and while it could not be independently confirmed, Berube claims to have pioneered the art of the campaign yard sign in Dracut.

He won, and for the next four decades he was Town Hall’s everyman. He visited nearly every property in town as assessor and at a time when there were no full-time police officers or firefighters, and the chiefs had to call in from payphones when they were out on a call, Berube served as the 911 dispatcher.

Hector Berube’s high School yearbook picture. courtesy photoSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

Hector Berube’s high School yearbook picture. courtesy photo

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

He sat through Town Meetings that lasted five entire Saturdays, and his nights and weekends were devoted to the minutiae that made Dracut tick.

In 1949, Berube was out at a dance with some friends when he first met his future wife Francisca. He asked her for a dance even though he had “two left feet” at the time.

The couple would go on to marry, have three children, and became trophy-winning ballroom dancers.

The walls of Berube’s Frances Street home are covered in artfully arranged pictures of his family — from his parents’ wedding portrait to photos of his grandchildren.

The house is also a treasure trove of Dracut history.

“You go to Dracut House of Pizza or Primo’s, and people say, ‘I used to pay my taxes at your house,'” said Angelina Berube, Hector’s granddaughter, who stays with him during the day before going to work at night. “You get a good history lesson every time you’re in the car going through Dracut.”

Berube kept scrapbooks in immaculate detail from his high-school years, down to a graph of his batting stats in each baseball game. In black, leather-bound books with broken bindings, Berube devoted the same attention to every transaction he oversaw in Dracut.

The Joseph Bradley Varnum Award is given each year to someone who embodies “civic and patriotic spirit … through their volunteerism to the Dracut community or demonstration of love of country through military service.”

When Morowski read that description, he couldn’t think of a more perfect fit.

Neither, perhaps, could Donat H. Paquet, who dedicated a special section to Berube in his 1982 book, “The Photographic History of Dracut, Massachusetts.”

Next to a picture of Berube at his desk in Town Hall, Paquet wrote the following words: “humble,” “dedicated,” “honest,” “quite the avid dancer,” “our friend … always.”

“The qualifications by his picture are whisperings from the people who work with and around him,” Paquet added. “I could read in their eyes the admiration they have for ‘Hector.’ Their total respect. Reverence.”

Follow Todd Feathers on Twitter and Tout @ToddFeathers.

Two questions to bind them all

Here is the wording of the questions as I believe they were approved at the 3/8 Board of Selectmen meeting:

Question 1:
Shall the Town of Dracut be allowed to assess an additional $560,000 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purpose of supplementing the Town operating budget to hire six police officers and three fire fighters for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.

Question 2:
Should the Town of Dracut be allowed to assess an additional $550,000 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purpose of funding for the Dracut Public Schools for technology upgrades which include installation of a wireless network, fiber optics, voice over internet communications and hardware for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.

Sun reports; Dracut board splits, OKs separate override

From the Lowell Sun:

Dracut board splits, OKs separate override questions

By Todd Feathers, [email protected]
DRACUT — There will be two separate override questions for the public-safety departments and the schools on the May 2 ballot.

The Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 Tuesday night in favor of the split, with Selectmen Tony Archinski and Tami Dristiliaris vehemently voicing their opposition. In the end, the decision hinged on the vote of Selectman Alison Hughes, who has been at the forefront of the budget debate since she chaired the Joint Budget Task Force and was the first elected official to publicly raise the question of an override to stem Dracut’s budget woes.

“I think we were elected to put things to the voters and give power to the people,” Hughes said before the votes were cast. “I don’t think it’s splitting, I don’t think it’s dividing … I want to give them all the information and have faith in the citizens of Dracut to make the right decision.”

Hughes said she would vote for both overrides.

In subsequent votes, the board also approved the language of those ballot questions.

One will ask voters to approve a $560,000 Proposition 2 1/2 tax override for the police and fire departments. If approved, it would pay for six additional police officers and two additional firefighters.

The second question will ask for $550,000 for the School Department. The money would initially be used to upgrade the schools’ internet infrastructure. A federal rebate for around $200,000 of those expenses would then allow the district to hire several more employees.

The School Committee and others had been pushing for months for the two questions to be combined into a single $1.1 million override that would pass or fail as one, in large part out of fear that voters would be confused by the separate questions or choose to approve one and not the other.

Dristiliaris characterized the two-question option as an effort to destroy any unity that had been built up between Dracut’s various governing bodies.

“We should not confuse the voters,” she said. “I think the reason some people — this is my belief — want two questions is because they think both will fail … we’re doing a disservice to our children to separate (the schools) from the town.”

Archinski agreed, saying that he would support whatever questions came out of the night’s vote but “the fact is we need more firefighters, more police officers, more teachers, more guidance counselors, and more technology and I don’t think the people should be made to choose.”

Schools Superintendent Steven Stone declined to comment on the vote after the meeting. School Committee Member Michael McNamara, who was also in attendance, also said that two questions were likely to confuse rather than unify residents.

Throughout the nine-month period of fact finding and budget deliberations that culminated in Tuesday night’s vote, Selectman Joseph DiRocco Jr. has warned his colleagues that nothing will change unless the town’s elected officials can win voters over to their cause.

As he reiterated that point prior to the vote, it appeared that several of the selectmen will be campaigning against each other over the override questions leading up to May 2.

DiRocco has previously stated his skepticism about an override for the schools and Selectman Cathy Richardson said she would not vote in favor of either override question because she did not want the tax increases to be permanent.

“To me, the debt exclusion would have been appropriate for the technology piece,” she said.

Tax increases implemented as part of a debt exclusion go away after a set number of years, while overrides create permanent tax and revenue increases.

“Personally I won’t vote for an override because I think it’s bad municipal practice,” Richardson said, adding that she didn’t want residents to think that by passing an override they had fixed the town’s budget problems for good.

Regardless of how the selectmen advocate over the next 55 days, town and school administrators plan to stage a public-education campaign to win voters over for both overrides.

“I see my role, whether it was going to be one or two questions, as going out and educating the community,” Town Manager Jim Duggan said. “We’re going to be going to as many venues as possible.”

Follow Todd Feathers on Twitter and Tout @ToddFeathers.



Dracut History: Boston Post Cane found

Its a fascinating story, that I will do some more to get the complete story later.

During tonight’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen, Cathy Richardson was in the process of recommending that the town commission a replica of the orignal Bost Post Cane that had been given to the town long ago by the publisher of the Boston Post newspaper.

Originally, the cane was to remain in the possession of the oldest citizen of the town, and was lost many decades ago.

Chairman Tony Archinski surprised her by announcing that the original cane had been located, and that it has been in the possession of family of Housing Commissioner Russ Taylor for over 60 years, and he still has it!

I’m hoping to contact him again later this week and get the entire story, but he has sent us a photo of the cane for now.

What a great find for Dracut, that I hope we can turn back into a new tradition to honor the seniors of our town.


EPA Stormwater management regulations

In an article in the Lowell Sun this morning regarding Chelmsford’s town budget, I noticed this item near the end:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will also soon release revised stormwater management regulations that may cost the community hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with, Cohen said. He said that cost will likely be passed on to residents through increased sewer fees.

I remember asking about this in the past regarding Dracut, and was just told that something is coming.

Did the Budget Task Force cover this issue?


Methuen Mayor Zanni vetoes Wheeler Rd Trucking ban

In the letter, attorney Richard J. Yurko, of Boston-based Yurko, Salvesen & Remz, also claimed that the council approving the ordinance would mean the city violated a 2009 agreement with Brox that helped paved the way for improvements to Wheeler Street and for the Toll Brothers construction of the Regency, thus giving Brox the right to sue.

The Mayor of Methuen has vetoed a heavy trucking ban being proposed by the city council.

It looks like years ago Brox Industries made an agreement with Methuen giving them some land along the town border in trade for the right to use the road.

Over the years, a 55+ community was put on Wheeler Rd on the Methuen side, and now those residents are complaining about trucks along the road.

The Mayor agrees that there seems to be no safety issue, so wants to avoid a legal battle with Brox.

One of the Dracut residents near Wheeler Rd had just been before the Board of Selectmen, where Town Manager Duggan said that the town was watching the situation and would get involved if necessary to protect the rights of the town.

Methuen Mayor vetoes trucking ban – Eagle Tribune

Annual Cabaret Fundraiser

From the New Greeley Singers:

The New Greeley Singers

present their


2oth Anniversary Annual Cabaret Fundraiser

Saturday March 19, 2016, 7 PM

Sherburne Hall, 6 Village Green, Pelham, NH 03076

There will be something for everyone: many wonderful songs, old favorites and new, show tunes, lullabies to opera, will fill the air at the New Greeley Singers’ 20th Anniversary Annual Cabaret Fundraiser Saturday, March 19, 2016. The popular community chorus, based in Pelham, directed by Michael Green and accompanied by Elizabeth Tousignant, performs two traditional concerts annually but the Cabaret is not only its major fundraiser but also gives individual members a chance to show their talent. Also, it’s a lot of fun for everyone! The Cabaret is being held at Sherburne Hall, 6 Village Green, off Marsh Rd. in the center of Pelham, NH, and starts at 7 PM, but doors open at 6:15 PM. The audience will be seated at tables while being entertained, cabaret-style, by chorus members, soloists, and guest performers. For sale will be light refreshments, desserts, beverages, and tickets for a wide variety of great raffle items. Cabaret tickets are $15 for adults, and may be purchased either at the door or beforehand, but seating is limited so advance tickets are recommended. Send a check or money order to The New Greeley Singers, PO Box 99, Pelham, NH 03076. For more information call Helen at (978) 453-9982 or email [email protected]. Previous New Greeley Cabarets have been sellouts. Don’t miss this opportunity to support a talented local singing group while enjoying an evening of great musical entertainment!

Sunday Column: School minutes and Richardson Votes

From the Lowell Sun Political Column this morning, we see the question “why is it taking so long to get these minutes out?”  They also point out that Richardson still can get votes, as she did this week for the Republican Town Committee:

THE DRACUT School Committee raised the salaries of Superintendent Steven Stone and other top administrators in executive sessions on Nov. 9 and Oct. 26. Chairwoman Betsy Murphy later realized the votes should have been held in an open meeting and quickly rectified the matter.

As long ago as Dec. 14, committee member

Matthew Sheehan suggested members approve the minutes and release them. It hasn’t happened yet. The documents are still apparently waiting for review from the School Committee’s labor counsel, Joan Stein.

Members said last week they will raise the issue at Monday’s meeting and that there is nothing in the minutes that should not be released to the public now that the administrators’ contracts are settled.

The raises have become a political hot potato as the town’s elected officials try to convince voters that a Proposition 2 1/2 tax override is necessary for the public-safety departments and schools to function adequately.

We’ll note this: During the labor contract negotiations with the Dracut Teachers Association last year, the School Committee met 10 times in executive session and routinely approved minutes at the next regular meeting.


can still attract votes. Sure, it was in the slightly less glamorous race for Republican Town Committee but Richardson topped the ticket with 1,885 votes.

Former School Committee member Michael Blatus was the top vote-getter for Democratic Town Committee with 2,507 circles filled in his favor. And in a victory for the entire town, after last year’s abysmal turnout for the local elections, 9,700 Dracutians did their civic duty and voted.