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Lifelong Resident Marcia Crooks Leaves Behind a Legacy of Knowledge

Jul 30, 2020 06:00AM ● By Marjorie Turner Hollman
written by Marjorie Turner Hollman, Contributing Writer

Marcia Crooks (pictured above), a lifelong Bellingham resident and direct descendant of the Crooks family that settled in Bellingham in the 1700s, died July 3 of this year, leaving a huge hole in the community. Thankfully, Marcia shared much of her historical knowledge of the community in the quarterly Crimpville Comments, the publication of the Bellingham Historical Commission, which she took over as chair upon the death of Ernie Taft in 2011.

She lived her whole life on the farm where she was born, on Lake Street. Her family ran a dairy farm on the property, where Marcia and her four siblings grew up. Her sister Jan Hendrickson noted, “We were each other’s best friends. We had a lot of friends, but once we got home from school we worked together. Our mother always said, ‘Your father needs you.’ Our parents both worked very hard and modeled for us what hard work was.

“Marcia was always very interested in sports and spent hours going to meetings all over the state to push for girls’ sports teams to be allowed to compete against other schools. She finally convinced state officials to allow this. It was long before Title IX [federal legislation that requires equal opportunity for programs receiving federal funding, which resulted in pressure to provide equal sports opportunity to girls].

“In later life Marcia traveled around the country participating in the Senior Olympics. She was inducted into the Bridgewater State College Sports Hall of Fame. Marcia was a real organizer.”
Marcia not only chaired the Historical Commission, but she worked closely with David Cutler, then principal of Keough Academy, to confirm the historical accuracy of the recent renovation of the Keough School. Marcia had been a student at the old Keough High School and graduated from there in 1951.

Denis Fraine, Bellingham Town Administrator, observed, “Marcia’s presence on the Historical Commission and in the community will be greatly missed. Marcia was proud of the town her family has called home for generations and proud of its history, which she knew better than anyone else.  Having worked closely with Marcia, I had a deep respect for the commitment and volunteerism that she offered for events throughout the year, always prepared to offer her guidance to researchers or young students interested in learning more about the community. Her spirit will live on in the many editions of the Crimpville Comments that she authored over the years, sharing stories of Bellingham’s past.”

Details of the Crooks family were included in the books about Bellingham’s history, including the most recent one, Bellingham, Now and Then, Celebrating the 300th Anniversary of Bellingham, MA. In this most recent book are details explaining the role of Jeremiah Crooks and the importance of his tavern, which was located in the south end of town. Also included was information that Marcia shared concerning the multiple one-room schoolhouses where area school children in Bellingham studied in years past. Her grandmother taught at the one-room schoolhouse that was located across the street from Bellingham Lumber, at the corner of Lake Street and Pulaski Boulevard.

Carlton Patrick, who was married to a relative of Marcia’s—Mildred Crooks—recalls working with Marcia on many projects when they both were members of the Historical Commission. He observed, “We worked hard together, and Marcia was always ready to do whatever was needed. She was at the Historical Museum all the time.”

Cliff Matthews, Chair of the Conservation Commission and personal friend of Marcia, noted that “when Ernie Taft died in 2011, Marcia moved right into continuing the leadership to the Commission that Ernie had provided. She had the institutional knowledge of the history of the town, since her family had been in town since the 1700s. Her family was invested in the well-being of the town.”

The work of Marcia’s beloved Historical Commission goes on. The newest chair, Rick Marcoux, said, “On July 13th the Historical Commission opened our Zoom meeting with a moment of silence in respect to Marcia. We discussed how she will be remembered. Ideas were shared, but it will take more time to finalize the Commission’s proper expression of her dedication to the town of Bellingham. I can assure you that she will be honored.”

It’s been said that when a person dies, an entire library of knowledge disappears with them. Thankfully, Marcia spent tremendous energy assuring that her knowledge of Bellingham’s history was shared in multiple issues of the Crimpville Comments newsletter and elsewhere. Surely we will have questions in the coming years, and many of us will say, “Marcia would have known the answer to that.” But for many of those questions, we will simply need to leaf through the various issues of the newsletter to find our answers. In those pages Marcia’s legacy to the town of Bellingham remains.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In preparation for writing the memoriam on Marcia Crooks, we reached out to people who knew her. This remembrance from her friend Margaret Maxwell arrived after the article had been written, but we felt it was such a heartfelt farewell that it should be included herein, unedited.

A Special Friend Remembers Marcia Crooks

“I met Marcia several years ago at the Bellingham Senior Center.  She invited me to visit her at the Historical Museum the next day. As we browsed around the dusty, crowded rooms, she pointed out the many items with which she was so familiar. You see, Marcia was a farm girl. She grew up in Bellingham and never strayed very far from home. I, on the other hand, grew up in the city of Somerville, and had never even seen a cow until I was married and moved to Medway. Two very different backgrounds, but it was through that brief encounter that we soon became very good friends.

I began to go to the Museum on a weekly basis to help Marcia with the organization of materials and whatever she was working on that day. I soon came to realize that this was a very special place. On a regular basis many of the “townies” dropped in to visit with Marcia. It was my honor and privilege to join them for coffee and listen to their remembrances of old town Bellingham. Among the regulars were Carlton Patrick,(who is a great storyteller), Mary Gregoire and Pauline Gaudini.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that those four walls really did have a lot to say. Every item or picture seemed to bring back a memory. Now I have wonderful memories also of the wonderful time I shared with these special people, learning about growing up in the country.

Marcia and I soon went from being acquaintances to being very special friends. It didn’t take long to realize that she was well-loved and respected in the community. She was fun to be with. No matter where we went, she attracted people. There was no “quick lunch” or errand around town. Everyone knew her and wanted to talk. She was a “people person” and was interested in anything town-related.   

As with all of us, time takes its toll on the body and the mind.  Marcia began it find it difficult to focus on a singular task and developed some difficulty walking.  As you might expect, though, for a long time she wouldn’t give in to her infirmities.  She continued her work at the Museum, notably getting the Crimpville Comments ready for printing and delivery. The town of Bellingham, the museum, and the townspeople, were always her top priority.

Marcia, you are greatly missed and the time has come to pass the torch to others.  You did a wonderful job of keeping the Spirit of Bellingham alive.  Thank you for your dedication, your service, but mostly for your love.”               

your friend,
Margaret Maxwell

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