CHATHAM — Gary Anderson, perhaps best known as the longtime chairman of the Chatham Parks and Recreation Commission, died unexpectedly last week at the age of 63.
A native of Chatham, Mr. Anderson will be remembered by many for his contribution to parks, playgrounds and facilities that continue to serve the town's young people.
“He was a member of the community,” friend and former selectman David Whitcomb said. “I can't say enough about him. He really was the heart and soul of the park and recreation department for a long time,” he said.
Mr. Anderson's tenure on the recreation commission actually began in 1994, two years before it was merged with the parks commission.
“He was very passionate about parks and recreation in Chatham,” department Director Dan Tobin said. His children took part in recreation programs, and so Mr. Anderson's interest in the subject came naturally, Tobin said. “He had a passion for it. He took the job very seriously.”
Mr. Anderson was a full-time patrolman with the Chatham Police Department from 1977 to 1980, then served as a reserve officer and a member of the North Beach Patrol for an additional four years.
“North Beach had been a personal passion of his,” Whitcomb said. He was among those who advocated for continued public access to the barrier beach, working with camp owners, off-road vehicle users and others who saw the beach as a place of refuge and enjoyment. Mr. Anderson was an avid fisherman who also had an innate ability to navigate over the Chatham bar in all kinds of weather, according to his family.
Having volunteered to build the former Chatham Play-around playground, Mr. Anderson worked hard to protect the interests of youngsters and those who use public spaces. During the renovation of the Depot Road school, Anderson fought back against plans to remove the tennis courts, and prevailed against strong opposition.
“That's why they're there today,” Whitcomb said. “He was so influential back then.”
At a time when the town lacked softball or soccer fields, Mr. Anderson lobbied passionately for the creation of Volunteer Park, rejecting suggestions that play areas should be built on the town's capped landfill instead. “It was a great exercise in consensus-building,” Whitcomb said.
Having made a career in sales, Mr. Anderson was always a passionate volunteer, most recently for Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod, which is accepting memorial gifts in his name. A full obituary is published elsewhere in this edition.
Mr. Anderson brought his political resolve to bear in the renovation of the former Main Street School as a new community center, a process that took years of debate and planning.
“It was a long time, successive town meetings,” Tobin said. “During his entire tenure, he was championing for getting it created and making it a meaningful facility for everyone in Chatham, people of all ages.”
In 2007, admitting that he never thought the day would come, Mr. Anderson was among those who stood on the steps of the new community center to cut the ribbon.
“He definitely was a do-er and certainly a member of the commission that I'll never forget,” Tobin said. “It was part of who he was. He put his all into it.”