This weekend, the Town will hold a special dedication service in the memory of late John Wilson. Given Wilson’s involvement in helping rally residents to save the golf course, the choice made is fitting. The access road for the Southborough Golf Club is being named “John Wilson Drive”.
Earlier this year, selectmen approved a design for the road marker, pictured above.
The timing of Veterans Day weekend is also fitting. The ceremony will take place 24 hours before the Town’s annual Veterans Day ceremony that Commander Wilson used to co-lead. The dedication ceremony will take place this Sunday, November 10th at 11:00 am.
A flyer for the dedication invites the public to join them in naming the road for the “former Town Moderator, Veterans Agent, and [consummate] volunteer and patriot.”
Attendees are asked to park in visitor parking at the Public Safety Building or next door at Woodward School.
At Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Chair Brian Shea encouraged attendees to bring along their golf clubs to play a round after the ceremony. (Note: To be clear, the green fees aren’t being waived for that, so you’d need to bring your wallet, too.)
I was among the residents who had been asked to say a few words at this occasion.
Unfortunately, when I arrived at the scene, I realized with horror that I had inadvertently left my speech notes on the kitchen counter. And it was to late to retrieve them. Bummer.
I thought to myself that I could manage it without any problems, but I kinda made a mess of it, and felt afterwards that I had left the attendees down.
It’s too late to correct my dumb move, but I thought I could at least share my notes with you here, in the hope that readers will get a much better understanding on how I truly felt about John, and the tremendous contributions he made to merit this dedication.
“Dear Town officials, attendees, and especially the Wilson family, many thanks for the opportunity and privilege to address you all today on this occasion: the dedication of John Wilson Drive, in honor and memory of a dear friend and truly great man.
I’ll be brief but would like to take the opportunity to reminisce a little, from the golfing group’s point of view, on the incalculable impact that John had on this particular “grand compromise” project.
The start of our cooperation began in earnest back in the fall of 2016. John gave me a call and asked if I had the time to come over to discuss a very important project he wanted to embark on. He told me that it was a 2 headed monster of a challenge. On the one hand, he was now fully on board with the selectmen’s plan to pursue a promising new avenue to resolve the long standing plight of the police dept, who was still stuck in that run down converted elementary school building on Main Street.
It’s an embarrassment to this fine Town, he said, and we can help to make it right. But at the same time, we’ll need to also work especially hard to save the golf course.
Seems that the school (St-Marks) was all set on selling the land, all 60 acres or so, to the highest bidder. The Town had a chance to intervene in the now famous land swap deal. We could solve the location of a new public facility by giving up some land and relocating golf operations.
But John, I said, please forgive my ignorance, but I don’t know a single thing about Town government, how it works, who’s in charge, who does what, how am I supposed to help you? The only thing I know is that I live in Precinct 2 and vote at Trottier.
You’re hired! he said…
Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll handle the heavy lifting. Just follow my lead.
So, I agreed. He was very persuasive as those of you who know him are aware.
And so he cobbled together a small team. At first there was only three of us. Dick Cruciani had already been enlisted, a terrific person and tremendous resource to the Town with his activism and invaluable source of information on golf operations at the St-Mark’s course. A little later on we added on another valuable member, David Parry, a graduated architect by trade, and our very own Lightning Rod, as I came to find out. (David, if you hear/read this, I meant that in the best of ways.)
And that was the start. We had no power, no authority, no money. We weren’t even an officially recognized Committee by the Town.
But we did have an Ace in the Hole, the ultimate asset with which to move forward and positively, and that was John Wilson.
Without him, and his clear vision, we would have been hopelessly outgunned and outmatched.
If you recall, the Town was quite polarized on the issue during that time. We had the Public Facility supporters on one side, and the Open Land Forces on the other, who in spite of their strong support for First Responders generally speaking, wanted none of the land swap deal being brandied about.
And there were even more camps, generally ambivalent about the whole project, many of them not great fans of golf.
And our lowly golf group was stuck in the middle, doing our best to make headway with both camps. It was a very trying time.
But with John’s leadership skills and amiable personality, his many connections on both sides of the warring factions, we were able to make some headway. He not only had the rightfully earned respect of everyone as a great friend of the Town from his years of service, but the credibility that goes along with it.
I won’t go over all the details of what happened next, but suffice it to say that in the end, as a Town, we were able to achieve a truly amazing outcome.
Not only were we able to erect a permanent and outstanding new facility for our Police/Fire First responders, but we were able to take ownership of our very own historic and newly improved/renovated Golf course. (A special shoutout to CPC who provided the necessary funding). As if that wasn’t enough, we also enabled the placement of a Conservation Restriction in Perpetuity on the remaining acreage of this beautiful property.
A true storybook ending. And one that we could all be proud of, as John had intended all along.
There are certainly many more actors to thank in this play that were not mentioned, but we are gathered here today to honor a person who without a doubt played the leading and pivotal role in the entire saga.
Looking back, John had the personality traits to really make the difference. Leadership, Integrity, Dedication, Accountability, Duty, Pride and Patriotism . Throw in the mix plenty of wit and charm and a keen intellect, and there you have him: John Wilson.
Those are but a few of the words that come to mind when I reflect back upon John, and what made him such a special person and a good friend.
And so I’m grateful to the Selectmen and other Town officials who all came together and decided to honor him in this way. A fitting tribute to a great man, and one that will help keep his memory alive and vibrant for generations to come. (Now if we could only get his road paved…)
I know that John is looking down on us today from above, and while he is pondering his name on such a beautiful sign, I’m sure he’s thinking to himself. Man, that has to be the best golf swing I’ve ever made!
Thank you very much for listening.”
Well, that’s what I intended to say. If I’m ever in the same predicament, I’ll keep a copy of my notes in the car!
Thank you for reading.