Florence MacLaughlin: Loyal Public Servant
Feb 29, 2016 06:00AM ● Published by Kenneth Hamwey
Florence MacLaughlin, 1943-2016
Florence MacLaughlin was born in Boston but belonged to Bellingham. Serving as assistant town clerk for the last 30 years, “Flo,” as most Bellingham residents knew her, had a smile that glowed, whether she was processing a dog license, a marriage certificate or an absentee ballot. Her ultra-professional style, kind and caring nature and dedicated work ethic defined who she was.
The 73-year-old MacLaughlin, who died on Feb. 7 after a two-month illness, will be sorely missed at town hall. Current town clerk Ann Odabashian called her assistant “the lifeline of this office.”
MacLaughlin, who began working at town hall in the treasurer’s office in 1981, was well-versed in the nuances of a town clerk’s duties. Besides issuing licenses, she was involved with vital record-keeping, processed underground storage permits, worked during elections, issued absentee ballots and tabulated write-in votes.
“Florence was meticulous‚” Odabashian said. “She wrote down everything, like the dates for voting and the color of the old town hall, and she even recorded the birthdays of grandchildren of town hall employees. She was so professional in everything she did. She worked for 30 years as an assistant clerk—22 with Kathy Harvey and eight with me.”
Harvey, who was elected town clerk in 1986 after serving as Bert Remillard’s assistant for eight years, marveled at MacLaughlin’s willingness to learn different roles when she left the treasurer’s office to assist the town clerk. “We had a good fit,” Harvey said. “She was a great team player, going above and beyond, and she never looked at the clock. If something had to get done, she completed that task. She had an ability to make others look good.”
Harvey recalled how much MacLaughlin enjoyed being part of the “Town Hall Tootsies” in 1994 when Bellingham was celebrating its 275th anniversary. “All the women who worked at town hall were the Town Hall Tootsies,” Harvey noted. “All departments had a group. Ours was the Tootsies. We did fund-raising events and we also did some pranks. She also loved her family, especially her four grandchildren. She was so competent, and she happily provided the public with what it needed. Flo was a gem who’ll be missed.”
Beth Smith, Bellingham’s Human Resource Director, was a big fan of MacLaughlin’s efficiency. “Florence had a wealth of information and she was efficient,” Smith said. “She always had a smile for you and was one of the rocks of town hall.”
Former Treasurer Grace Devitt labeled Mac-Laughlin “the sweetest woman you could know.” If there was a question and MacLaughlin didn’t have the answer, Devitt said that “she’d get the answer.” Dedication to her grandchildren and always maintaining a smile are memories Devitt said she’ll cherish.
Selectmen Vice Chairman Jerry Mayhew knew MacLaughlin for 30 years, and his thoughts all focused on her ability to serve the public with class. “Florence was even-keel all the time,” Mayhew said. “They broke the mold when she was born. She was never abrupt with the public and her demeanor was terrific. She rolled up her sleeves to get a job done. This town has lost a tremendous asset and a great friend.”
Selectmen Chairman Mike Soter and Town Administrator Denis Fraine echoed Mayhew’s words. Soter said, “Florence exemplified what we want in our public employees. I admired the way she dedicated her life to public service and the way she treated everyone with the utmost respect.” Fraine commented, “Florence was a constant reminder and example of what working for the public is all about. She was always pleasant, kind and very knowledgeable. She was trusted by all of us and was someone we counted on for as long as any of us can remember. She will be greatly missed.”
MacLaughlin’s passing hasn’t stopped others from remembering her sound advice. Odabashian recalled her assistant’s insistence that she bring her snow brush into the office when it snowed. “I never did, and Flo would tell me that I was going to get snow on my seat and in my car. She passed away on a Sunday and it snowed the next day. Remembering Flo’s words, I brought my brush into the office.”
MacLaughlin’s son (Jason), her daughter-in-law (Christine), and grandchildren (Jack, Leah, Sara, and Cole) obviously miss her smile, like many in town. And although she resided in Milton, Bridgewater and Jamaica Plain, Bellingham was her place for many years.
Florence MacLaughlin belonged to Bellingham.