As we close out one year and look ahead to the next, it's a good time to remember the people we lost over the past 12 months who made a difference in our lives and our communities.
Chatham was stunned last February when former Selectman Tom Roper passed away unexpectedly. Known for his attention to detail and penchant for humor, he'd entered town politics as a bit of an outlier and evolved into a voice of reason and compassion on the board. He will also be remembered for his work with the Chatham Orpheum Theater, to which he lent his not inconsiderable marketing skills.
Some familiar faces along Chatham's waterfront left us in 2017. Trap fisherman Paul Lucas became well known as Captain Eelgrass, earning the nickname for the copious amount of seaweed that accumulated on his boat, and later parlaying it into a fun-loving personality in a long series of events that raised money for local organizations like Monomoy Community Services. David Murdoch was a master ship model builder who delighted the thousands of people he took on seal tours of Chatham Harbor. Arthur “Skip” Hall for many years ran a boatyard in town, and was a contributor to many decisions regarding waterways policy.
Bess Moye was remembered for the downtown Chatham independent bookstore she co-owned for many years, Cabbages and Kings. Helene Wilson ran Helen's gifts for many years. Robert Hardy was a Chatham native who became a commercial pilot before returning home to share his memories with newer residents. As a critical observer, John Payson contributed to Chatham's efforts to implement nutrient management. Tom McCutcheon, William McGagh and Hoyt Ecker made their contributions to the town, through volunteering and helping out with nonprofit organizations and town committees.
Col. John Wessmiller was a genuine World War II hero whose D-Day exploits in France were the stuff of history. In his 90s, he made a pilgrimage back to Normandy to visit the places where he'd been ambushed by German soldiers and “borrowed” a bicycle to sneak past a Nazi patrol, as well as meet the people of the village who rightly lauded him as a liberator.
Amos Mumford was a talented painter who found his calling later in life. Dana Eilers was an accomplished writer and advocate for the disabled. Geri Nickerson helped her late husband Joseph assemble a landmark book about Chatham sea captains.
These and others – forgive us for those not mentioned – helped make our communities the places we love. We will miss them all.