Newton has more than enough legendary locals to fill volumes of books. Endless are the stories about men, women, and young people who dedicated, or still dedicate, countless hours of their lives in order to make Newton and the world a better place. Newton has been a launching ground for award-winning authors, Nobel Prize winners, Olympic medalists, and Hollywood stars. Some of Boston’s best athletes have chosen to make “the Garden City” their home. In the pages of this book, readers will learn about Newton’s first mayor, James Hyde, who never lost an election in more than 50 times on the ballot; Rev. Edmond Kelley, the first pastor at Myrtle Baptist Church and a former slave; Leonard Zakim, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League who dedicated his life to fighting prejudice and civil rights violations; Louise Bruyn, who walked from Newton to Washington, DC, to protest the Vietnam War; Shirley Lewis, known as the “regal queen of the blues”; and Ted Williams, regarded as baseball’s greatest hitter, who lived in Newton Upper Falls.
The story of Bristol is the story of America, played out on the small stage of a lobster claw–shaped peninsula at the heart of Narragansett Bay. From the massacre and displacement of the first Americans to the rise of the merchant class; exploration; slavery; war and peace; the Industrial Revolution; waves of immigration—all these wildly disparate facets of the American experience have been represented and reflected within these 20 square miles. Bristol has been home to patriots and pirates; ministers and murderers; captains who dominated at the helms of whalers, battleships, and 12-meter sailboats; larger-than-life industrialists; Hollywood and Broadway royalty; artists, writers, musicians, and culinary visionaries. But the bulk of the threads in Bristol’s remarkable tapestry are not bold-colored silk, bright metallic, or rich cashmere—most are simple and natural, unremarkably structured and hued, but each one quietly doing its part to form the strong, tightly-woven foundation of this very special place.
The land now called Concord was originally inhabited by the Abenaki people and the Penacook tribe. Concord’s first settlers, such as Ebenezer Eastman, began laying out the Plantation of Penacook, as it was known in 1725, along the fertile fields of the Merrimack River. It was incorporated in 1734 as Rumford and then renamed to Concord by Gov. Benning Wentworth in 1765. Concord experienced a surge in transportation and manufacturing in the 19th century, producing the Concord Coaches, Prescott Pianos, and steam boilers. As Concord celebrates its 250th anniversary, the city flourishes as the state capital and has a thriving community of restaurants, entertainment, and culture for all to enjoy. It retains its town sensibility as it plans for the continued growth of the local economy. Today’s civic leaders, like Byron Champlin and James Carroll, work conjointly with business leaders, such as Tom Arnold of Arnie’s and Juliana Eades of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, to build and enhance Concord’s cultural, social, and economic identity.
For its first 75 years, Brookline was a bucolic area of Boston, with rolling hills and low-lying salt marshes. Named “Muddy River” by its residents after a shallow tidal estuary bordering Roxbury, Brookline had no more than 50 families inhabiting it when it was incorporated as an independent town on November 13, 1705. Long regarded as a liberal, progressive community, Brookline is a model of how an effective town government can positively impact the life of its citizens. Brookline boasts numerous Nobel Prize winners—doctors, scientists, and researchers who have made enormous strides in their fields. Brookline shares Boston’s strong literary tradition, with residents like poet Amy Lowell and mystery writer Dennis Lehane. Brookline’s pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, with many residents who eschew cars and shop locally, attracts many small-business owners such as Dana Brigham and Seth Barrett. Brookline has been home to a number of sports luminaries like Larry Bird, Terry Francona, and Robert Kraft. Famous politicians include the 35th president, John F. Kennedy, who was born in Brookline; former governor Michael Dukakis; and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Legendary Locals of Brookline tells their stories, as well as the stories of some of the lesser-known heroes and humanitarians who make Brookline a great place to call home.
From presidents and patriots, to locals engaged in service both heartwarming and heartbreaking, Quincy has been a place where names endure. On Adams Street, a stately mansion evokes the nation’s second president and his storied kin, while the nearby Bernazzani Elementary School recalls a beloved educator who died after suffering a medical episode during a school committee meeting. In addition to two presidents and John Hancock, Quincy also birthed Dunkin’ Donuts and Howard Johnson’s, Hollywood stars Ruth Gordon and Bill Dana, punk rock legends the Dropkick Murphys, and a host of prominent industrialists who made quarrying and shipbuilding Quincy’s national calling cards. Less renowned but equally ingrained are the city’s local characters. Memories of Mike “The Winger” Zadrozny launching vinyl records like Frisbees around the city still elicit nostalgia. Generations who played Little League in the Koch Club recall Richard Koch’s commitment to community. The homeless honor Fr. William McCarthy, who founded the shelter Father Bill’s Place and personified charity. These legendary names—individuals both towering and humble—made Quincy a uniquely American city and kept it that way.
From its start as a farming community, Pelham has been a place for dreamers and visionaries. It has been home to NASA astronaut Richard Linnehan and current NASCAR host Meghan Lamontagne, who made her television debut winning America’s Funniest Home Videos. Pelham has many other residents who may not have reached for the stars but instead focused on making a great community. Harry Atwood ran Atwood’s Store, which housed the post office until 1965. Aunt Molly served as librarian at the Pelham Public Library for more than 55 years. The Harris family’s Pelham Inn has always welcomed visitors from all over the region. Originally a parade group, the Starlighters Drum & Bugle Corps was soon participating in world open competitions. Twins John and Charles Steck buzzed above the town from their plane but also performed search and rescue missions. Longtime resident Eleanor Burton remembers all her students, served on every committee, and still actively volunteers. These legendary locals are people who, in their own comical or poignant way, have shared their vision to create our community.
Legendary Locals of Wallingford is about fabric—the fabric of community that is made up of an amazing variety of threads, yarns, and whole panels of every color, design, and origin. These represent the people of the community. Wallingford’s story goes back over 350 years and encompasses an enormous range of people with every kind of motivation for being part of this town. The people of this community love where they live and give back to the townspeople who have supported their businesses, educated their children, and protected them in so many ways. Wallingford has produced a number of people of celebrity, including Morton Downey, the famous singer and songwriter of the 1920s and 1930s, and also his son Morton Downey Jr., who earned a name for himself in the TV talk show world; Beverly Donofrio authored Riding in Cars With Boys; Maureen Moore acts on Broadway; sculptor Robert Gober recently completed a major show at MOMA in New York; and Maj. Raoul Lufbery was a renowned World War I Flying Ace. These and more are celebrated here.
Established in 1669 as a small farming village on the banks of the Merrimack River, Dracut’s early settlers made their mark during the American Revolution. From French nobleman Louis Ansart, who became an American citizen and settled in the area, to Dracut’s own Joseph Bradley Varnum, the town played a pivotal role in the founding of the nation. More recently, Dracut continues to be the home of modern-day patriots such as Michael Monahan, who left college to serve in the Vietnam War, and Capt. John Ogonowski, who gave his life on September 11, 2001. Dracut has been home to numerous other local legends—Dr. Christos Daoulas was the longest-serving Massachusetts school superintendent, and Dennis Piendak oversaw incredible growth and expansion during his 28 years as town manager. Dracut was also home to the indomitable Polly Urquhart, whose name now graces the corner where her store once stood; Rev. Larry Zimmerman, the pastor of the Old Yellow Meeting House for 33 years; and Edmund Murphy, the dean of Massachusetts high school football coaches. These are a few of the many amazing people who came from a town that was once known as simply “the wildernesse north of the Merrimac.”
New Britain began in 1754 as an ecclesiastical society and farming village, and with few natural resources, was transformed into a modern industrial city by the time of its incorporation in 1871. Attracting waves of immigrant workers and entrepreneurs, this became a diverse but unified community in which people of all ethnicities worked together, served together in times of war, and even played together on the baseball fields. Legendary Locals of New Britain includes remarkable residents among the early inhabitants and settlers; the people and institutions that brought New Britain to cityhood; artists and entertainers; famous or leading immigrants; sports legends; and men and women who have otherwise made their mark on New Britain, the nation, or the world.
Although the town benefits from a position on a major navigable waterway, Middletown’s success is primarily due to the energy, creativity, and diversity of its people. These include James Riley, whose autobiography detailing his trials as a white slave in Northern Africa showed millions of Americans the evils of slavery; Max Corvo, who helped the World War II Italian underground defeat the fascist regime; and Christie Ellen McLeod, longtime chief pathologist at Middlesex Memorial Hospital. Middletown can boast of athletes such as Helen “Babe” Carlson, a tremendously strong competitor who participated on men’s baseball teams; Willie Pep, who, while going for the world featherweight title, had a record of 134 wins and only one loss; and Corny Thompson, who sparked the University of Connecticut basketball program’s rise to national prominence. More notables include Allie Wrubel, a prolific songwriter and Academy Award winner for his song “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah;” Vivian McRae Wesley, a teacher, reading director, and leader of Middletown’s African American community; and Francesco Lentini, who was born with three legs and appeared in every major circus and carnival.