VETERANS SERVICES Director Susan Magner was presented with a framed portrait of the veterans memorials on the Town Common from the Select Board upon announcement of her upcoming retirement on May 31. From left: Select Bd. member Nicke Masse, Susan Magner, Select Bd. member and Veterans Event Committee liaison Liane Gonzalez, Select Bd. Chairman Vincenzo Stuto, Select Bd. members Steve O’Leary and Rich Wallner and T.A. Mike Gilleberto (Courtesy Photo)




NORTH READING — Retiring Veterans Services Director Susan Magner was praised for her persistent advocacy on behalf of the town’s veterans by the Select Board Monday night.

A town employee since 2007, she was promoted to Veterans’ Services Director two years later and has served in that capacity for the past 14 years. The Memorial Day ceremony and parade on Monday will be her last public event as she will be retiring effective May 31.

The town was given a “tremendous opportunity” to promote from within “a veteran qualified to be the veterans’ agent,” Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto said, noting that she was hired before his arrival and he has often received calls complimenting her advocacy on behalf of veterans, including from some who live outside of town who have been referred to her to resolve an issue.

“Susan has always been good about managing her time in terms of focusing on North Reading” while also helping to get others referred to her “pointed in the right direction,” Gilleberto said.

“There are hundreds of stories out there of Susan helping veterans, willing to go above and beyond, finding creating solutions,” the T.A. added. “Anytime there is an event for veterans happening in town, Susan is in the background making it happen. Her signature event, the Veterans Dinner, which you created from scratch with the Veterans Event Committee, was one of the first events I attended with my grandfather… and it was an event I’ll never forget,” Gilleberto said.

Gilleberto also thanked Magner for advocating for the part-time administrative assistant position for the office, which is held by Catherine McGloughlin. “She is going to be such an important bridge in that office for you successor, who we are very close to hiring,” he said.

Select Board member Steve O’Leary commented, “Since Susan came on board as the veterans agent we have had more outreach, more positive impact for our veterans in this community. You have done a fantastic job reaching a segment of the population which many times are overlooked. I have heard nothing but accolades in relation to how you have assisted people and get them what they needed, not just for the veterans themselves, but their survivors too.”

“It has meant a lot to so many people in this community. We see in other communities, boards and even veterans’ agents holding back because of the costs associated with getting the needed assistance to our veterans,” O’Leary said, adding, “We have the exact opposite here with Susan, which is exactly what needed to be done and should have been done. She was never shy about it: ‘This the right thing to do, something that we need to do, had to do,’ and it didn’t take much arm twisting either.”

Select Board Chairman Vincenzo Stuto said he saw Magner’s work both from afar and up close. “I think you do a great job with the limited resources — and I know how limited they are — that go into veterans services at all levels of government, not just local. There are at least two generations of Americans that did such a good job that we just enjoyed the spoils of war,” he said, noting that their sacrifices get forgotten.

“I was most impressed with those 575-page applications that you would just breeze through for people because I could see somebody looking at that, being overwhelmed and thinking it’s not even worth the hassle, and you would be like, ‘no, it is, so I am just going to do it,’” Stuto added.

Select Board member Liane Gonzalez said Magner was an amazing person. She recalled first meeting Magner prior to being elected to the board, when she organized a visit from The Wall That Heals — a mobile, scaled down replica of the Vietnam Memorial — for several days and nights in the meadow at Ipswich River Park. Magner created an entire program of events to celebrate the service of veterans and made a special effort to provide tributes to Vietnam veterans to give them the welcome home they never received.

As the liaison to the Veterans’ Event Committee for the five years she has been on the board, Gonzalez said she had seen first-hand “your passion, your love for the veterans in this town and anywhere. You will get calls from other communities and you share (your knowledge) willingly. You don’t care where they’re coming from; you want to help them…I am going to miss you a lot…We have been very fortunate to have you.”

Select Board member Rich Wallner recalled similar stories and noted that bringing The Wall to town really stood out among the events Magner organized. “I started with Susan with the CIT back in 2008-09. She would often have to interrupt the meeting to go take care of somebody who had just walked in and you could tell that these people were really going to be lost without you … and I was really impressed with that personal relationship you had with them.”

Wallner added, “There were times you were driving them to a job or getting them places — things that were never in the job description that you could easily say no to, but you did whatever it took to make somebody happy.”

Newly elected Select Board member Nick Masse recently met Magner while introducing himself to town hall employees after the election. “I appreciated meeting you and wished I had gotten to work with you longer. The veterans are never thanked or supported enough so thank you for your service, thank you for your family’s service and thanks for everything you’ve done for the town,” he said.