PEPPERELL — “It’s quite an honor,” said Gary Giguere, humbly, about being honored in the Annual Town Report.
Humble is a tone that has echoed for him through the years. After being born in Pepperell in 1936, Giguere began a life dedicated to the town serving in many capacities that still endure today.
“Oh my God, Gary, look at this!” screamed his wife, Barbara Giguere, upon seeing the report for 2011.
Later on in the report, on page 70, it lists the town’s population: 12,108. In 1950, when Giguere was in high school, he said the number was a bit easier to remember: 3,456.
“I’ve been in Pepperell all my life, that’s all I can tell you,” said Gary Giguere. “It has always been a small town feel with big town benefits — it has retained its rural character, preserved land and waters, but is always moving forward.”
Over three three-year terms, he served on the Board of Selectmen, contributing to some of that upward motion. During his first term, starting in 1975, fellow selectmen were calling him a fool, he said.
“We were pretty sure he was going to be tapped for chief,” Barbara Giguere said.
Gary did not comment further, except to say he ran for selectman because he had to.
“I was looking at the perspective of town government at the time and it was not going the way I thought it should, I went to represent town,” he said.
At that time he was serving as captain of combination. He led training courses for the department, talking shop about ladder work, procedures, airpacks and other equipment and safety.
Combination company had a small, but reliable truck. According to Gary, it could pump water at 6000 psi out of it’s two hoses, but it was affectionately nicknamed ‘The Toy.’ One could look at it as a symbol for the department.
“Even for a small, voluntary fire department, the brotherhood is there, and it’s lasted until today,” Gary Giguere said.
Barbara said the department “do not forget their elders,” often inviting retired firefighter to Christmas parties and cookouts.
“We are really lucky to have this fire department, they go above and beyond,” she said.
Gary added “and of course if you need them, they are there for you.”
After joining the selectmen, Giguere was there for them, too. Barbara said after he left the board in 1988, both police and fire would request to have him sit in as an interim negotiator for union contracts.
“My platform was being fair, and standing my ground,” he said. “I was not one to be in cliques or groups or take sides, but to do what’s best for the entire town.”
According to Barbara, when he first ran, he got the most votes anyone had ever gotten for a selectman’s seat. For him, a landmark piece of legislation was at the center of public safety: police weapons.
In the mid-70s, Gary says, the officers of the town were supplying their own weapons, in effect, a patchwork of different firearms.
“Some were good, others were unreliable,” he said. “I thought it would be a good idea to standardize them.”
The board put out a request for bids and, after choosing the most cost-effective option, heard from the officers that they weren’t the best option.
“So I advocated for the more expensive, but more reliable option, and we ended up getting them,” Giguere said. “Even a few years after I had left the board they thanked me.
“They needed the protection and needed it to be reliable, it could mean a life.”
Barbara remembered her husband as a respected selectman, one who people would go for with a lot of concerns.
“I would get a lot of phone calls about dog complaints while he was at the mill,” she said.
It was commonplace for her to field such calls in their 230-year-old Hollis St. home because of Gary’s job, a 50 year run in almost every job at the Pepperell Paper Company.
“I started fresh on the ground floor till I got out of college, and then began doing many other jobs,” said Gary Giguere.
Years of welding, pipefitting, manning the machines and doing makeshift patching on them, made for a well-rounded paper mill man, and Gary went onto serve as union president for the workers.
“That helped when I was elected as a selectman, I negotiated a lot of labor stuff from their side, and it helped going the other way when I was on the board,” he said.
After a time doing night work, he began working days doing maintenance, familiarizing himself with the power house and hydroelectric plant. When the mill closed in 2002, Gary proved himself an asset for Swift River Hydro and began maintaining the hydro-electric for the mill’s new owners.
In 1976 the selectmen helped in the planning of the town’s bicentennial celebration.
“Those days were fabulous,” recalls Barbara Giguere. “They had a tug-o-war and dancing, it was a great festival and a real good family event, a lot of people came out.”
During those years he also served as president of the Lions Club and on the Finance Committee, but family would be the reason he left town politics in 1988.
“My life evolved into other things, I wanted time for my family first and I couldn’t share the time anymore,” Gary Giguere said.
Two of their boys attended schools on football scholarships, one at Norwich University in Vermont and another at University of Maine, Orono.
“We went to see them play all over new England,” Gary Giguere said.
The pair would take the rest of their children to games, Barbara loading the car with enough food to satisfy a hungry team of college football players.
“Gary would cheer the loudest,” she said.
And even now, with the kids grown up, Barbara and Gary still keep them as close as they can. With 16 grandchildren and two great grandchildren, the Giguere house is still host to family card games and dinners.
Sports and sporting goods have long been passions for Gary. For a decade he owned a sporting goods store in the Paugus Mall, outfitting fellow fly fishers, hunters and sportsmen. These days he’s also taken up golf and he and Barbara also enjoy spending time in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
But whether they are out around New England or at home in Pepperell, Gary says there is always a way to keep busy.
“There’s always something going on, our town and town departments are doing well,” he said, reflecting on Pepperell past and present.
Gary’s dedication cited “not only service to the Town of Pepperell in many capacities over the years, but also his love of his town for his entire life.”
“Any man doing any good for town needs a good woman behind him, I know thats true,” Gary Giguere said.
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