Published in the July 13, 2016 edition
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD – The town lost an iconic figure with the passing of Everett Seavey Bowdoin – Seavey to his friends – at the age of 96 on July 5.
Gentlemanly and scholarly, bespectacled and bow-tied, when he rose to speak everyone in the room sat up a bit straighter and listened to his reasoned response or passionate pleas, knowing they’d come away from the conversation more enlightened, regardless of the topic.
A Maine native and 1942 graduate of Bowdoin College where he was a member of College Old Guard, he had been an active member of the Massachusetts Bar Association since 1949 and had practiced law into his 90s. In the 1950s, he adopted Lynnfield as his hometown and together with his wife Shirley, they raised three children.
First elected to the Lynnfield Library Board of Trustees in 1982, at the time of his death, he was midway through his 12th consecutive three-year term after being reelected to the board in 2015 with over 1,700 votes. He was the town’s longest-serving elected official.
“Seavey was imperious and did not suffer fools gladly. He was eloquent, articulate, erudite and scholarly – American and European history were his areas of strong interest. He could speak to them with great mastery as recently as a few months ago in my library book group,” recalled Nancy Ryan, who retired as the town’s library director this past spring.
“Someone said once to me that Seavey was one of the few people remaining who spoke and wrote in compound sentences and complete paragraphs. He believed passionately in the American public library; for him it was a temple and should be respected as such,” she said.
“My involvement with Seavey began in 2002 when I was Assistant Director,” Ryan continued. “The then-Director asked me to form a library book club – non-fiction – and ask Seavey if he would be interested in joining it. He was. I called it ‘BookLovers’ and we promoted the new book club to folks we thought would enjoy it. Fourteen years later there is a core membership of eight to 10 and Seavey probably missed no more than a dozen meetings during that time. We came to enjoy his very dry wit, his stories about growing up in Maine and the historical and social perspective he could give us about the book club selections.”
“He was pleased when I became Director in 2009; we had a close working relationship and he was generous with his support. He was one of a kind and I shall miss him,” Ryan said.
“He believed passionately in the American public library; for him it was a temple and should be respected as such.”
~ Nancy Ryan, retired director, Lynnfield Public Library
“Through the years Seavey brought his gentlemanly ways to even the simplest budget presentations before town boards,” commented Library Trustee Faith Honer-Coakley, who currently serves as vice chairman of the board. “He had a certain flair that captured your attention and helped lend gravitas to his message.”
Honer-Coakley described him as “curious–minded” and a “parliamentarian par extraordinaire” and she believed his superb oration skills had “no doubt served him well in the courtroom. He told me that he finished his last case at the age of 90.”
“Seavey was honored for his service to the library and the community at large in 2011 with the Elaine Melisi Trustee Award, after almost 30 years of being a trustee. State and local dignitaries attended as well as his extended family, the Board of Trustees, and the Friends. Even the celebratory cake had quotations about libraries, written in icing,” Honer-Coakley recalled.
“It was Seavey’s wish to retain his role as a library trustee as long as possible. He rode with me to many of those meetings and I can attest to the great significance he placed on his continuing participation,” she added.
In addition to serving together on the Board of Trustees, Honer-Coakley enjoyed the time she spent with Seavey at the BookLovers meetings. “He was known for being able to speak in great detail of books and authors he had read years before and made significant contributions to the BookLovers’ Group at every meeting. Some of us brought notes we had prepared but Seavey relied strictly on his recall. He clearly enjoyed the interplay of thoughts and ideas among the participants. He seemed to have acquired an extremely broad base of knowledge through formal education and an absolute love of reading and learning,” she said.
“Seavey felt right at home in the world of books, enjoying his own extensive personal library. One of the toughest parts of leaving his home on Main Street to move to Sunrise was worrying that he couldn’t take his entire library with him to his new apartment. I believe he still managed to take his 150 all time favorite books!” Honer-Coakley said.
“We are saddened by the passing of our beloved friend and colleague, Seavey Bowdoin. Seavey has been synonymous with the Lynnfield Public Library since he arrived in Lynnfield in the 1950s,” commented Robert Calamari, chairman of the Lynnfield Library Board of Trustees.
Noting that Bowdoin’s nearly three and half decades of service as a library trustee placed him “among the longest-tenured trustees in Massachusetts,” Calamari added, “His wit, wisdom and vision have set an example for all of us who have been fortunate enough to know him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as we cherish the memories of his remarkable life.”
Selectman Phil Crawford, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, echoed these sentiments. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Seavey Bowdoin at this time. With his passing, Lynnfield has lost one of its elder statesmen and our library has lost its greatest champion. Seavey’s eloquence, insight and commitment to public service will be deeply missed, but his decades of work on behalf of the town and its library will enrich the lives and minds of future generations.”
“Seavey’s support for the Lynnfield Library never wavered during the decades he served as a library trustee. His was a voice of clarity and eloquence about the critical role public libraries play in our society, and especially here in Lynnfield,” commented Greg Pronevitz, the executive director of the Massachusetts Library System. “He contributed a great deal to the library’s progress over the past 35 years. We will all miss him.”
“My last memory of Seavey involves Nancy Ryan’s retirement party,” recalled Honer-Coakley.
“As frail as Seavey was, he wanted to speak at Nancy’s reception. Just getting in and out of the car at that point was a significant challenge for him. He arranged a ride to the party at the Meeting House and gave a powerful speech about Nancy as the ‘Renaissance Woman of the Library.’ Here he was pushing himself hard, one last time, to pay homage to his friend, Nancy Ryan, and her accomplishments and vision for the Lynnfield Public Library. I am so grateful that I had the privilege to know Seavey as a colleague, fellow trustee and friend. He will be greatly missed,” she said.
Celebration of Life service
On Thursday, July 14, Seavey Bowdoin’s family will hold a reception with light refreshments from 5 to 7 p.m. followed by a Celebration of Life Memorial Service from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Centre Congregational Church, 5 Summer St., Lynnfield. His complete obituary appears on page 15 of today’s Villager.