By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — When the 2022 Memorial Day parade, organized by the North Reading Company of Minit and Militia, steps off from the town common at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 30, the procession will be led by three amazing ladies, all Town of North Reading retirees, who will serve as the honorary parade marshals.
Riding in style in an open convertible will be former Town Clerk Barbara Stats, former Director of Elder Affairs Mary Prenney, and former Parks & Recreation department head/operations manager Maureen Stevens, all of whom retired this past year. Between them, they dedicated 86 years of their lives to serving the needs of the residents of North Reading.
Recently retired Recreation Director Lynne Clemens had also been selected for the honor by the Minit & Militia, which organizes the parade, but she had a prior engagement and had to decline. Adding in her years of service to the town would put the combined working years of these public servants to over a century.
Barbara Stats had worked at Town Hall since 1981, starting in the original Flint Memorial Hall, now know as the Flint Memorial Library. In 1998, she was appointed Town Clerk, succeeding Betty J. Vullo, and over the next 24 years she earned the respect of her peers, colleagues and fellow townspeople by doing her job competently, fairly and professionally. Exercising diplomacy was her trademark in all of her interactions with the public and public officials, especially when needing to diffuse difficult situations.
When she was honored by the Select Board in February, Chairwoman Kate Manupelli commented that the entire town was the beneficiary of the manner in which Mrs. Stats had effectuated her work. “We are so appreciative of you and your graciousness and your diplomacy and your professionalism. It is really a standard we should all aspire to,” Manupelli said.
Mary Prenney was similarly honored by the Select Board for her more than two decades of service as a fierce advocate for the needs of the town’s elders. Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto summarized Mary’s extensive service to the town which began 21 years ago when she served for five years as the Assistant Director of Elder Services under Director Edith O’Leary, for whom the Senior Center is now named. Following Mrs. O’Leary’s retirement 17 years ago, Prenney was promoted to the Director of Elder Services.
“Her tenure with the Council on Aging is lengthy and until recently she was an elected member of our Housing Authority and an active member of our Community Impact Team (CIT) as well as its subgroups and many programs,” Gilleberto said of Prenney in December. “She has also been a very vocal and active member of our department head corps and is always willing to remind us to ‘be mindful of the perspective of our seniors’ in the town’s decision-making process,” which Gilleberto said was a perspective that he “always valued.”
Prenney’s efforts to have all of the town’s human services divisions work more closely together, including the Veterans’ Agent and the Youth Services Director, proved to be prescient due to the profound ways in which COVID disrupted how town services would be delivered to all of these constituencies throughout the final two years of Prenney’s tenure.
“It’s been an honor to hold the keys to the most beautiful building in North Reading for all these years. Of course, it could use a lot of loving!” Prenney said of the nearly 200-year-old building. She thanked her past and present staff, “especially Sherri (Greer) and Sue (Tilton) for doing their absolute best in meeting the needs of our older residents, especially through COVID. It’s been, needless to say, a very uniquely complicated year for all of us,” she said at her tribute.
Prenney also thanked past and present Town Hall colleagues as well as “the staff at Mystic Valley Elder Services, and the staff and board members of the North Reading Housing Authority for their friendship and support throughout the years! It truly does take a village!” But most of all, she thanked her family, especially her husband Brad, who often would accompany her on the middle of the night emergency calls to assist with the needs of an elderly client. “you are truly amazing and I can’t wait for our new life adventure to begin. I love you.”
Maureen Stevens was the first of the trio to retire, last August after the final concert and BBQ of the season at Ipswich River Park; one of the hallmarks of her tenure with the department was the expansion of those Wednesday night events that are so popular with people of all ages and attract hundreds of guests, many from beyond the borders of the town.
Stevens came to North Reading with a history of experience in small business management and volunteerism with the veteran community. Starting as an administrative assistant in the Veterans Department, she eventually rose to the rank of Department Head of Parks and Rec. Her values and hard work ethic were founded in spending summers on a working cattle farm and being raised by a single father who is a U.S. Navy Disabled American Veteran from WWII. She, along with her brothers, were taught that if you worked hard and helped others, you would be a success in life. Her father, who was wounded in WWII, relied heavily on Veterans’ services in Massachusetts, specifically the DAV, to help him recover and access all the benefits to which he was entitled. After many years of their assistance, he gave back to the DAV whenever possible.
Maureen, upon being hired by the late Timothy Callahan in 1996, a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam who taught her everything about that department enabled her to assist with the veterans’ claims for the town. She was instrumental in digitizing claims and being one of the first town departments to be part of the Internet. They processed hundreds of claims through their tenure and changed the lives of many families. They became a team and lifelong friends until his death in 2017.
Upon the hiring of Susan Magner, the current North Reading Veterans Services Officer, and a change in the Department’s structure, Maureen stayed involved in the Department, assisting Susan in any way that she needed. She has been involved in the many years of North Reading Veterans Social and partnered along with the North Reading Parks & Recreation to assist with the The Wall That Heals, a Vietnam Veteran Memorial. It was close to her heart as she has a brother who is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.
Upon her retirement in August of 2021, Maureen began proudly caring for her father who is well into his 90s.
Decorated bike contest
All children participating in the decorated bicycle/tricycle/wagon contest vying for the most patriotic entry should report to the top of the common by 9:30 a.m. Town Moderator John Murphy is given the honor of judging the entrants. All children who enter the contest are also invited to ride their bikes in the parade route.
Music will be provided by the North Reading High School Marching Hornets under the direction of Ben Owens and Drum Major Wes Fisher.
The parade will also feature veterans of all wars, the town’s oldest citizen and Boston Post Cane recipient Carmen DiChiara, classic cars, floats, members of town youth sports teams and youth scouting troops, fire and police apparatus.
The route of the parade will proceed from the common down the Bow Street side, past the Flint Memorial Library, then turn left down Park Street, turning right at Nan’s Cafe, continuing on Park Street to Mount Vernon Street, then right on to Haverhill Street, where the parade will return by turning right on to Park Street, then proceed left on Bow Street, passed the reviewing stand in front of the Flint Memorial Library, then to the common for closing ceremonies at 11 a.m., including speeches by local officials, the national anthem and Taps played by the band, and a traditional musket volley.
The parade will be preceded by early morning services with the traditional prayer, reading of the Roll of Honor, and musket salute by the Minit & Militia, all of which are open to the public.
These services will begin at the Riverside Cemetery at 7 a.m.; proceed to Harmony Vale Ceremony at 7:45 a.m.; then on to Ipswich River Park Blue Star Memorial at 8:15 a.m.; and close with services at the Park Street Cemetery at 8:45 a.m.
Refreshments will be served in the Third Meeting House on the Common at the conclusion of all activities for service members and parade participants.