DEVENS — A newly-built community center was dedicated on Friday morning to the late Bob Eisengrein, one of the original residents here after the military base closed and the state assumed the role of local government.
“Bob Eisengrein was a friend to all, to everyone at Devens,” said Marty Jones, president and CEO of MassDevelopment, the state agency that oversees the operation of the community.
Jones took the podium after introductions by George Ramirez, executive vice president of operations at Devens. During her remarks, she recounted her first impressions of Eisengrein, a well-known Democratic activist, during a groundbreaking ceremony for new housing in the community.
“He and Bette were there. I remember their smiling faces and their commitment,” Jones said.
Jones said Eisengrein was a steady and thoughtful community leader, a person who did “careful research” and took “a reasoned approach” to solving problems.
“He was kind, considerate. He listened to other perspectives, and he had endless energy,” the CEO said.
An electrical engineer by trade and a former New Hampshire state legislator, Eisengrein, a native New Yorker, was given a lifetime achievement award in 2012 by the Massachusetts Democratic Coalition.
Naming the community center for Eisengrein could not have been more fitting, Jones continued.
“In this building, there will be an open recreation program on Wednesday mornings. So spread the word. It will be a great place to build on bonds and connections as Bob and Bette did,” Jones said.
Eisengrein died this past winter, but a few weeks before his death, state Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton filed a citizen’s petition in the Legislature on his behalf seeking to make Devens a town.
In a previous interview, Eldridge called Eisengrein a “legend” in Eldridge’s hometown of Acton, where he was a member of the ACES community group that championed the cleanup of W.R. Grace’s contaminated Acton plant site. Now, 30 years later, the Acton Superfund site is clean, with contaminated sediment removed and new ground-water treatment systems in place.
The couple moved from Acton to Devens in 2001, five years after the Army closed its Fort Devens base and sold 4,400 acres to the state for redevelopment, now known as the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone.
Eisengrein’s widow, Bette Barbadoro, told a crowd of well-wishers gathered on the front steps of the new building that her late husband would have been thrilled by the honor of having the community center named for him.
“None of us grew up here. We all moved from somewhere else,” she said, remembering how her husband “went to every new family to introduce himself with a letter” and the names and phone numbers of neighbors. “He was all about community, so it’s so appropriate that the community center is being named after him.”
During the dedication, Jones unveiled a new Devens logo, a simple design on a white board with pale gray letters spelling out the words “Devens” and “Massachusetts,” and three, pastel-colored chevrons.