A History of Giving

A speech given by Richard Desorgher at the launch of the Medfield Foundation Legacy Fund
October 25, 2016


It is indeed an honor being asked to speak this evening on what I refer to as the special spirit that this town has, of what I call making Medfield, Medfield, a special spirit that in many ways is uniquely Medfield, of volunteerism, of reaching out to help others, of giving, and of community.


Medfield has a long history of giving thanks and a long list of generous town citizens who want to give back to the community that has given them much. Time does not permit me to mention all of them but I will mention a few examples.

From the very beginning, when the first 13 settlers arrived in the new town of Medfield in 1649 after leaving Dedham, they made their way along Foundry Street and paused on top of the hill overlooking what would become their new homeland. They looked over the open meadows and broad plains and gave thanks, believing that they were indeed God’s chosen people and this was indeed their promised land. They named the hill Mt. Nebo, after the spot in the Holy Land, today located in Jordan, where Moses saw his promised land. The settlers gave thanks for all they had been given and started a history of helping one another.


Richard Desorgher talking with local Medfield residents at the Zullo Gallery for the launch of the Medfield Foundation Legacy Fund

In that early settlement, each time a house, a barn, a meetinghouse or any other dwelling was to be built, all in town turned out to help in the building. These “barn raisings” became the norm for helping one another.


Medfield’s history is filled with examples of local residents giving of themselves. In 1675 some 60 persons in Medfield contributed to the start of the “new brick college;” Harvard. Education was important to these early Puritans.


In December of 1774, when the port of Boston was shut down by the British in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party, the citizens of Medfield came forward to help those in Boston who were suffering. The contributions from Medfield were 132 pounds of pork, 402 pounds of cheese and 22 cartloads of wood.


In 1872, as Medfield was without a town hall to conduct its governmental business, George W. Chenery left in his will a sum of money to be given to the town for the building of a town hall. The total cost of $26, 668 was paid for under the Chenery Trust Fund and in 1872 Medfield opened its new town hall for the first time, on the site of today’s town hall. In 1915 Hannah Adams Pfaff, local Medfieldite, who was born Hannah Adams Gardner and the grandniece of the famous Hannah Adams, married into the world of Boston socialite and brewer Jacob Pfaff and had a substantial mansion built on 121 North Street, for use as their summer residence, the site of the current apartments opposite from the head of Dale Street and the new police and fire station. In her will she left to the town the land across North Street where the Pfaff Center and the Dale Street School are now located in “memory of her truly wonderful childhood days growing up in Medfield.” In 1916 Willard Harwood, who had married into the Baxter family, gave to the town of Medfield the land at the corner of Spring and Main Streets to be called Baxter Park, in honor of his wife. In 1917 the town accepted a gift from Granville Dailey, part owner of the hat factory, of a new public library, which up to that point had been located in a room in town hall. The new Memorial Public Library stands today as one of Medfield’s architectural gems and has provided the town with education, reading pleasure and library services for the past 99 years, thanks to the generosity of Granville Dailey. In 1923 the same Granville Dailey became part of a movement to save the Peak House, which was facing demolition by neglect. Under Dailey a committee was formed with Dailey kicking in $1,600, the full expense of the actual restoration, hence saving the Peak House, perhaps our most valuable landmark today


Today numerous organizations and generous individuals continue to help those in need and work to make our community a better place in which to live; from the Food Cupboard to the Medfield Home Committee, to the many school groups, to the Medfield Garden Club, to Bill Pope and the Zullo Gallery, to Jean Mineo and the Medfield Cultural Council, to the many town residents who have fixed up and saved their historic homes that benefit all of us and our property values. To the Medfield Historical Society and a group of preservation minded citizens who banded together and saved Medfield’s oldest house, the Dwight-Derby House, through fundraisers, active political involvement and town meeting support. And individuals who today continue on a similar journey to save and restore the Lowell Mason House and preserved and maintain the historic Clark/Kingsbury Grist Mill. And individual Medfield residents such as Frank Iafolla who volunteers every year making sure flags are placed every Memorial Day on the graves of all veterans buried in Vine Lake Cemetery and for his volunteer work for the United States Marine Corps Toys for Tots, holiday collection drive.


Medfield has been blessed with incredible youth sport’s programs, where coaches, organizers and countless support volunteers have given our children a most successful active athletic option. To those involved with the Medfield Coalition for Public Education, whose involvement and fundraising efforts have made possible hundreds of innovative educational initiatives undertaken by our teachers, providing a first-class enrichment education for our children. /  To all those involved in scouting, who give so much of their time and efforts to our youth. It is so impressive the number of Gold Awards and Eagle Scout Awards achieved by Medfield Scouts.

The Medfield Lions Club whose fundraising efforts give back to our community through eyeglass collections that go to those in need and whose fundraisers help Medfield families going through hardships and who help our students with high school scholarships and our senior citizens with the Christmas dinner each year. The American Legion and Sons of Veterans who assist our local veterans, sponsor the fishing derby for our kids, and help our community with high school scholarships and the Hannah Adams Club, now in their 123 year, for their help with scholarships for graduating MHS seniors.


And I want to salute on a personal note a Medfield couple who exemplified the best of the term, making Medfield, Medfield. When I was a youth growing up in Medfield, Bob and Ruth Luke set an example for me that I have never forgotten. They gave unselfishly of their lives to help others and specifically worked to make Medfield a better place in which to live. Ruth and Bob worked tirelessly for years helping us run what was in the 1960s and early 70s the Medfield Youth Center, which was student run and featured dances with live music every Saturday night for high school students. It was locate in what is now the Pfaff Center. Growing up, through their efforts and that of so many others, as Medfield youth, we had an organized, safe and fun place to go to every Saturday night and Bob and Ruth were there every Saturday night for over ten years. It didn’t stop there and it continued with Bob’s efforts on the Park and Recreation Commission and Ruth’s efforts to care for town animals, to establish a Majorite program for high school youth and who started and ran the first Christmas parade, which continues to this very day. Bob and Ruth were a great example of that special spirit that is Medfield.

And I want to end with a salute to the Medfield Foundation, who continues in the tradition started by those first 13 settlers some 367 years ago of helping others and continues in the tradition of the Bob and Ruth Lukes of this community of working to make Medfield the special place that it is


The Medfield Foundation is a 100% volunteer run non-profit charitable corporation whose mission is to enrich the lives of Medfield residents, build a stronger community, and facilitate the raising and allocation of private funds for public needs in the town of Medfield. They have worked tirelessly with many organizations and individuals to raise over $1.8 million dollars that has been donated back to Medfield since their inception in 2001. Through the Angel Run, the Volunteer Recognition Awards and the Youth Leadership Program they have encouraged giving and volunteerism: the Straw Hat Park, Dale Street School playground, Council on Aging senior bus, Medfield Cares about Prevention, the Calvin Fisher Memorial Field, Art in Public Places, the Kingsbury Grist Mill, among others, all have benefited /and are a reality today/ because of the assistance/ of the Medfield Foundation.


All those involve in the Medfield Foundation continue today/ and look forward continuing into the future/ with that special spirit that is Medfield,/ it is/ what makes this the special community that it truly is. We are indeed blessed here in 02052 by this spirit of giving, volunteerism and of giving thanks!


We have something very special going on here/ and I think we know that. It is in our roots, in our history, it is here today and it is something hopefully that will continue/ far into our childrens and children’s children’s future.


Thank you.