FIREFIGHTERS SALUTE salute Lt. Robert Ford as his funeral procession passes the Wakefield Fire Station. (Mark Sardella Photo)

 A Look Back at 2021 – Part 2


WAKEFIELD — The second half of 2021 would have gotten off to a quiet start for the second year in a row, as COVID fears again shut down “the biggest parade in the state” and other local Fourth of July activities.

But a “sovereign militia” group calling itself “The Rise of the Moors” instead brought some unwelcome excitement to town on the holiday weekend. A State Police officer offering assistance after seeing a vehicle pulled over on Route 128 in Wakefield at 1:15 a.m. on July 3 found himself face to face with a dozen heavily armed men.

The trooper radioed for help and soon negotiators were brought in make sure the situation did not escalate. Meanwhile, members of the group took off into the woods and refused to come out. Not knowing what they had on their hands, police using reverse 911 alerted residents in the Parker Road and Elm Street area, as well as those along North Avenue to stay indoors.

After a massive response by Wakefield and regional law enforcement, all members of the group were eventually taken into custody and the shelter-in-place order was lifted. The militia group told police they were traveling from Rhode Island to Maine to conduct “training.” They were later arraigned in Malden District Court.

Meanwhile, the School Department was busy putting together its “Indigenous Curriculum” for all grade levels as atonement for using a Native American image as its logo for 75 years. Curriculum leaders assured the School Committee that elementary students would learn about European colonization and other “tough material” in an “age-appropriate” way.

On July 12. Town Engineer Bill Renault appeared at a Town Council meeting and expressed confidence that the Quiet Zone issues would be resolved and the Broadway rail crossing would be open by Labor Day.

James Hogan was appointed to the Planning Board on July 12, filling a vacancy caused by the resignation of longtime member Bill Damore.

In mid-July, the Fire Department announced the retirement of Lt. Robert Taggart after 32 years with the department.

On July 21, the Town mourned the death of lifelong Wakefield resident Richard Bayrd at age 92. Mr. Bayrd served his town for decades as a constable and a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. He was proud of his heritage as a Narraganset Indian.

On Aug. 9, the Fire Department announced the promotion of Firefighter Steven Bivens to Lieutenant.

In mid-August, the Wakefield Board of Health recommended masks for all students and staff when school resumes in the fall.

At its Aug. 18 meeting, the Board of Appeals expressed continuing concerns over a 40B housing project proposed on Crescent Street.

In mid-August, the firm of Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates, Inc. (SMMA) of Boston was selected as the designer for the new Wakefield Memorial High School Building Project.

Also in mid-August, the Permanent Building Committee announced the an additional $2.3 million would me needed in addition to the nearly $10 million already approved for the Public Safety Building expansion and renovation. The PBC blamed delays and higher than expected cost estimates.

In late August, Wakefield Police announced two new members of the Department: K9s Luna and Samy.

On Aug. 24, dozens of residents held signs outside a School Committee meeting to protest the mask mandate when schools re-open in the fall. Several anti-mask residents also spoke at the meeting.

On Sept. 1, the Massachusetts School Building Authority announced that it would provide up to $141 million towards a new Northeast Metro Tech high school.

Effective Sept. 2, anyone entering a town-owned building was required to wear a mask, per order of the Board of Health.

The town was saddened on Sept. 2 after a 63-year-old local woman was struck and killed by a Boston-bound commuter train between the Albion Street and Broadway crossings.

The Broadway crossing remained closed in early September, as Town Engineer Bill Renault explained that he was still waiting for an official approval letter from the Federal Railroad Administration to open the crossing.

On Sept. 9, an early morning leak in one of the propane tanks at Northeast Metro Tech caused the vocational school to evacuate and cancel classes for the day.

On Saturday, Sept. 11, hundreds of local residents attended a solemn observance of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on Veterans Memorial Common.

On Sept. 13, the Town Council, under pressure from neighbors, announced a decision to re-open the Broadway crossing with the caveat that trains would be required to sound their horns at every crossing in town for several weeks as a safety measure until the town got its official Quiet Zone approval from the FRA.

Two weeks later, the Town Council closed the Broadway crossing again amid noise complaints about the train horns.

In mid-September, the schools revealed that racist graffiti had been found in a girls’ bathroom and a boys’ bathroom at Wakefield memorial High School.

In mid-September, the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt awarded their Gertrude Spaulding Award to Jim Scott for his lifelong dedication to the Lake.

On Oct. 2, after an absence of a year and a half, the Wakefield Center Neighborhood Association’s Festival by the Lake returned to the Common.

In early October, the town learned that its COVID numbers were improving.

On Oct. 4, the town mourned the death of popular, two-term Town Councilor Peter May after a two and a half-year battle with ALS. He had continued to participate in Town Council meetings until a few weeks before his death. In addition to his service to the town, Mr. May’s outgoing personality made him a popular event disc jockey under the name “PJ the DJ.” It was fitting that his wake was held at the Bandstand on Wakefield Common.

In mid-October, the Town Council voted to name the dog park in the Junction “The Peter J. May Memorial Dog Park.” As a Town Councilor, May had, more that anyone, pushed for a dog park for Wakefield.

In mid-October, the town learned that the Broadway crossing would finally open on Oct. 29 after all FRA approvals had been secured.

Also in mid-October, the School Department sent a memorandum to the community revealing that a male WMHS student had posted inappropriate images of female students on the social media site, “Discord.”

At their Oct. 13 meeting, the Town Council and the Board of Health appointed Elaine Silva to fill the position on the Board of Health that she had resigned from to temporarily fill the position of Health Director until Anthony Chui was hired for the position.

On Oct. 24, the town mourned the passing of Fire Lt. Robert Ford from cancer at age 48. His funeral on Oct. 29 was attended by hundreds of current and retired firefighters from Wakefield and around the region.

At the end of October, the Broadway crossing finally re-opened permanently after nearly a year.

On Saturday, Nov. 6, voters at Regular Town Meeting approved an additional $2.5 million for the Public Safety Building expansion and rehab project as part of the nine-article warrant.

At its Nov. 8 meeting, the Town Council voted 5-1 against holding a Special Election to fill the seat vacated by the death of Town Councilor Peter May. Councilor Ed Dombroski was the lone dissenting vote.

On Nov. 11, residents observed Veterans Day at ceremonies held in Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Galvin Middle School.

On Saturday, Nov. 13, the official dedication of the Peter J. May Memorial Dog Park was attended by the May family along with many human and canine residents.

In mid-November, Pierce Avenue resident Kristen Henshaw obtained petition papers to gather signatures in order to force a Special Election to fill the Town Council vacancy caused by the death of Peter May. Under state law, the Town Council must call a special election if petitioned by 200 registered voters.

On the morning of Thursday, Nov. 18, dozens of sign-holding parents stood outside Wakefield Memorial High School to protest the expected return to school of the male student accused of posting inappropriate and explicit images of female students on a social media web site. The number of protesters multiplied on the next morning and the following Monday.

On Tuesday, Nov. 23, parents spoke at the School Committee meeting to demand answers from the School Department regarding its handling of the situation and its plans to keep female students safe if and when the male student returns. One mother read a letter signed by 14 girls who said they were victims.

On Nov. 25, the Wakefield Warrior football team beat the undefeated, Superbowl-bound Melrose Red Raiders on Thanksgiving for the first time in eight years, 21-13.

DPW workers installed the 2021 Town Christmas Tree on the Rockery on Nov. 30. The 30-foot-tall blue spruce was donated by Cheryl Callahan of Walter Avenue.

Santa and his elves brought holiday cheer to kids of all ages during Santa’s Wakefield Tour sponsored by the Wakefield Lynnfield Chamber of Commerce on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 4.

The town learned on Dec. 6 that the male Wakefield Memorial High School student at the center of a recent investigation into the posting of inappropriate and explicit photos of female students will not face any criminal charges, according to a statement released by Wakefield Police and the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office.

On Dec. 7, a survey crew found skeletal remains in the woods near Wakefield Memorial High School. About a week later, the remains were positively identified as those of Patrick Shea, who was 66 when he was reported missing from his Richardson Avenue home in May of 2020. In the weeks and months following the initial reports of Mr. Shea’s disappearance, extensive searches were conducted by local and State Police, using helicopters, K9 units and dive teams to search both Lake Quannapowitt and Crystal Lake. The family created numerous posters that were distributed throughout neighborhoods and businesses.

On Dec. 9, the Northeast Metro Tech School Committee set Jan. 25, 2022 as the date for a district-wide Special Election on building a new Voke school.

Town Clerk’s Office confirmed on Dec. 9 that earlier that week Kristen Henshaw of Pierce Avenue had submitted petitions containing 272 signatures requesting a Special Town Council Election. According to the Town Clerk’s Office, more than 200 of the signatures on the petition were certified as registered voters in Wakefield.

On Saturday, Dec. 11, families greeted Santa Claus as he arrived at his headquarters on the Common provided by the Lions Club.

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, more parents spoke out at the School Committee meeting and demanded to know what the plan was to keep female students safe after inappropriate and explicit images were posted on social media by a male student in October. School Committee members said they were limited by student confidentiality and talked about addressing the social media issue through policy changes.

In mid-December, the Fire Department promoted Firefighter Arthur Fennelly to Lieutenant.

On Dec. 15, the Town Council met to call a Special Election for Feb. 22, 2022 to fill the vacancy on the board caused by the death of Councilor Peter May in October. A citizen petition signed by over 200 registered voters forced the Special Election. The winner will serve for 9 weeks before the Annual Town Election on April 26.

At 8 a.m. the following morning, Dec. 16, former Town Councilor Paul DiNocco pulled papers to run in the Feb. 22 Special Election.

On Saturday, Dec. 18, dozens of volunteers placed 431 donated wreaths on the graves of veterans at Forest Glade Cemetery. The event was part of Wreaths Across America and was organized locally by the Veterans Advisory Board and the DPW Cemetery Division.

At it’s December meeting, the Zoning Board of Appeals raised more questions about traffic from Cabot Cabot & Forbes proposed development at the head of the Lake.

In late December, the Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department honored Light Commissioner Ken Chase for 42 years of service.

On Dec. 30, Michael McLane of Fairmount Avenue pulled papers to run in the Feb. 22 Special Town Council Election.