Published November 8, 2018
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — It is said that still waters run deep and this would certainly be true of the late Charles A. Anderson.
A widower without children who passed way last November at the age of 95, Charlie was a member of the Greatest Generation who proudly served his country in the Army during World War II. Captured by the enemy in Europe, he spent over a year as a Prisoner of War (POW).
Like so many WWII veterans, after the war he entered the General Electric Apprentice Program and for the next four decades he worked as a Machine Cutting Tools Specialist for the General Electric Turbine Manufacturing Department at the River works in Lynn, retiring in 1984. He had resided in North Reading for over 50 years in the small house he and his wife bought on Woodland Drive.
According to his friend, Rev. Dr. Richard Hughes, Charlie was a private man who was widowed before he became pastor at the Union Congregational Church.
“Charlie wasn’t a member here; his wife was. And she died before I came to North Reading, but Charlie would come in once a month just about and he would give a check, and he’d say, ‘this is in Edith’s name.’”
They developed a friendship during their monthly chats. An avid reader, Rev. Hughes learned that Charlie was a member of three book clubs, that he loved to travel, and that he was a proud veteran.
“He always had his POW hat on every where he went,” Rev. Hughes recalled, although Charlie never really spoke about that experience.
“Charlie grew up in Plymouth. His father died when he was pretty young so he was the one who had to help his mother. He became very self-sufficient from an early age. I remember him talking about his paper route.”
After graduating from Plymouth High School in 1940 he was awarded a one-year scholarship to Worcester Polytech. “The scholarship was just for that first year and he knew he wouldn’t be able to afford four years of college so he enlisted in the Army. But he was always grateful for the scholarship that he got from WPI and that is why WPI is one of the beneficiaries” of his estate, Rev. Hughes explained. “If you go through all of the beneficiaries you can understand why he gave to various organizations.”
“Because he didn’t get to go to college he was very supportive of education, so that is why he wanted the Dollars for Scholars to benefit too,” he said.
Several years before they had met, Charlie had back surgery but the laser malfunctioned and from then on he always walked with “Canadian crutches,” the type that wrap around your forearm, Rev. Hughes explained. But that didn’t stop Charlie from going on exotic vacations for many years.
“He took the mail boat along the coast of Norway up to the Arctic Circle and the narrow gauge train ride through the Sierra Madres in Mexico, and he went to New Zealand. He loved going on those trips. But as his back got worse and his mobility in his legs decreased he got the the point where he couldn’t go on trips anymore.”
Rev. Hughes laughs as he recalled Charlie telling him that he “wasn’t a stubborn Swede, he was a determined Scandinavian.’ And he did have relatives over in Sweden and Norway who he would go and visit.”
An avid reader, Charlie “would go through several novels a week. He was a member of three different book clubs and that is why he was very supportive of the library. About two or three times a year I would go down to the library with 50 to 60 basically new books that he had read and he was donating to their sales, and that is why he included a gift in his estate to the Flint Memorial Library,” Rev. Hughes said.
When the pastor was helping Charlie sort through belongings and papers in his home they came across the Western Union telegrams that the Army had sent to his mother informing her of the grim news that her son was Missing in Action and later that he was a Prisoner of War.
“That is why one of the beneficiaries of his estate is the American Red Cross. My hunch is when the camp was liberated the Red Cross came in and helped them,” he said.
Of course it was not until Charlie’s passing that the extent of his generosity would be revealed through his will. Rev. Hughes is one of two personal representatives of Charlie’s estate and he now has the pleasure of informing the beneficiaries of his friend’s generosity.
Late last winter the town was informed that it would be receiving a significant disbursement from the estate. Specifically, Charlie chose to endow the North Reading Veterans’ Department with 10 percent of his estate “to assist male and female veterans who reside in North Reading.”
A check for $150,000 was given to the Veterans’ Department earlier this fall.
Charlie also directed five percent of his estate to benefit the Trustees of the Flint Memorial Library, which totaled $75,000 and was also dispersed to the trustees this fall.
Other endowed gifts to private nonprofits include North Reading Dollars for Scholars and WPI, both of which will receive $150,000 to provide financial assistance to needy students. WPI has been directed to endow the scholarship as the “Charles A. Anderson Memorial Scholarship Fund” to be invested and to have the proceeds of that investment be given annually to students in need, with first preference to those residing within Plymouth County.
He had given 10 percent of his estate ($150,000) to the Winchester Hospital Foundation, specifically for the “patient comfort fund.” This is a hospital where both he and his wife received care.
He gave another 10 percent ($150,000) to American Ex-POWs, or its successor, based in Arlington, Texas, and five percent ($75,000) to the American Red Cross in Boone, Iowa.
Charlie had also directed a portion of his estate to be given in memory of his wife to the church that she loved.
Board expresses thanks
Monday night’s Select Board meeting provided the board with the first opportunity to publicly acknowledge and accept the estate funds received, and as expected the board members and recipients were extremely grateful. Both Susan Magner, Director of Veterans’ Services, and Sharon Kelleher, Director of the Flint Memorial Library, were also present
Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto said, “These are very significant gifts. There are a number of other community contributions that Mr. Anderson has made through his last will and testament to other organizations outside municipal government — too numerous to mention here — but they are also significant.”
“We are certainly very grateful for Mr. Anderson, for his life and for his contributions. I know in the case of both departments these gifts will allow (them) to address the needs that we may not be able to address through the traditional funding mechanisms.”
“In the case of the library we have a strategic plan that they are working from and although we would love to see it funded fully by the town, probably we will be limited by our resources and this may be a resource to help address some of those needs,” the T.A. added.
“In the case of the Veterans’ Department we have a tremendous agent here who is able to avail our veterans of any number of different systems within and outside the traditional state system. But even all of those don’t cover everything and this is an opportunity to address those needs that don’t fit neatly within the traditional public service benefits,” Gilleberto said.
Select Board member Andrew Schultz stated that he would have to recuse himself from this voting on the acceptance of these gifts because he is a member of the Union Congregational Church, which also received a sizable bequest. “And I am on the committee at that church that deals with how the church is going to deal with the items it has received. I do not want to appear to have any conflict of interest.”
Schultz added, “I want to thank Rev. Hughes, who has been the executor of the estate, for working with everybody. Mr. Anderson was a great man and left a lot of things to a lot of different people that really needed the money. He certainly should be commended.”
Select Board member Steve O’Leary agreed, stating that he was “extremely grateful, on behalf of the community, to be remembered and for the two departments that are going to benefit by it to have a lasting impact. I hope somehow, in some way, we will be able to memorialize this gentleman through some sort of recognition.”
The vote to accept both gifts was 4-0 with 1 abstention.