Ulla Lund Turns 105 years old.

 

Lexington resident Ulla Lund recently turned 105 years old. Lund, who has lived for decades on Farmcrest Road in Lexington, is loved and admired by generations of friends and neighbors. Each year, family, friends and neighbors celebrate Ulla’s birthday in the neighborhood by getting together to present her a cake.

 

With 105 candles, someone should have alerted the Lexington Fire Department.

Happy birthday to you Ulla. You clearly bring lots of joy into so many lives.

 

 

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Making Art & Making a Living

Nina and Kerry Brandin

By Laurie Atwater  |  It’s a bright day at the Lexington Farmer’s Market. I’ve just come off the highway—five hours from northern Maine to Lexington and I remember that I want to make a stop at the Farmer’s market to see Nina Brandin’s jewelry. I know that she is there because supportive mom, Kerry Brandin has sent an email letting friends know. Love that!

The Lexington Farmer’s Market features an eclectic mix of food artisans, farmers and craftspeople. Nina’s corner is populated with fellow craftspeople hoping to catch the eye of a buyer or two. As I make my way over, I am reminded of how tough it can be tough to make a living as an artist or artisan, but that it’s possible, too if you have talent, the right temperament, resilience and a capacity for risk-taking—not to mention luck, perseverance and a couple of supportive parents!

Hearing Nina’s story, it is clear that her parents, Kerry and Jan Brandin had a lot to do with her success. From an early age, Kerry took Nina with her to craft shows around the area exposing her to the beauty of handcrafted work and the dazzle of pretty beads and shiny metals! “At bead shows she would appease me by saying, ‘if you’re really good, I’ll buy you a couple of beads,’” Nina recalls. “All day I’d be planning which beads I wanted!”

When Nina was in middle school her mom signed her up for a silversmithing class at Minuteman Tech. “It was an after school program and we made a knot ring,” she recalls. After that there were classes at the Munroe School for the Arts and the Lexington Arts and Crafts Society where she studied with award-winning jewelry designer and metalsmith Munya Upin.

“From a very early age Nina was just good at working with her hands,” her mother Kerry says. She even loved woodworking!” Indeed, Nina remembers “Wood with Mr. Wood” at Clarke Middle School!

Her other great love is music. “I started playing bass [upright bass] in fourth grade through the Lexington Public Schools,” Nina says. Nina took private lessons, but the experiences that really nurtured her love of music came from playing at Lexington High School with Jeff Leonard. “I was a busy kid at Lexington High School,” she recalls with laughter. “I played in all of the groups—jazz combo, orchestra, honors orchestra—I even played in the pit orchestra for the plays and a couple of times I did pep band for football games!” Nina remembers going to Europe with the jazz ensemble, performing at the Berkeley School of Music and competing in the Winton Marsalis/Duke Ellington competition at Lincoln Center! She has a vivid recollection of a workshop at LHS with bass virtuoso Christian McBride and Joshua Redman. “The training I got in Lexington has really given me the opportunity to teach and give back,” Nina says, “because the education was so great.”

Nina, who now lives in Boulder, Colorado, performs with the Broomfield Symphony in her free time. She is section-leader on acoustic bass and is serving a third season on their Board. She also takes every opportunity to play jazz and big band music.

Another love of hers with a Lexington connection is her passion for photography. According to Nina, she is very seldom without a camera. “I loved photography with Mr. Z [Jack Zichitella] she says, “I love taking pictures and I learned how to do it with him! I learned about composition and spatial awareness going from 3-D to 2-D—and about angles and light. It sort of shaped my sense of jewelry design in a way,” she reflects.

Nina’s unique sand dollar necklace embellished with multi-colored beads.

What taught her the nuts and bolts jewelry making was her time at the North Bennett Street School (NBSS) in the North End. After a couple of years in mechanical engineering at UMass Amherst, Nina decided that it wasn’t for her. She took some time off to reflect, went to Maine for a season to teach snowboarding (a skill she acquired through the Nashoba Valley after school program at LHS) and was ready to come back to Boston when her mom directed her to the program at NBSS. It was instantly attractive to Nina. “It’s a fifteen month bench jewelry program,” she explains. “Every day you are working hands-on and solving problems. Mistakes are not allowed—you fix your mistakes along the way,” she laughs. The strength of the program is that it gave her technical mastery first and foremost. Mom Kerry Brandin saw it as the perfect program for her daughter. The curriculum combined Nina’s mechanical ability with her aesthetic side and allowed

Custom Wedding bands and engagement ring.

her to be hands-on. “Most jewelry designers come from an art school background,” Kerry says. “They have to learn the technical skills later. Nina has the skills to make anything she designs.” Her mastery has allowed her to be a virtuoso jewelry designer making everything by hand. “I make my own clasps and some of my own chains and ear wires,” she says. “Everything is made by hand—I’m not casting or reproducing anything. Each piece is an original—made from scratch,” Nina says.

Recently Nina has designed a unique safety clasp that she makes from scratch. “It’s basically a hook,” she says, “but then I make a ball that’s flattened on the end so the hook has to fit exactly into the slot and it can’t just jiggle out.” It’s a great marriage of her mechanical engineering skills and her artistry! “I just have a knack for making things fit together,” she laughs.

Speaking of marriage and fit, Nina loves to make custom engagement rings. “I’ll sit down with a customer and hear their story—how they met, where they’re from, what they love to do together and what they are looking for in a piece of jewelry,” she says. “Then I find a way to relate their story subtly to the custom piece that I build.”

Recently she has been creating “stackers,” rings that can be combined in many different ways to tell a unique story. The stackers are popular she says because they aren’t as expensive and you can collect them over time. “People just love the rings.”

Stacking rings in gold and precious stones.

Struggling artists, take heart! Making art and making a living are often incompatible, but Nina has found a way to make it work. She sells direct through her website (www.ninasjewelry.com) and at craft fairs and art shows. “I sell direct because it’s less expensive for the customer than selling through a gallery.” Her customers love her pieces because they are American made and they are finely made.Back at the Lexington Farmer’s Market Nina sells a beautiful band in oxidized silver to Valerie Richkin of Lexington who was looking for a unique gift for her husband. If you have missed Nina at the Farmer’s Market, you can check her out online or next month at the 300th celebration.

Although she loves her life in Boulder for its slower pace, great weather and snowboarding, she never forgets Lexington and appreciates the incredible start that she got here. “It’s pretty amazing the opportunities and experiences I had in Lexington,” she says. “I was crazy-lucky!”

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Marge Battin~Trail Blazer

Marge Battin

By Jeri Zeder  |  Racine, Wisconsin, 1943. Margery Milne was a high school student with a summer job working in a tank factory that was in the throes of a labor dispute—of sorts. The local chapter of the United Auto Workers didn’t want to admit into its ranks students who were there just for the summer. But the national UAW was entitled to a percentage of local dues, so this didn’t sit well with union higher-ups. Walter Reuther, the famed UAW president, told the local to admit the kids or he’d call a strike. During war time! The local caved, and Marge joined the union. She was then elected vice president of the plant safety committee. At age sixteen.And that ought to be the punch line—but there’s more. Turns out, Cecil Paton Milne, Marge’s father, headed the company that made the tanks. And the leader of the local at the time, Stephen F. Olsen, later became Marge’s sounding board when she was Selectman in Lexington and he was the mayor of Racine.

Marge Milne Battin was born March 25, 1927, in Toronto, Canada, the oldest of three children of Milne, a businessman, and Mildred Conboy Milne (née Smith), a high school Latin teacher and homemaker. The family moved to Paris, returned to Toronto when Marge was five, and then relocated to Racine, Wisconsin, when Marge was in junior high school. In 1944, she came to New England to study at Wellesley College. There, inspired by her experiences with the UAW, Marge majored in Economics with a focus on labor. “I was going to be a labor organizer,” Marge says now. But she didn’t count on meeting Richard H. Battin.

“He’d seen my picture in the Wellesley portrait directory, which was ostensibly for the girls to get to know each other, but it always ended up at Harvard and MIT,” Marge says. “And he saw my picture and said, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry.’” Marge rebuffed his attempts to meet her. So one Sunday afternoon, Dick made his way over to Wellesley from

MIT and knocked on the door of her dorm. The girl who answered went off to find Marge. “She said, ‘He seems sort of nice, why don’t you come down and talk to him,’” Marge recalls. “So I came, and the rest is history.”

A young Margery Milne (front row center) at Webb Hall, Wellesley College, where she
majored in Economics. Photo courtesy of the Battin family.

A young Margery Milne.
Photo courtesy of the Battin family.

Like so many other young college men during World War II, Dick was in the V-12 Navy College Training Program. He graduated in 1945, and the couple married in 1947. Marge graduated with a B.A. in Economics the following year. Dick pursued a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics at MIT. Marge set aside her dream of organizing migrant workers. “There was no place to labor-organize, nor was there a migrant worker in sight,” she explains. She briefly considered Harvard Business School. “They would hire me to write the cases. They would hire me to grade the papers. But they were not admitting women to Harvard Business School,” she says. She went to work for an investment firm, and when she became a mother, stayed home with their three children Tom, Pam and Jeff.

Marge and Dick moved to 15 Paul Revere Road in Lexington in 1953, where they remained for nearly 60 years. Early on, Marge dove head first into community affairs: she served as Den mother, Brownie leader, Sunday School teacher, METCO host parent, PTA board member, and Vice President of the Lexington League of Women Voters. She was on the board of directors of RePlace, a youth counseling service; the Lexington Visiting Nurse Association; and the Lexington Interfaith Corporation, a sponsor of low and moderate income housing. She helped organize Citizens for Lexington Public Schools and Citizens for Lexington Youth.

Dick, meanwhile, went to work for the MIT Instrumentation Lab, where he participated in planning a Mars probe. Guidance control became his specialty. For the Apollo 11 mission, which put the first man on the moon, Dick organized and led the staff who created the software that would navigate the astronauts through space. Marge says, “He really was in charge of getting them there and landing precisely within inches of where he had aimed them. Which is interesting, because the kids laugh hysterically: Dick and I have almost no sense of direction at all! I remember we were going to the movies with the kids and Dick got lost. The kids said, ‘Thank God the astronauts can’t see you now!’” After helping to achieve President Kennedy’s goal of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” Dick, with Marge, traveled to the Soviet Union as guests of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

When young Dick Battin saw a picture of Margery Milne in the Wellesley “portrait directory” he said, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” Above, Marge and Dick on their wedding day. Photo courtesy of the Battin family.

It was Dick who got involved with local politics first. The neighborhood’s septic tanks were backing up; it was time to petition the town to hook the homes into the municipal sewer system. A neighbor who was a Town Meeting Member advised Dick to run for Town Meeting. “Dick grew up in Baltimore; I grew up in the Middle West, and municipal government was something you never paid any attention to, unless it was corrupt or something,” Marge says. “We didn’t even know what Town Meeting was about.” Dick also served as vice-chair of the Appropriation Committee. “When he came home, he’d be talking about it, and I started getting kind of excited. It was a lot better than talking about diapers and small children,” Marge says. Seeing her enthusiasm, Dick encouraged her to run. “I had never really thought about it; there were just a few women [in Town Meeting],” she says. But as an active member of Lexington’s League of Women Voters, Marge had become knowledgeable about town affairs. So run she did, and started serving in 1960. “I’m lucky. I found what I liked to do and was good at, and I just loved it,” she says. All told, Marge served Town Meeting for 49 years, just four years shy of Dick’s record-setting 53 years of continuous service to Town Meeting.

Lexington’s present form of government is the direct outgrowth of Marge’s hard work and leadership. She co-chaired the initial committee of the Town Meeting Member Association that looked at the structure of Lexington’s local government, and when Town Meeting decided to address the issue more formally, she chaired that committee, too. The resulting plan passed Town Meeting and was ratified by the voters. “We were the only town that when we took it to the voters, it went through the first time,” she says. The State Legislature approved the Lexington Selectmen/Town Manager Act in 1969.

At issue in the development of the Act was how to modernize the structure of the government of a town that was expanding services to accommodate its growing population and needed to be more nimble and sophisticated in addressing the resulting operational complexity. It was time to leave behind the old government structure that had citizens engaged in administrative, rather than policy, issues; that lacked well-defined areas of responsibility and therefore permitted too many items to fall through the cracks; and was too often inefficient and ineffective. Under the Lexington Selectmen/Town Manager Act of 1969, the Board of Selectmen became a policy-making body, with administrative duties centralized under the direction of a full-time, professional Town Manager. Over forty years later, Lexington still operates, and quite successfully, under this form of government.

Marge then ran for Selectman, a position she wanted in part to ensure that Lexington’s new government structure would operate as intended, and served from 1974-1986, including two stints as Board chair. She became the first women elected president of the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association (MSA) and was the first woman president of the Middlesex County Selectmen’s Association. When she later became president of the Massachusetts Moderators Association (MMA), Marge attained the distinction of being the only person in Massachusetts history to be president of both the MMA and the MSA.And speaking of firsts: In 1987, Marge began her 22-year tenure as the first woman elected Town Moderator of Lexington. Anyone who ever saw her preside over Town Meeting will remember her professionalism, her exceptional command of rules and procedure, and her deft ability to keep 200 rugged individualists on time and on task. Marge credits the League of Women Voters and the Town Meeting Members Association with shaping how she operated as Moderator. One notable highlight: the time she had to convene a Town Meeting that no one could attend due to inclement weather. The Department of Public Works sent a heavy-duty vehicle to her house and whisked her off to Cary Hall so she, the Town Clerk, and then-Town counsel Norman Cohen could convene and adjourn the meeting and properly preserve it for another day.

Marge (center) with Bebe and Gary Fallick and Norman and Linda Cohen at one of the many Lexington events she attended and supported.

To list the number of organizations, advisory committees, and human services groups that Marge has served would fill more pages than this magazine can handle. She loves that local government is a place for citizens of all backgrounds to mix it up for the greater good, and she views those she works with, regardless of age or walks of life, as friends and colleagues. She sees the conduct of local officials and representatives—the way they can vehemently disagree with each other year after year and yet continue to respect each other—as a model that ought to be emulated on the national level. She is a fierce believer in the importance of municipal government, and maintains that it does not get the respect it deserves. “Neither the national nor the state level realize that we’re the ones that operate all their programs. They get operated where we are and we see what they’ve done, what works, what doesn’t work, and to ignore us, they do so at their peril, but they do. And they have no idea when they make cuts to local aid what they do to us. We can give them important feedback on what works and what doesn’t work, but they never looked at us as partners,” she says. She cites former Governor Michael Dukakis, State Representative Jay Kaufman, and State Senator Susan Fargo as rare and refreshing exceptions.

 

Marge with her husband Dick

At age 85, in a time of widespread cynicism toward government, Marge remains passionately idealistic about public service. “It is at the local level,” Marge reminds us, “where needs occur and services are delivered. You can immediately see the results of what government does or doesn’t do. You can see what works and what doesn’t work. You can then personally engage colleagues in local problem-solving.” Hers is an idealism based in actual experience, in the demonstrable difference she and her compatriots have made in this community.

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping the Library’s Lights On

Marge Battin is a staunch supporter of Lexington’s Cary Memorial Library, a cause that she traces back to events from her childhood. When her family returned from Paris and resumed living in Toronto, Marge was just five years old and a fluent French speaker. The other children teased her relentlessly for it. “I sort of withdrew and the school had a library,” she says. “That was my refuge and I escaped to another time and place.” Her love for libraries was reinforced by her family’s weekly ritual library visits. Eventually, Marge grew into a fast and voracious reader capable of devouring five books in a single day.

As Selectman, Marge was a member of the Library Board of Trustees. From 1998 to 2007, she served as a founding member of the Cary Memorial Library Foundation. As part of the massive fundraising effort for the Library’s recent renovation, Marge and a colleague were sent off to visit some prospective donors with instructions to ask for a donation amounting to a six-figure sum. “My voice was quavering, my hands were shaking,” Marge recalls. “I thought they were going to throw us out on our ear. But they said, ‘That’s what we were thinking about.’ And we got it! I went home and called my daughter and said, ‘I asked someone for [a six figure donation], and they gave it to us!’”

Marge remains committed to the Library as a volunteer to the Foundation, as an annual donor, and, because she has provided for the Library in her estate plans, as a member of the Maria Hastings Cary Legacy Society. With her town government hat on, Marge says, “The last light that should go off, if it has to go off, is the Library. I just think it’s absolutely crucial. And I think that’s much the feeling of just about everyone in Lexington.”

 

 

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Choices Including A Decision On What Is Essential

Hank at Camp.

Choices Including A Decision On What Is Essential

The weather was warm, the grass, as always, was a bit brown, but the garden was in good shape except for the squash which died from some sort of fungus. The outside repairs except for two more porch-related projects were done, and the apple trees were coming along nicely with no broken branches now that I had learned to make supports for the heavily laden ones. So now it was time to go to camp. Yes, after all these years, I still go to camp and Boy Scout camp at that.

Camp is really a time for stripping away the unnecessary. Some background might help you understand why that might be so.

Our first week is spent at a primitive camp. Tents and cots, but not much else in the way of amenities.

What to wear is never an issue. No matter what day it is I will be wearing a red T-shirt and shorts. If I run out of shirts, then I will go swimming with one and when it dries, I will have a clean T-shirt to wear the next day. And if it doesn’t get washed, I won’t worry overmuch about it. Fashion at camp is whatever is comfortable, handy, and reasonably clean with the third being pretty far down the decision tree.

If it gets cold, I will slip on my old fleece and my nylon track pants. There will be no choice of which ones because I only bring one of each. When you have to carry everything half a mile to your campsite, you tend to take only what is necessary. The fleece is showing its age with many patches, but warm and light together trump any fashion sense I might have.

There is no electricity so you tend to get up at daybreak and go to bed at a decent hour. But without electricity how do you charge your cell phone and iPad? You don’t have to because you left them at home. We have a strict no-electronics rule, but there is little need for enforcement because there is no Internet and there are no bars on your cell phone. There is also no newspaper and mail is iffy at best. This column was written on paper with a pen. Whoa! Totally retro. But then I had to file it so I grabbed my pack and a hideout tablet, walked two miles one way to an Internet connection, typed in the story, and transmitted it before walking back. When you have to walk four miles to get your e-mail, you probably won’t.

There is more than just doing without some simple things. You also learn to make choices and not rely on shortcuts. For instance, if I walk to the waterfront for a swim and find that I have forgotten my towel, then I have a simple decision to make. I could walk back and get it, but it is a long walk and the hill is steep. Nobody drives and there is no phone service so I can’t take one of the usual shortcuts I might employ back home in Lexington. I will simply do without which means I will dry myself with my T-shirt before walking back to the campsite.

Snacking is hard. There is a camp store, but it is a long walk and it has short hours. Given a choice between a long walk or an afternoon nap, I will probably choose the nap. Last year I spent just $15 at the store in two weeks, most of it on ice cream cups, the rest on popcorn.

Watching mindless TV, or any TV for that matter, is out. A book would be a good thing to bring along. A real book rather than an electronic one. The funny thing is that there is so much to do that there is not a lot of leisure time.

Every day is grilling day because we cook all our own food over outdoor stoves. Here, too, there are choices so you soon learn to balance food preparation and cleanup with the basic thought of minimizing both while still putting a good meal on the table.

I don’t have to drive out to some piece of conservation land for a walk. I have several thousand acres to enjoy and I am right in the middle of it. You walk everywhere so putting in five miles in a day is pretty standard and you get to know a lot of animals. For the past couple of years I have found that if I walk down the main road around 9 PM, I will come across a porcupine just sitting in the road. Maybe this is his version of camp.

One of the best parts of camp is that it gets dark. There are no streetlights. There are no electric lights at all except in the administration building which is far away, and in the showerhouse. The night noises remind you that there are other beings on the planet and in this place. The stars are awesome. Those new to camp tend to bring monster flashlights. I carry a single cell LED light which I use only when there is no moon and even then I use it only as a last resort. One has interesting experiences when trying to walk from the administration building to the campsite without a light on a dark night.

Of course there are the campfires. Skits which were old forty years ago, but which are still funny. Songs. Stories. The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew can only properly be recited around a campfire. “There are strange things done, in the midnight sun, by the men who moil for gold …”

Even the bugs are awesome. Often at night we will light a Coleman lantern which everybody shares for reading and games. Within a few minutes there will be an amazing assortment of winged critters attracted by that light. Bug zappers? Don’t be silly. In two weeks we will be gone and all that wildlife will still be here. It is really their place and we are just summer visitors so we try to tread lightly on the land.

I will arrive back in Lexington, probably in need of a bath, but I will be five pounds closer to my goal of getting back to 184 pounds, I will have taken at least 200 pictures to sort through and post, but then I will look at my overflowing voice and e-mail inboxes and I will realize once again how much time I spend doing things that are necessary, but which two weeks out of every 52 I get to ignore.

“Oh, gosh—I would have called you back, but there was no phone line available and no Internet connection” sounds so much better than “I just didn’t have the time (or desire) to return your call.”

But there is one bad thing about camp. When I come home it takes a long time to lose the feeling that while camp can be physically demanding, overall life there is a lot easier. I will be home in a few days where I will have to sort through 200+ e-mails, several dozen voicemails, and a pile of snail mail which is overflowing the table onto the floor.

I can’t wait until next year …

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Rotary Awards Record Number of Scholarships

The Rotary Club of Lexington awarded a record number of scholarships this year to deserving members of the Class of 2012 from from Lexington High School, Minuteman High School and Lexington Christian Academy. The club is proud to provide charitable support to the local community as part of its overall commitment to service. A total of $27,000 was awarded to these students pictured below who attended the awards luncheon at Waxy O’Conner’s.

With cost of college and other post-secondary programs escalating, scholarships help students to deal with the high cost of tuition, room and board, and ever-increasing fees. The Rotary Scholarships Program recognizes students’ leadership skills, academic achievement and commitment to community service. Lexington High School Recipients: Joseph Higgins, Leah Buckley, Michelle Batrio, Raymond Stebbins, Elaine Choi, Malik Alfred, Keaghan Adley, Danny Paul Godwin, Connor Zanin, Colleen Hughes, Lillian Hochman, Victoria Kendall, Alicia Russo, Ronald Beaulieu, Hannah Brown, Emme Hede Brierley, Isabella Brandao, Steve (Sung Kyung) Jung, Bronwen Stern. Lexington Christian Academy recipients: John Rosa, Jr., Allana Matthews, Sophie Damas, Kevin Klein, Sam Doran. Minuteman Regional High School recipients: Pierre Chanliau, Dylan Caples, Anna Parsons.

 

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A Personal Connection ~ Finding Time To Do Just A Few More Things

By Hank Manz  |

I am still recovering from a recent birthday.

Just about anybody even close to my age will tell you that birthdays become a love-hate sort of thing at this point and beyond. And when you hit those start/end-of-a-new-decade events—the ones where your current age ends in zero—one has to pause for a moment.

I have never advertised my birthday, but this is the age of instant media so of course there were all sorts of way people could figure it out.

Several people wrote on my Facebook Wall. Facebook is another one of those love-hate things with me. The fact that my Facebook avatar is a rat, albeit a cute rat, should give you some hint about my feelings on that score. Shortly after I set up my Facebook account, I realized that people I knew 30 years ago could now trade stories about me with people I met much more recently. That cannot be good in the long run.

On the plus side, the Internet has allowed me to re-connect with one of the three bright spots in an otherwise dim high school experience. Mrs. Blumberg, my junior year English teacher, is still teaching. Mrs. Blumberg introduced me to, among other things, Shakespeare, and she was the first to suggest that there was better poetry around than that scrawled on bathroom walls.

A couple of people, noting my age, felt I should do something special to mark the day. I took that advice.

The first thing I did was to cut what passes for a lawn at my house without being reminded and I trimmed the bushes which line the driveway, again with no reminder. And then I got rid of the moss and patched the bare spots before spreading some really nice wood chips from the Hartwell Ave. composting operation under the two apple trees in the front yard.

Then I cleaned up a bit so I could preside over my last meeting as the Chair of the Board of Selectmen. One last executive session and then Deb Mauger took over as the new Chair. I have become increasingly aware of just how much time is eaten up by the constant stream of things that seem small, but collectively add up to many hours a week. I know—this should not be news to many in a town where volunteerism is almost religion, but it helps to be reminded that nothing happens without the two key ingredients of time and work. I will simply say that after two years as the chair, I have a new appreciation for those who work at the many things which make Lexington the town it is.

I have gotten a jump on my mindless summer reading by checking out an e-book from Cary Library. In this Robert Parker mystery, the chair of the Board of Selectmen of a small Massachusetts town is involved in major criminal activity which includes murder, misuse of public money, and worst of all, intrusion on Conservation Land. With all of that she still has time for an affair with the Superintendent of Schools. Give me a break. The best way to make sure somebody has no extra time is to get them involved in some community work. Lex Farm. The Farmers Market. The Garden Club. The 300th Committee. The Community Center Task Force. The LHS Landscaping Committee. The Friends of Cary Library. Youth sports. Just about any committee including the one that was formed to figure out why we have so many committees interested in transportation. The list is pretty close to endless.

The really unbelievable part is that all of this activity in the Parker potboiler remains a secret for years. Fat chance, at least in Lexington. I once said that Good news travels at the speed of sound, but bad news travels at the speed of light. I thought it was original until I checked it out and found that there are several more well-known writers who have said much the same thing.

Mark Twain and Douglas Adams have both weighed in on the subject with quotes that are much cleverer than mine. But it was my son who said something which I saw as an incredible growth moment—If you don’t want people in Lexington to know you are doing something bad … then don’t do it.

Unfortunately, all too often the other side of that coin is not apparent to all. I mean sometimes we miss the many good things which are going on in Town. So as you walk around, take a moment to stop and talk to people. And don’t forget to talk to Town employees, many of whom live here and do a lot more than just their jobs. A few years ago when there was a water leak in my neighborhood, the DPW crew who responded let every kid on the block check out the backhoe they were using and then went up the street and bought out the lemonade stand two girls were running. Every time I pass that patch in the street I think of that day and my tax bill becomes a bit easier to look at.

Summer is fast approaching with concerts, the carnival, Blue Sox baseball, supper at a sidewalk table, and all the rest of it. There really is a lot to do in Lexington so this summer, with a bit more time on my hands, I am going to do some of them. But first I have to finish this column …

 

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Honoring our Fallen Heroes – Memorial Day 2012

Alma Hart remembering her son PFC John D. Hart who was killed in Iraq in 2003

Several hundred people gathered to watch as the annual Memorial Day Parade made its way from the Olde Burial Ground on to the Lexington Battle Green for the 2012 Memorial Day celebration in Lexington. The day’s events began with wreath laying ceremonies at the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial located at the Fire Department headquarters Lexington, and at the Westview Cemetery on Bedford Street. The parade participants gathered at the old School Administration Building (The White House) where they proceeded to the Munroe Cemetery for a reading of General Logan’s Orders which established Memorial Day, and the Gettysburg Address. The a visit to the grave of Thomas Cosgrove, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Civil War. The parade then proceeded to the Hodgdon Memorial at the Lexington Police Department and to the war memorial in front of Cary Hall. Wreaths were placed at both memorials. The group then marched down Massachusetts Avenue to the WWII Memorial located next to the Lexington Visitors Center where they placed wreaths there and at the memorial for the Minute Men who fought on the Lexington Green in the early morning hours of April 19th, 1775.

 

 

The parade then moved along to the Olde Burial Ground where the Minute Men paid tribute to Captain John Parker and placed a wreath at his grave.

Once gathered on the Lexington Green, the celebration was called to order by Suzie Barry, chair of the Lexington Town Celebrations Committee. Both the American Flag and the Vietnam/MIA flags were raised as those in attendance saluted or stood with hands over hearts. The most poignant moment came as Suzie introduced Alma Hart of Bedford. Alma spoke eloquently about her experience as a mother who has lost a son at war. her son, PFC. John D. Hart was killed in action on October 18, 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her comments were moving, and her courage and determination to celebrate her son’s sacrifice was nothing less than extraordinary.

 

Remarks by Alma Hart on the Lexington Green, Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Today we celebrate Memorial Day. We celebrate it! On this one day, we Americans set aside politics and commerce, and take time to reflect on all that was lost by the brave men and women who died in the service of our country.

Many of you standing here today are also remembering a friend or a loved one. Please, for just a moment, raise your hand and be recognized.

Often, in the early morning, lying in my bed, I become aware of a longing to see John again. As I awaken, I remember that he is dead. On those mornings, I stop to look at the photos from his childhood hanging in the hallway. Many mornings, I see my husband stop to look at those same photos.

Being here on Lexington Green brings back so many memories: like the first time we brought our towheaded tykes to see the Patriots Day Re-enactments. It was pouring rain and 40 degrees in the predawn gloom as we trudged here in our brand new raincoats and boots. As the sun came up the Minutemen took their positions while the Red Coats approached through the mist. I remember the drums, the shouting, the gunfire. As you know the fight only lasted a few minutes, but 5 year old John never forgot it.

Many times we have brought visiting family here and stopped to read the sign on Jonathan Harrington’s house. It says that mortally wounded that day, he crawled home and died at his wife’s feet. Imagine that. What would the Harringtons think if they could look around at us today and know that we remember him for a day when all seemed lost?

One year we brought John’s Cub Scout Den and watched them swarm a couple of Colonials who showed them how to load and fire the guns. My boy never out grew wanting to be a soldier. The events of 911 the year he graduated Bedford High only strengthened his resolve. Preparing for boot camp the summer of 2002, he ran along Battle Road once a week with his backpack loaded with books for weight. We were so proud of him. When the country called he answered like the militia on the Green.

October 18, 2003 John had just turned 20. He was the machine gunner in an unarmored Humvee at the rear of a three vehicle convoy ambushed on a lonely road at night. My fair haired, broad shouldered boy stood up and fired his weapon to defend his injured buddies. When he ran out of bullets he was shot in the neck at close range and killed.

Bedford also lost a marine in Iraq. Lance Corporal Travis Desiato was 19 November 15, 2004 when he kicked in a door in Fallujah and found himself outgunned by a group of fanatics who had built a bunker inside the building. His Marines fought several hours to recover him, and in the end to bring his body home.

It would be wrong to hide the costs of war. It has become too easy to send another man’s son to war. The courage to act is the final tribute to those who came before us and a lasting legacy for those who come after us.

In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the Sorbonne in Paris about Citizenship in a Republic. He said, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat. “

We buried our child as a young soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on a gentle slope of green lawn. Following the hearse into the cemetery I was moved by the visitors who stopped on the sidewalks to pay their respects. They stood there, holding their hands over their hearts watching the flag draped casket go by. Earlier that morning I had put a note in that casket promising John I would think of him every day. And I have.

Two years ago the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund began a new tradition. Last week hundreds of volunteers planted 33,000 flags on Boston Common to honor our Massachusetts Fallen from the Civil War to today. If you haven’t had a chance to see them in person, take a minute to look at the pictures. Breath taking and heartbreaking, each flag represents a life well lived and tragically cut short. I look at that field and remember the beauty of a child’s smile and a young man’s dreams.

Our flag flies over Lexington Green every day and it never sets. Whenever you see Old Glory waving in the breeze, remember the grit, determination and sacrifice of our forebears. Memorial Day is not about men and women who gave their lives willingly. No, they loved life with all its joys and challenges. They were willing to risk all, their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for a cause and an outcome yet uncertain. Some fell in the fight and some remained standing. On Memorial Day we celebrate the fallen: the Desiatos, the Harts, the Harringtons and all the others who dared greatly in military service to our country.

A poem by John Maxwell Edmonds in World War I became popular as an epitaph:

We died and never knew,

But, well or ill,

Freedom, we died for you

Went the day well?

Those who fall in war do not know how it ends. How it ends is up to us. I am honored to be asked to speak here today.

Thank you.

Alma Hart

 

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The Prank Heard ‘Round the World!

By Marilyn Rae Beyer  | 

Armored Forces Supplement Colonial Firepower at Rehearsal for Patriots Day 2012  |

Bill Mix and Tom Fortmann inflate the “tank.” Photo courtesy of Marilyn & Rick Beyer.

It was a covert operation employing a time-honored military tactic, the element of surprise. On the Lexington Green on Sunday, Lexington Militia Capt. Bill Mix gave orders to Lexington militia man Bruce Leader, and Andrew Coots of Gardner’s Charleston Militia to commandeer two inflatable rubber Sherman tanks in order to startle and befuddle His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot as a practice battle ensued on Lexington Green on Sunday – April 1st. Just as the King’s Troops Commander, Paul O’Shaughnessy blustered and bellowed for the rabble from Lexington to “Lay down your arms and disperse!” the unified local forces shouted a unison rejoinder, “Oh, yeah?”

Tom Fortmann, Rick Beyer, the two militiamen, plus late recruits in the persons of Rita & Mike Cramer, David Brossi and Michelle Berniere & sons Ben, Jeremy, Christian Berniere charged onto the Green bearing the faux armored vehicles, causing the staunch Redcoats to bust a gut and sending O’Shaughnessy into fits of laughter. Upon recovering his wits, the Redcoat leader barked, “Fix bayonets!” and ordered a unit to charge, threatening to poke holes in the balloon-like weaponry and thus taking the wind out of the brazen bearers of the buoyant battlefield prank tanks. Mix ordered a hasty retreat and the rehearsal proceeded in earnest, with the usual annual outcome at the expense of the Lexington Militia.

Battle Ready...Mix and Bruce Leader inspect the equipment. Photo courtesy of Marilyn & Rick Beyer.

Just about a month ago, after a committee including Fortmann and other Lexingtonians mounted a fund-raiser for local filmmaker Rick Beyer’s WWII documentary The Ghost Army, Fortmann had a bright idea. Goofy, yes, but bright, as is the wont of the MIT PhD engineer turned educator and former member of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Why not use the inflatable fake tanks from The Ghost Army event to put one over on the Redcoats during the April 1 re-enactment rehearsal? He called up the commander of the Lexington Minutemen, Mix, who portrays Captain John Parker on Patriots Day. The two cooked up the plan.

Redcoats charge, tanks retreat. Photo by Peter Lund.

About an hour before the practice battle, Fortmann and friends inflated the phony tanks and hauled them onto the lawn across the street from the Green. On cue, the crew hoisted the bright green dummies onto the field. Afterwards, the pranksters admitted that – even though the rubber tanks were filled with air – dragging them the 100 yards to the battle line was hard work. Fooling the Redcoats, however, was well worth it. Beyer noted, “The look on O’Shaughnessy’s face was priceless! I have no idea what he said, though, because he was laughing so hard.”

While the battle is a somber chapter of early American history, and, indeed, the yearly Patriots Day re-enactment honors that revered history, the early-April practice sessions frequently include such tomfoolery.

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Will Lexington Welcome the Inn at Hastings Park?

By Laurie Atwater  | 

Lexington Family Purchases the Former Dana Home and Proposes to Open a Traditional New England Inn  ~ 

Lexington has a long history of providing hospitality for visitors. Above, the Lexington House provided lodging, and acted as an important gathering place for community events. Below, a menu from the same establishment. Photo from the Lexington Historical Society archives, reproduced in Lexington Massachusetts, Treasures from the Historic Archives, by Dick Kollen.

 

Lexington has a long history of providing hospitality to visitors. In his volume Lexington Massachusetts, Treasures from the Historic Archives, Dick Kollen, Lexington historian and former Lexington High School teacher writes, “In the nineteenth century several large and successful hotels prospered near the center of town. The heyday of Lexington’s hotel era really began after the civil war, when the railroad’s full effect of affording easy access to Boston combined with increased urbanization. Large Hotels such as Massachusetts House and Russell House attracted travelers who liked to ‘summer’ in Lexington as well as those planning winter sleighing parties.”

The Lexington House (originally called Muzzey’s Hotel) was built by Benjamin Muzzey in 1847 where the CVS stands today. It took the place of the Monument House a smaller hotel owned by Muzzey just as the railroad (he was a big booster and a heavy investor in the railroad enterprise) came to town. Kollen writes that Lexington House was an important part of the community providing a venue for reunions, concerts and other community gatherings. It was an elegant building with “two extended wings, fronted by large porches.” The “Bill of Fare” at the Lexington House restaurant featured such delicacies as “Escalloped oysters, quail, duck and Italian cream.”

After this period, hotels in Lexington began to disappear until the Battle Green Inn remained the only lodging option in Lexington proper. The Battle Green, was allowed to fall into such general disrepair that it could not be credibly marketed to families and tourists as an inn so it became transitional housing and was subsequently demolished. It is now the site of luxury condominiums. Lexington has no centrally located accommodation for visitors.

Currently a proposal is before the Lexington Planning Board and headed to Town Meeting to allow the rezoning of the former Dana Home property to accommodate an inn and modest restaurant just outside the central business district. The Dana home is located at 2027 Massachusetts Avenue and has been used as an elder home for 95 years since it was purchased with a generous bequest from Lexington resident Ellen Dana. The Dana Home is perfectly suited to use as an inn with rooms with private baths, a modern sprinkler system, commercial grade kitchen and hospital sized elevator for handicapped accessibility, the property will transition nicely. This may be Lexington’s chance to continue an historic tradition of warm, welcoming hospitality in the center of town.

 Lexington Neighbors for Responsible Growth

However, there is a small group of citizens who oppose this proposed use for the property because of its location. They call their association Lexington Neighbors for Responsible Growth (LNFRG ) and they have been actively opposing the proposed inn for almost a year now. They have approximately 100 members mostly from the neighbors across the street in the Parker Street area as well as residents in Pine Grove Village and the Woodbury/Stratham Road area. Their letters to the Planning Board and other documents are available on their website www.lexprotects.com.

Gresh Lattimore, LNFRG member and resident of Jackson Court objects to “the size and scope of the project.” According to Lattimore, “She [Kennealy] will be using something like 80% of every square on the two properties. The parking will dramatically change the look of the property. Once she’s built her expansion using the Mulliken House and doing the restaurant build-out, she has to use the rest of the property as parking. The plot is not that big to begin with.”

Lattimore and LNFRG is also worried that the onsite parking will not be adequate and will force additional parking onto Parker Street, Massachusetts Avenue and Worthen Road.

According to Lattimore the group feels that the biggest problem with the proposal is the change in zoning from residential to commercial. “The fact is that something like this hasn’t been done in over a half-century—it sets a dangerous precedent.” In their latest letter to the Planning Board, LNFRG now favors “converting the Dana Home property into a multi-family residence.”

 Lexington, Lexington, Lexington!

Trisha Pérez Kennealy along with her husband Mike is willing to roll the dice on this enterprise. With a lot of work ahead, Trisha is still convinced that this is the right business for this spot in the town that she loves. “As Lexingtonians we have a responsibility to nurture our place in history and to welcome and accommodate those from across the country who wish to visit,” she says. “Mike and I are committed to making this a quintessential New England Inn with local fare and exceptional hospitality.” The want to call their business the Inn at Hastings Park.

“When I first moved to Lexington in 1982, I vividly remember the first time we drove through the center. We were coming from Puerto Rico—very different culture, different architecture—just very different,” says Trisha Kennealy seated in the dining room of what she hopes to be her new Inn on Hastings Park. Trisha is an animated and attractive woman, a graduate of Harvard University and Le Cordon Bleu in London, a mom of three and an active member of the Lexington community.

“We drove into Lexington, mom, dad my sister and me, and we knew that we had found the place we wanted to live,” she says. Trisha Pérez, as she was known back then, came to New England with her dad Luis Andres Pérez who was pursuing an educational opportunity at Harvard. “It felt like a real town. The history, the architecture—there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is a small town.”

It’s a small town that she came to love and cherish. “My sister and I were supposed to go to private school,” she says, but when we moved here we decided to go to public schools. Then, when my father completed his Masters program, we just assumed we would move to the New York or New Jersey area where my mom and dad’s parents were, but we loved it so much we wanted to stay.”

Kennealy is a product of the Lexington public schools and proud of it. She went on to Harvard and when the time came, she was married at the First Parish Church on the Lexington Green.

A generation later, with daughter Gabriella in tow, Trisha and her husband Mike (they met at Harvard; he’s from Reading) came back from Europe where Mike had been working. They were looking for a place to locate and grow their new family. “I was very flexible,” Trisha says with a laugh, “I’m willing to look at three towns—Lexington, Lexington and Lexington!”

That’s when her true love affair with Lexington blossomed. Trisha and Mike had two more children, Rory and Conor, and became deeply involved in the community. “I have been committed to participating in my children’s education through the PTO and I’ve been involved with Stand for Children, Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) and the Community Nursery School,” she says. Kennealy is also a town meeting member from Precinct 6, so she is no stranger to the process that has consumed her ever since she purchased the former Dana Home and has sought to change the zoning of the parcels.

“There hasn’t been a public meeting that we have been asked to participate in, that we have refused,” Kennealy says with a smile. “The bottom line—I want the community to feel good about this and to understand that I want to make a real contribution to Lexington with this business.”

The many hours of public debate, strong opinions and heated comments have no doubt taken a toll on Kennealy who has owned the property for about a year now. She also purchased the adjoining Mulliken House which features a barn on site that was used as a casket company. During the past year her company AB Holdings has been developing the site plans and participating in the process of bringing those plans to the community. Trisha’s dad, Luis Pérez of Wood, Hammer & Nails is deeply vested in the project. Luis’ is a company builds distinctive homes and he will be very involved in the restoration of the inn.

Several of the meetings including an informational forum presented by the League of Women Voters have become contentious, but the group soldiers on because they believe in the project. Both Trisha and her father agree that the process has been very important and instructive.

There are several issues that the property owners must overcome before they will be allowed to build out the site and run it as a 22 room inn with a small restaurant that will be open to the public.

 Rezoning the Property a Contentious Issue

The number one objection expressed by LNFRG is the rezoning of the spot from residential to commercial. Their letter indicates the group’s disapproval of the rezoning because of its possible precedent-setting nature, its deviation from the Lexington Comprehensive Plan as they read it and violation of the Commonwealth’s Uniformity Standards. These are common arguments for opposing spot zoning (zoning that is applied to a specific property).

Zoning conversion works both ways. For example, the development of the Battle Green Inn required rezoning from commercial to residential in our central business district and created a precedent for housing in the center. Many were opposed, but ultimately the issue won support and everyone seems thrilled with the result. More specific to the Dana Home site, designating a fifteen bedroom house with an institutional kitchen as a “residential use” was a stretch of the zoning laws to begin with. The Dana Home was a nonconforming institutional use of property on the outermost corner of a neighborhood that is abutted on most sides by institutional uses: St. Brigid Parish, rectory and offices, the Grace Chapel complex, Hayden Recreation Centre and Skating facility and the town recreation complex (pool, basketball, tennis, skateboarding, track). It is close to businesses—Douglas Funeral Home, Walgreen, Stop & Shop and Starbucks. Its closest abutters are the residents of Pine Grove Village who are in a difficult location between a parking lot and the wetland between them and the Dana Home.

 The Dana Home Board Approves of Inn

Patricia Nelson is the Co-President of the Dana Home of Lexington along with David Williams. Nelson and her fellow board members were charged with selling the property, and they feel that an inn is a perfect use for the location.

“Our first responsibility was a fiduciary one,” Nelson says. “We had an obligation to get fair market value for the property.” They received many proposals in two categories—inns and condos. “We wanted to make it as open a process as possible,” she adds. After the word got out about possible uses for the space, Nelson says that the support for the inn idea was overwhelming. “I was approached in the grocery story—completely unsolicited—and people would express their preference for the inn concept.” Nelson says unequivocally that the inn idea was much preferred over the idea of more condos. “We don’t have a nice historic inn like the Colonial Inn [in Concord]. The board also liked the idea from the preservation standpoint—maintaining the basic structure without cutting it up into condos and compromising the period woodwork and other architectural elements seemed ideal.”

“The Dana Home Board is supportive of Ms. Kennealy’s future plans for the property,” Nelson and Williams wrote in an April 8, 2011 letter announcing the sale, “The Dana Home has played a significant role in the lives of many Lexington residents. Trisha Pérez Kennealy’s concept will carry on that legacy by providing a place where residents and guests can gather to enjoy food, rest and community.”

At a recent Planning Board hearing, Ms. Nelson described about the busy life at the Dana home. In a follow-up interview she said, “The Dana Home was a very busy place!” She concedes that the past decade has been a little quieter simply because residents had become older and stopped driving, but it was not a sleepy little facility according to Nelson. “Residents shared 3 meals a day 7 days a week, 27 people were employed there and lots of people came to eat lunches.” The Rogerson Communities (the company that managed the facility) often hosted staff onsite. In addition Nelson says, medical staff “were always coming and going” day and night.

On the Rogerson Company website they list services as 3 meals a day, snack service, pharmacy delivery service, around the clock safety checks, housekeeping and laundry service, recreational programs and wellness programs as some of the activities going on at the home. At that same Planning Board hearing at Clarke Middle School neighbors took to the microphone observing that they never noticed that much activity at the site. Given Ms. Nelson’s claims about the actual activity at the Dana Home, it appears that the corner lot is able to absorb quite a bit of activity with little impact on the neighborhood.

Residents on the Green Support & Others Support the Inn

Residents residing all around the Lexington Green are in support of the project. Carla Fortmann who lives in one of the historic homes on the green says that she and her husband Tom are strongly in favor of the project. “Number one: We need it,” she says. “Number two: I don’t think it’s too big—I think it’s a very good design.” If anyone would know whether we could use an historic inn in town it’s Fortmann; she works as the manager of the gift shop at the Buckman Tavern and speaks with tourists almost every day. “We need a nice inn here in Lexington. This reminds us [she and her husband Tom] of all the fears that were raised about the Minuteman Bikeway, but now that it’s done it’s a big success and an asset to Lexington.” Carla forecasts the same result if the plans for the inn are allowed to move forward. “I think they would do a wonderful job and wouldn’t it be nice to have it go to a Lexington family.”

The Chairman of the Lexington Tourism Committee, Dawn McKenna agrees. In her experience the need for an inn to rival the Colonial Inn in Concord would go a long way toward encouraging tourists to stay in Lexington. McKenna noted that the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT) recently estimated that there is $50 million in tourism spending in Lexington. That income for Lexington and its business community has been growing steadily and could be even greater if visitors could stay in Lexington Center according to McKenna. “We really want to capture that hotel and meals tax, but more importantly we want to offer hospitality to our guests.” Lexington currently has three hotels, but none of them are within walking distance to the center. “The longer they stay, the more they spend,” she says.

Proponents of the proposed inn from all parts of Lexington have spoken out at public meetings and written supportive letters to the Lexington Minuteman.

Additional Concerns/Traffic

The neighborhood group is also very concerned about traffic safety. They worry that additional traffic will add to the problems at the Worthen Street/Massachusetts Avenue intersection. However, these safety issues were in existence long before the proposal to convert the Dana Home to an inn. Over the years many attempts have been made to improve the safety of Worthen Road—a heavily travelled bypass that was designed to handle a large volume of traffic, diverting travelers heading from Bedford to Waltham, Arlington, Belmont and beyond away from the central business district. It is also the main road feeding Lexington High School, Hayden Recreation Centre and the town pool/basketball/tennis court/track complex.

According to the traffic and parking consultant advising Kennealy, they anticipate an increase in traffic of less than one half of one percent. Concerns about consumption of alcohol at the restaurant, large delivery trucks, and congestion at the intersection have also been raised. Kennealy does not anticipate an intensive schedule of deliveries and she says that she will be using local farmers and small purveyors with smaller trucks, so she does not anticipate many large trucks onsite.

Still, it is a busy intersection and like many areas in town, it is less than optimal from a safety standpoint. However, you could cite similar concerns about the center which has been the scene of several pedestrian fatalities and East Lexington which has adopted a system of using pedestrian crossing flags at certain crosswalks because of congestion and lack of visibility.

 Additional Concerns/Wetlands

When engineering Worthen Road, a section of North Lexington Brook was covered over in 1956. This created wetlands on the surrounding properties. These wetlands are protected by the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and the Lexington Wetland Protection Code and enforcement of these rules falls under the purview of the Lexington Conservation Commission. This important work preserves the quality of water passing through Lexington and on to other towns.

LNFRG has commissioned a report from a company (CEI) specializing in the analysis of wetlands. Kennealy has been very open to these outside reviews. “We appreciate that they have put in a lot of time. Because of these reports we have been able to identify many ways to make improvements to our plan,” she says. Many of the wetland concerns center on construction of the parking lot, staying within a 50 foot “no build zone” and handling storm water runoff.

The Kennealys have also agreed to clean-up the invasive plants that currently threaten the area as part of their plan for wetlands management. Hopefully a cleanup will also ensure a more aesthetically pleasing appearance on the site than currently exists and enhance the experience of all those who abut the marshy area.

 Additional Concerns/Parking

The proposal for the inn includes plans to build a small parking lot between the Dana Home and the Mulliken House. This has created concern about the aesthetics of the streetscape. The eleven page letter submitted to the Planning Board by LNFRG claims that there is no other visible parking along the Battle Road. In fairness, the “scenic byway” doesn’t really begin until the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Route 2A. The National Park Service purchased and removed more than 200 structures in the process of creating the scenic byway that successfully recreates the look of small farms and pastureland. However, from the Lexington Green to Route 2A there are two circular driveways that are often full of automobiles (St. Brigid and the Methodist Church), parking at Community Nursery School is visible from the street and the overpass hums with automobiles as you cross at any time of day. Certainly one cannot deny the 21st century as you stop at Wood Street to wait for traffic to empty out from MIT at rush hour even as you are on the edge of the National Park.

Despite claims in one of the LNFRG document that a parking lot beside the inn will be “an anachronistic embarrassment to the period homes around them” and be offensive to “visitors from all over the world,” it might just as easily be suggested that those very visitors would love the opportunity to sit on the porch and enjoy the beautiful surroundings in Lexington on Patriot’s Day for example, or listen to a band concert at Hastings Park or perhaps enjoy a friendly meal alongside some locals to add to the hospitable feel of Lexington and nurture their desire for a return visit.

Listening and Responding With Revised Plans

Though the Kennealys have been accused of responding slowly to the concerns of the neighbors and the Planning Board, Trisha notes that her team has been attending all of the meetings, engaging in the process and collaborating with their team to provide a workable solution. According to Kennealy she has researched the industry, talked with other inn owners and created a mix of room fees and food service that will allow her to prosper as a business.

Now the Kennealys have submitted revised plans for the site that respond to many of the neighborhood concern. “Our primary objective in redesigning the plan,” she says “was to scale back the massing of the structures on the site.”

On March 16th at a meeting with neighbors and citizens, they unveiled a new site plan (see old and new plans at right) designed to preserve the core of the business plan and achieve it with less intensive use of the site—to reduce the visible mass of the project and maintain the original footprint of the buildings as closely as possible. “We began by taking out the office component of the proposed project,” Kennealy says. The office was to be located in the barn. “We are moving our offices and the related jobs to our Westwood location. This enables us to relocate two guest rooms from the former Dana Home into this space. In addition, heeding the recommendation of the Historic District Commission, we will not change the facade of the barn. We will maintain the facade, while making only the necessary repairs. Much of the site to the right of the barn will be maintained in its current state, including the existing stone wall,” according to Kennealy.

The architects have eliminated both proposed additions to the original Dana Home structure and added a small hallway around the elevator to accommodate service staff. They have reduced the addition to the Mulliken House by fifty percent and want to move the house by eighteen feet to clear the 50 foot wetlands no-work zone. This will also allow them to install a foundation below the house.

By moving the Mulliken House, they can reconfigure the parking lot, increase the parking spots to 31 and improve traffic circulation. They will also be able to move the Massachusetts Avenue entrance to the parking lot so that it is sixty feet from Parker Street and 200 feet from Worthen Road. According to Kennealy’s plans, this parking lot will be designed to minimize the impact of headlights and ambient lighting and will be extensively landscaped to enhance the streetscape and provide a screen. The parking lot on the Worthen road side will remain the same—wetland requirements make it impossible for the new owners to relocate the side entrance or connect the two parking areas. However, they feel that their reconfigured parking and circulation plan (calculated using AutoTurn® analysis as LNFRG requested), will improve traffic circulation and safety.

Kennealy does not expect that these changes will satisfy all concerns, but feels strongly that she is making every effort to work with the neighbors and address most of their concerns. “We have really worked hard; the rest is up to the Planning Board and Town Meeting,” she says. “It’s all about balance,” she says. “We have listened and incorporated many of the requested changes, but we have to maintain the economic viability of the project.”

Moving forward to town meeting Trisha and Mike are optimistic. “What we want is to create a great inn here in historic Lexington like those in most historic towns.”

Lexington’s history is full of wonderful inns and hotels. Proponents of the Inn at Hastings Park hope to revive this great tradition at the site of the former Dana Home and provide a much-needed addition to Lexington’s tourism offering, a vehicle for economic development and a welcome addition to the commercial tax base.

The prospect of a warm and hospitable place to gather with friends, to celebrate special occasions and to provide lodging to our guests in the center is exciting for the Lexington community and many hope that Town Meeting and community leaders will come together and support this plan.

 

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LexFun Celebrates 70 Years

LexFun partial board

By Marie Manning  |

LexFUN! will celebrate its 70th Anniversary this year! When I began researching this article, the phrase that kept coming to mind was: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change,” a quote by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in his novel The Leopard. Over the past seven decades, LexFUN! has weathered, indeed initiated, many changes. Yet at its core, it remains the same. LexFUN! is, and has always been, about community.

Archived records show that the organization has changed its name twice since its inception. Originally called the Lexington Pre-School Association, it was formally organized on September 7, 1942 by the President of the Lexington Council, Mrs. Robert C. McAnaul. The inaugural meeting was hosted by Mrs.Gandolfo Adolina at her Lexington residence. She was the first President of the association. To this day monthly board meetings take place in the homes of board members throughout Lexington. In 1942 it is reported that Mrs. Adolina served tea. Often, the hosts of modern-day LexFUN! board meetings treat their guests to hors d’oeurvers, desserts and wine…and, yes, sometimes, tea. The first hour and a half of each is dedicated to business. Jennifer Velis, President of LexFUN! during the 2010-11 seasons, has been known to state on more than one occasion, “This Board could lead a fortune 100 company! So on task they are with projects and desires to help serve the community.” Additionally, their members hail from a remarkable range of backgrounds such as attorneys, executives, doctors, event planners, technology experts, fundraising directors, stay-at-home parents, writers and entrepreneurs. As their current name suggests, they understand the essential benefits of play. So, the wrap-up portion of the evening Board meetings are spent catching up with each other socially.

Halloween Parade

The official minutes from the 1942-43 Annual Report clearly identified the mission of LexFUN!’s predecessor: “The object of this association shall be to study all problems of child nurture prior to the school age and to promote child training for parenthood and homemaking.” To that end, the Board invited special guests to speak about topics relevant to that time period: “Discipline;” “Controlling Communicable Disease;” “Intelligence Rating and Religious Education of the Pre-school Child;” and “Meals for Little Folks.” Though some of the subjects have changed, decade through decade, this organization has provided the forum for parents to continue their educations in parenting. The more recent seminar themes reflect the busy lives we live today, as well as the most pertinent challenges parents face: “Sleeping Soundly: How to Help Your Child and Yourself Sleep Better;” “Raising Sons;” “Raising Daughters;” “Preparing Your Will;” “Strengthening the Couple Relationship.”

The 1942 report continued by identifying that, “It has the distinction of being the first pre-school association in Massachusetts to be in membership with the Massachusetts State Branch of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers.” To this day, LexFUN! is an avid supporter of the Massachusetts PTA. Rallying behind causes such as the “YES For Our Schools” campaign, LexFUN! ensures its members’ voices are heard and their children’s educations protected.

When the organization was founded in 1942 “pre-school” as we know it today simply did not exist. There was no confusion about who was eligible for membership and who was not. If you had children who were not yet old enough for elementary school, you had “pre-schoolers” and were welcome to join the association. This was clarified in the preamble of the charter, “All mothers of pre-school children are cordially invited to attend these meetings, and it is hoped that a large number will be interested enough to become members…” In September of 1958, the still young organization began using the designation “Lexington Pre-School P.T.A.” in conversations and on its official forms: “LPPTA.”

From top to bottom: LexFun annual Consignment Sale. LexFun at Youville place. Deb Rourke president 04-05 and Jen Vogelzang. LexFun open house.

While the term “kindergarten” was coined in Germany in the mid 1800’s, it wasn’t until the mid 1960’s that common thought in the United States turned toward pre elementary schooling. Publicly funded Head Start pre-schools were established in 1965 for low-income families. This shifted the paradigm. Privately funded pre-schools existed prior to this, such as Montessori and Waldorf that had been emerging throughout Europe and in scattered parts of the USA for a half-century. But this era marked the increase dedication to early childhood education. By 2005, census informs us, almost 70% of children nationwide attend some form of pre-school by the age of 4. Thus, the word “pre-school” had taken on a new definition. Here in Lexington, the LexFUN! membership committee was challenged when recruiting new members because of the implied restriction in its prior name. Newcomers, especially parents with infants and very young children, asked continuously, “My child is not in pre-school, can we still become members?” Knowing that for every person that asked this question aloud, many others silently assumed they were not eligible to join, the LexFUN! leadership knew something had to change.

The organization took this identity crisis in stride and undertook as part of their mission to find a new name. Leslie Zales was the President of the Board when the name change occurred. “I was co-President for 2 years and before that on the Board for many years! I was happy to Chair the name change my last year on the Board.” On September 1st, 2009 a press release was issued unveiling their new name: “Lexington’s Five and Under Network: LexFUN!” Former co-President, Gretchen Reisig said, “Our new name is a reflection of who we are as a group, and who we are in the community.”

Community is synonymous with LexFUN! Sandy Schwartz tells us, “When I first moved to Lexington I had just a 6 month old and did not know many people. I was very lonely. Once I found LexFUN! I instantly had so much to do and met almost all of my Lexington friends.” Audra Myerberg echoed this sentiment, “I moved here from Waltham last June and the very first thing I did was to join LexFun and it was the best decision I could have made! It is a great way to meet people. Everyone is so welcoming and there are so many ways to be involved.” Meredith Applegate, current co-President says, “I joined the LexFUN! Board when my first child was several months old and have met so many wonderful people ever since! Getting involved with LexFUN! Is also a great way to become connected in the community as you realize the number of familiar faces that you get to know over the years. It is also a way to feel good about doing good work in the community.” Scott Bokun (Yes, father’s can join too!) voiced his experience with the group, “I joined LexFun! because I was an at-home dad new to Lexington and I needed a support group, some friends for me and my children…I’m still close with many of the friends I met 13 years ago in LexFUN!…It brings together young families and gives them great opportunities for fun and support. When you’ve got little kids, it’s great to have playgroups and activities for them that don’t break the bank. And it helped keep me sane; being at home with young children can drive you crazy!” Leslie Zales encourages those in career-parent transition, “Being on the board helped bridge my former professional life to being a Stay-at-Home Mom–using talents, skills and energy outside of motherhood. It was grounding, yet lifesaving! LexFUN is an impressive, well-oiled non-profit organization that serves our young families, our local businesses and charitable causes. I met my best friends while being on the board of LexFUN! We’ve all graduated but we remain close….we’ve grown up together with our children. I buy a membership every year in support of LexFUN! for all it has given me and my family.” Jen Vogelzang, who recounted how she was in labor during a December LexFUN! Potluck Board Meeting, cherishes her time spent with the group, “It is multi-faceted. You have a support network. You have an outlet for your creative talents. Once you join, you have a gift!”

Deb Rourke brought to light how advances in technology transformed the group. “It used to be that if the newsletter was late – it was a crisis! It contained the monthly calendar and our members wanted it delivered on time.” She spoke of the phone tree that existed when she was co-President in 2004-05. It was used when there was an event cancellation or member emergency. Deb smiled when she remembered the navigation that had to take place the year the widely attended Halloween Parade had to be cancelled. A form of the phone tree exists today, but more often than not, email is the mode of contact. Newsletters and calendars are distributed via the Internet. LexFUN! even has a Yahoo Group Listserv and a presence on FaceBook. Deb continued by saying, “The heart of the organization has not changed, but the efficiency has.” Technology has revolutionized the 1950s Rummage Sale the LPPTA hosted, to the current Annual Spring LexFUN! Consignment Sale. Consignors create an online account via LexFun.org to list their inventory. Bar code price tags are printed and Voila! The goods are ready for drop off. This year’s Consignment Sale is on Saturday, May 12th from 8:00am-2:00pm at St. Brigid’s Parish, 2001 Massachusetts Ave in Lexington.

LexFUN! has a number of committees for volunteers to serve on and the community to benefit from: Community Service, Early Education Liaison, Events, Fundraisers, Membership, Seminars, Social. Every season LexFUN! offers ways members can contribute to community service such as their on-going assistance with the Meals on Wheels program and visits to Youville Place Assisted Living. Many in-kind donations are made to Cradles to Crayons and to local shelters, such as the “Birthday in a Box” program for children and the “Esteem Boxes” they give to homeless mothers. Yes – homeless. Lexington is not immune to the current economic reality so many Americans are faced with. As a 501c3, LexFUN! raises money to make financial contributions to organizations in alignment with their goals including: the Early Childhood Committee; the Cary Memorial Library and the Lexington Education Foundation. LexFun! created the LexFUND Preschool Scholarship Fund. Awards range from $500-$3,000 per child. LexFUND granted over $30,000 in the past two years alone.

There are SummerFun and WinterFun drop-in centers to meet up with other parents as your children play together. The Social Committee coordinates an Annual Member Recognition Night each November, the Bicentennial Park Potluck in June, and regular Moms-Night-Out evenings. Couples are encouraged to attend the Annual Date Knight celebration. LexFUN! publishes The Annual Guide for Young Families in September which is distributed to their membership. Other benefits of membership are discounts at many local businesses and restaurants.

The founding members of the 1942-1943 Board included: Mrs. Gandolfo Andolina, Mrs. Frank H. Ready, Mrs. William P. Clark, Mrs. Stanley Robbins, Mrs. George Wood, Mrs. Lynman Carlow, Mrs. Handel Rivinius, Mrs. George Regan, Mrs. Bertram Gustin, Mrs. Ernest Rogers. Feminists may be taken aback to see such civic-minded women listed on record without any recognition of their first, let alone original sur, name. This is one more of many changes that mark the turning of the tide of this organization. The once ten member board has now grown to more than 60 women, from many walks of life. Each dedicate what time they have to fulfill LexFUN!’s current mission: “to offer social, educational, and recreational opportunities to families with young children [birth through age five].” LexFUN! has over four hundred member families. Only time will tell what cultural changes and influences the future has in store for this thriving group that has become the soul of our community. “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” LexFUN! you have proven your ability to do just so. Happy Anniversary.

Jennifer Velis and Lisa O’Brien represented LexFUN! on the television show “Contributions to Earth.” It is available on-demand at www.LexMedia.org and excerpts can be seen at: www.TVforYourSoul.com. To find out more about LexFUN!,

visit: www.LexFUN.org

 

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