LYNNFIELD — Two prominent community members will be receiving the Daniel Townsend Award for Excellence on Monday.
The Select Board voted 2-0 last week to name Durham Drive resident Ellen Crawford and late Selectman/School Committee member Bob Weiss as the recipients of the fifth annual Townsend Award. Select Board member Phil Crawford recused himself from the vote because his wife was nominated for the award.
Select Board member Joe Connell recalled that the board voted to establish the Townsend Award in June 2017 in order to recognize a local volunteer or volunteers who have worked diligently to make the community a better place. The award is named after Daniel Townsend, who perished on April 19, 1775 in the first battle of the Revolutionary War.
Connell noted that the previous Townsend Award winners are retired Town Moderator/Selectmen/Fields Committee Chairman Arthur Bourque, late Selectman Al Merritt, former Selectman Dave Drislane, former Selectman/Town Administrator/Town Moderator H. Joseph Maney, retired Conservation Administrator Betty Adelson and Council on Aging Board of Directors Chairman Fred Santangelo.
Glen Drive resident Beverly Merritt, whose late husband was the recipient of the second Townsend Award, nominated Crawford for this year’s award.
“I have been friends with Ellen for 30-plus years,” said Merritt. “During these years, I have witnessed Ellen volunteering tirelessly while raising her four children. I met her when she was teaching CCD at St. Maria Goretti, which she taught for 16 years. Our beautiful town has benefitted from Ellen’s desire to give back in several capacities.”
Merritt also recalled that Crawford has volunteered with school PTOs, the Lynnfield Athletic Association and the Lynnfield Educational Trust.
“Ellen’s fundraising and devotion to our schools has been extremely beneficial to all of the students,” said Merritt. “Ellen was on the grassroots committee for the 2000 and 2021 school building projects.”
Merritt also recalled that Crawford served as the chair of “several successful political campaigns,” including both of her late husband’s campaigns for selectman.
“Ellen had a large part in working with National Development in developing MarketStreet,” Merritt continued. “She continues to volunteer and give back to our community. I sincerely feel that Ellen Crawford is the most worthy and deserving of this award. I ask you to give her nomination very serious consideration.”
Select Board Chairman Dick Dalton recalled that Al Merritt introduced him to Crawford.
“I know Al thought so much of her when they worked on the school projects and MarketStreet,” said Dalton. “Ellen is a very worthy candidate. Thank you for bringing her name forward.”
“Ellen was Al’s political wife,” Merritt joked.
Assistant Town Administrator Bob Curtin nominated late Selectman/School Committee member Bob Weiss for the Townsend Award.
“It is my honor to nominate Bob Weiss for the Daniel Townsend for Excellence,” said Curtin. “Bob served on the School Committee and Board of Selectmen in the 1970s and early 1980s.”
Curtin said he got to know Weiss while he was working as a journalist in town. He recalled that Weiss was the “founding father” of the Lynnfield Initiative for Elders (L.I.F.E.), a nonprofit organization that oversees three elderly housing developments in town.
“When the Center School was no longer needed for the School Department, Bob thought it would be a great idea to use that land to create housing for Lynnfield residents so they could remain in the town that they helped build,” said Curtin. “As a member of the Board of Selectmen, he drafted the agreement between the town and L.I.F.E., Inc., and shepherded the project through Town Meeting. He was very much involved with getting L.I.F.E. up and running.”
In the wake of Center Village being incredibly successful, Curtin said Weiss worked with former Zoning Board of Appeals member Malcolm Smith in order to get Essex Village built.
“Town Meeting approved the second site on Essex Street,” said Curtin.
While Curtin said Weiss moved out of town by the time Colonial Village opened at MarketStreet, he said that project would have never come to fruition “without Bob’s initial vision.”
“In addition to Bob’s accomplishments as a member of the Board of Selectmen and School Committee, he had great success in his professional career,” said Curtin. “He earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in Aerospace Engineering from New York University’s Guggenheim School of Aeronautics. He got a master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT.”
Curtin also noted that Weiss co-founded a research and development organization called Physical Sciences, Inc.
“He led the organization for more than 30 years,” said Curtin. “Unfortunately, Bob passed away in May of this year. Given his recent passing, it is fitting that the town acknowledge its debt to him and his many contributions.”
Dalton recalled that Weiss’ proposal to have senior housing built in town was a new concept in the early 1980s.
“Bob was the one who brought it to fruition,” said Dalton. “It was a model not just for Lynnfield, but the entire state. People from all over would come to town to talk to Bob about how he came up with this and brought it to fruition. It’s something people will benefit from for generations.”
Dalton expressed his support for presenting the 2021 Townsend Awards to Crawford and Weiss. After the discussion, the Select Board voted to present both nominees with the awards.
“Congratulations to both Ellen and Bob Weiss’ family,” said Dalton.
Dalton said Crawford and Weiss will be honored before Fall Town Meeting on Monday, Oct. 18, which will begin at 7 p.m.