As of Monday, more than 330,000 Americans had died of COVID-19. That's more than one in 1,000 citizens and more than twice the number of deaths as India, a country with a population of 1.3 billion. That is beyond tragic; it is unimaginable and unforgivable.
As we look back at those we lost during 2020, that number looms over everything. Locally we have escaped a high death toll from the novel coronavirus, but we have not been untouched. On March 23, Rev. Dr. Richard Ottaway, an Episcopal priest associated with churches in Chatham and Harwich, was the first known victim of the virus with a connection to our communities. A few days later, on March 28, Julie Bruchu Bradley, a longtime sales administrator at Allen Harbor Marine Service, died of COVID-19, followed shortly by Robert LeBlanc, a Millis resident and fellow Allen Harbor Marine employee. In May, longtime Chatham doctor Thomas Halliday succumbed to the virus.
Since then, dozens of local residents have lost their lives to COVID-19, with the highest total in Harwich, due chiefly to the deaths of 21 people at the Wingate at Harwich nursing home. Capewide, as of Dec. 27, the deaths of 228 people were attributed to COVID-19, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Pandemic aside, our communities lost many notable residents during 2020. Josephine Ives broke gender barriers by becoming the first female selectman elected in Chatham. Thomas Nickerson served honorably on the Orleans select board. Peter Luddy filled the same position in Harwich and was known as a true man of the people. Bev Ricci was a longtime Chatham town clerk. Fred Tansey served the town as electrical inspector. Ralph Crowell spent 24 years as a Chatham firefighter. For many years, Joseph Buckley was Chatham's elected tree warden.
Town government and local organizations operate mostly by volunteers, and we lost a number who made valuable contributions over the years. Dr. Kenneth McKusick was a driving force behind the Orleans comprehensive plan. Robert Hamblet chaired Chatham's waterways advisory committee for a decade and was well known as a captain for the Beachcomber Boat Tours. Bill McClellan served on the Chatham School Committee and cable advisory committee, and David Bassett was a Brooks Free Library trustee, a Harwich Historical Society volunteer and the unofficial “poet laureate” of the community. Ann Foster not only gave countless hours to the Chatham Conservation Foundation and Friends of Trees, but she also played a pivotal role in establishing the Chatham Orpheum Theater. Jean Raymond helped out on the board of the Friends of the Chatham Council on Aging. Hilda Traina was a long-time docent at the Chatham Historical Society and helped run FISH, which connects residents to drivers for medical appointments. Dicran Barian was instrumental on the Friends of the Eldredge Public Library board as well as at St. Christopher's Church. Malcolm Ward founded the Eldredge Library's memoir group and also delighted generations of children as Pockets the Clown during First Night and the July 4 parade.
Olive Bogue taught students the ins and outs of the kitchen at Chatham High School for 27 years. She wrote her own cookbook still used in classes today. Robert Ericson taught French and Latin at the high school for 20 years before becoming a guidance counselor; he also coached and helped found Dollars For Scholars.
In the community, Peter McIntire's excavating company dug foundations for many houses in Chatham. John Pfeffer helped develop the Cape Cod National Golf Course in Harwich. Jeff Spencer was a jack of all trades in local theater. Kay Cima took beautiful photographs that she shared with her fellow photography devotees. As a mediator, Tom Raftery helped many people through their conflicts, served on the board of Cape Ability and had a mean backhand. Sandy Dobbrow taught tennis to many and was a great opponent on the court for many more. As a commercial fisherman, Walter Tolley advocated for sustainability. Fred Crimins helped bring an alternative site for a new senior center in Chatham to the attention of the public. And Andigoni Mitrokostas was a friendly face behind the counter for generations of patrons at New England Pizza.
And our world is a little less musical this year with the passing of Ken Eldredge, who played in the Chatham Band for 81 years and spent 19 as musical director.
Rest in peace, one and all.