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Recalling Kennedy’s contribution to Devens, and family thoughts

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I don’t always agree with Peter Lucas but a recent column he wrote in the Lowell Sun really caught my attention. He talked about the Kennedys, particularly Senator Ted Kennedy, but also spoke about the late Paul Sullivan, a long time force with the Lowell Sun, as well as Gerry Doherty, who has published a book on the Kennedy brothers. Doherty is remembered as one of the early confidants and aides to the Kennedy brothers during the Camelot years. Doherty was very close to the Kennedy’s and is well known in the literary world.

Lucas’ thoughts brought me back to the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s when so many local people were interested and involved in protecting and improving this great area and those efforts and causes almost always included Ted Kennedy. I’m reminded of Bill Marshall, the late Steve Gervais, Paul Routhier, Steve Slarsky, the late John Bresnahan and Lester Berry Jr., and certainly my son Frank Jr., who passed away in August. Frank Jr. and Ted hit it off very well and Fran helped me organize many political functions at the Bull Run Restaurant with Lee and Chip Guercio.

Many of us traveled to Washington D.C. on several occasions to lobby for our local causes, not the least of which was the fate of Fort Devens. My phone rang at home one night and it was Senator Kennedy calling to share the good news that the Shriver Job Corps was coming to Devens! It was a big boost to the local economy at the time. No one was more involved and instrumental to the revitalization of Fort Devens than Ted Kennedy. He worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that the future of the Army base would have a positive and lasting benefit to this area. And it certainly proved to be true. Former Congressman and UMass President Marty Meehan also worked closely with Ted in Congress, on Fort Devens’ future.

Under the leadership of Mass Development, Devens was transformed into the most unique community in Massachusetts, boasting beautiful residential homes, multiple hotels, shopping districts, recreation areas, an award-winning golf course, just to name a few things. All of this backed up by an unprecedented business presence from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, such as Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Northrup Grumman.

My wife Gertrude was always there with me, whether it was a fundraiser at the Bull Run Restaurant or sometimes at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport. On this note, my memories and reflections always include the Lowell Sun “family.” We were blessed to have the opportunity to become aligned with the Sun’s parent company Media News Group back in 2000. We sold our Nashoba Weeklies (now the Voice) newspapers to the Media News Group which included the Lowell Sun, the Fitchburg Sentinel, and their flagship Denver Post. Dean Singleton, chairman of Media NewsGroup, was a pleasure to deal with and is certainly a man of his word in all respects.

Speaking of the Lowell Sun, I am a very loyal daily subscriber, and also enjoy reading the Saturday Chat column of publisher emeritus Kendall Wallace. Kendall is an extremely positive person and his weekly column shares many of the good things and good people who contribute to our area’s prosperity. I encourage you to read Kendall each week.

Gertrude and I lost our oldest son, Fran, a few weeks ago. As the saying goes, he died much too young. He left his wife of 27 years , Linda (Rakip), and his three beautiful daughters, Kristen, Kelly and Katy, as well as three wonderful grandchildren, Lily, Sydney and Harper. When Fran walked into the room, everyone was happy.

Gertrude and I are so very thankful to all the people who were so generous with their visits to the house, cards, thoughts, and the many deliveries of food and flowers that helped us get through such a difficult time. We had a wonderful funeral mass at Our Lady of Grace church in Pepperell. Father Jeremy and Deacon Mike Markham were on the altar, and gave Fran a very special send off. The church was packed which would have impressed Fran I think.After the service, we went to the Pepperell VFW and enjoyed everyone’s company in remembering Fran. Jack McGaffigan and McGaffigan Funeral Home handled the arrangements and were so important to say the least. Jack’s facility in Pepperell is top shelf and a real asset to the Town of Pepperell. Thank you Jack.

As I used to end my own Publishers Corner column each week for over 30 years… “don’t forget St. Jude’.”

Frank J. Hartnett Sr.

Pepperell

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