An Appreciation: John Filios

John Filios, a former Captain in the Bedford Minuteman Company, saluted the audience at the Company’s 50th-anniversary celebration on October 11, 2014 – Image (c) JMcCT, 2014 all rights reserved – Click to view a larger image

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

John Filios’s first recorded service to the Town of Bedford was his appointment as Bedford’s representative to the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission’s Airport Study group in 1967, but his longest-lasting impact came through his appointments to the Historical Commission, 1991-1997; the Historic Preservation Commission, 1998 to 2007; and the Patriotic Holiday Committee, from 2004 to 2008. His commitment to the Bedford Minuteman Company, the Job Lane House, and the Friends of Depot Park may be even more significant.

For these and so many other accomplishments, John Filios was chosen as Bedford’s 2007 Citizen of the Year. Click this link to read the Citizen of the Year citation read during the 2007 celebration.

Remembering John Filios

“John and I came together because of our love of the Bedford Flag,” recalls Sharon McDonald, Bedford’s Town Historian.

“‘Love’ – well, John was downright fierce about it, and when in my research it developed that it did not date from 1660, as he and the Bedford Minuteman Company thought, but more like fifty years later, he had strong words to say. However, at last, he was persuaded and became my good friend.

“I once had the pleasure of riding in the back seat beside him on a car trip with the Minutemen from Bedford to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. For seven and a half hours straight, he was utterly fascinating, full of stories of his time in the Air Force – including one shuddering tale of running the radar in the back of a plane as it sought to land on a runway above a Greenland fjord in dense fog. Sometimes he sang – he had a beautiful voice.

“But my favorite story of his was the epic of Revolutionary War general Henry Knox’s dragging of the cannons from Ticonderoga to Dorchester Heights. I had heard the entire narration on two occasions before and knew it was a dramatic one, so – about the time we crossed the Pennsylvania border, I settled back asked — “Oh, John, tell about Henry Knox and the cannons again!” He never left out a detail, and it took almost as long to tell it as it did for old Henry Knox and his men to do it, but I had all the time in the world to listen. He had a high sense of drama along with his command of the facts, and he was never boring. I loved him dearly.”

The Bedford Minuteman Company

Former Minuteman Company Captain Roy Kring sent the following remembrance. “John was certainly a vibrant force in the Bedford Minuteman Company, and he was the first Bedford Minuteman that Shirley and I came to know – he was the key person who introduced us to the organization and he is actually the reason we both became Minutemen!” Kring went on to note that according to Minuteman Company records, John served as Captain from 1978-1979, and he volunteered in many other positions in the organization, including the Executive Board as recently as 2009.

He was a very talented fifer and served as the Company’s Music Master for many years, leading the fifes and drums in countless music rehearsals. He continued playing and marching with the Company, nearly into his 90’s. “Always interested in helping out the Bedford Minuteman Company with historical accuracy,” Kring recalled traveling to Connecticut with John to purchase authentic fifes for the Bedford Minutemen to use.

The Filios family commitment to the Bedford Minutemen included John’s wife Eleanor who made the handsome rosettes that decorate the Company’s hats.

Shirley Kring wrote, “John Filios joined the Minutemen in 1967 and was given the Quartermaster job.  He helped quite a few members get their uniforms from a tailor in Newton Upper Falls.  He transported the men there to get measurements, again to be fitted, and then to pick up the final product.  It was a time when many new members joined because of the upcoming bicentennial.”

John organized and managed the Bedford Minuteman Scholarship Fund that he got incorporated in 1991.  The fund now gives two scholarships of $1200 each year.  Help comes from the Christmas Luminaries sales.

“The scholarship fund has been in existence for over 25 years,” notes current Minuteman Company Scholarship Foundation chair Paul Ciaccia, “and through John’s leadership, the fund has been able to award over $70,000 to Bedford students.

And incidentally, John was among the Bedford Minutemen who greeted Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Boston in 1979.

Friends of Depot Park

As a founding member and director of Depot Park, John was a major contributor to the 1995 proposal that established the park adjacent to the Minuteman Bicycle Trail.  Working with the Historic Preservation Commission, he was able to obtain a matching grant which resulted in a pictorial sign at the Depot to launch the Friends of Depot Park.

John and I became acquainted in the early 1990s when he was a member of the Bedford Historical Commission,” recalled Jim Shea, president of the Friends of Depot Park.

“He contacted me for information about Bedford’s railroad history that would appear on a “Special Places” sign adjacent to the Depot. This led to us developing a modest proposal for a bench, landscaping and a brick plaza at the bikeway terminus. John arranged a meeting with the DPW Director to determine a cost estimate. Although the Selectmen thought the project was a good idea, they felt the $40,000 price tag was beyond the Town’s financial means.

“John was not a person to be easily turned down. He placed a funding article for the project on the Town Meeting warrant. Soon thereafter, the Selectmen offered to support a $4,000 study and to work with us if John removed his article, which he agreed to do. Around the same time, John suggested that I start a “Friends” organization to advocate for what became the Bedford Depot Park project. This group continues to exist today with an enrollment of approximately 250 members from nearby and across the country.

“Ultimately, the project was expanded to include acquisition of the Passenger Station and Freight House buildings, two parking lots, and ex-Boston & Maine Rail Diesel Car 6211, which was restored to become a museum. Amenities were added that include bicycle racks, a plaza with benches, a water fountain, an information kiosk, and public restrooms. With John’s encouragement, I wrote a grant proposal that yielded about $1.65 million in Federal and state funding to purchase the property and build Depot Park.

“Bedford Depot Park formally opened in 2009. I am happy that John lived to see the accomplishment of one of his dreams.”

Friends of the Job Lane House

John was a long time member of the Friends of the Job Lane House serving as its president in 1982, and as vice-president in 1985.

When the Town acquired the Job Lane House in the early 1970’s, the Bedford Minuteman Company was asked to refurbish the Great Hall, the main room for activities.  John and his crew dealt with a bad floor, sagging hair plaster, spending $300 and 300 hours.  The facilities were done, thanks to John and the 18th Century house could then be opened to the public. He helped to build storm doors for the house and barn and built the first grape arbor for the Concord grape in front of the barn.  He supervised Eagle Scout projects — building two bridges over the brook and display shelving in the house.

Jeannette Pothier remembers, “John was among the first three board members to think about building a barn. He had attended a class on timber framing, and worked with us to build that barn, Pothier recalled. “He worried that the foundation was not going to be strong enough to support the barn, but it has proven to be.”

Being the true Minuteman that he was, John always found a time to play the fife when visitors were present. “He loved history and being part of history,” noted Pothier. “We already miss John, especially since June 23 is the anniversary of the 1993 barn raising, and he is here with us in spirit.”

Historic Preservation Commission

“John Filios was very involved with the preservation of Bedford’s historic resources,” said Don Corey, a current member of the Historic Preservation Commission. “He served for many years and chaired the Commission.  As Chair of the HPC, John obtained a grant from the State Historical Commission to process a “whole town” historical survey and negotiated the purchase of a key piece of land next to the Wilson Mill Site at a very reasonable price.”

The HPC is also responsible for management and oversight of the Job Lane House, and John served as the Commission’s representative for that property.  He was active in the original preservation of the Job Lane House after the town acquired it, in the construction of the barn, and in the continued repair and maintenance of the property over subsequent years.

“The young heritage apple trees planted around the front of the property were a special project of his and are a fitting memorial to John,” concluded Corey.

American Legion Post 221

John was a Life Member of the American Legion. For many years on the Fourth of July, John read the Declaration of Independence aloud. First at the Minuteman Company’s lantern celebration (complete with strawberry shortcake) on Bedford Common at dusk, and once at Springs Brook Park, perhaps for the final time. Thanks to OC O’Connor, Commander of Bedford’s American Legion Post 221, this tradition was revived in the shadow of Bedford’s Patriot Statue on July 4, 2017.

Commander O’Connor added that in John Filios’s memory, “That tradition will go on again this year, with even more determination as a nod to John and his ever patriotic position which he proudly displayed and executed.”

John and the Scouts from Boy Scout Troop 194 worked on multiple Eagle Scout Project at the Job Lane House.

John never stopped fighting for the military, or those who retired from military service. He brought a  landmark case to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 1993, Filios v. Commissioner of Revenue, 415 Mass. 806.

His initial case was denied, yet his effort laid the groundwork so that if you research taxable pensions in Massachusetts, you will find this language: Noncontributory pension income or survivorship benefits received from the U.S. uniformed services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is exempt from taxation in Massachusetts. John helped form and manage Mass COMO (Council of Military Organization). Their efforts took 14 years and an investment of $50,000, but are thought to have saved approximately $15 million per year for Massachusetts’ 22,000 military retirees.

As a Neighbor and A Friend

Paul Ciaccia reflected on John’s help more than 35 years ago. “I was new to the neighborhood and had a wood stove. John believed in burning wood at that time and talked me into buying 8 cords of 18- to 20-foot logs as a way of accumulating plenty of firewood. I started cutting them into 4-foot sections and stacking them. But as you would expect I didn’t have much time given family, work etc.  One day upon returning from work I found all the logs cut and stacked. Quite a day’s work by none other than my neighbor John Filios.”

Another neighbor, Ben Thomas, recalled a somewhat contentious tree hearing when anything with a caliper measurement of one inch or greater was deemed to be a tree. It may be apocryphal, but John is remembered as coming into the hearing brandishing a small sapling, roots and all. “Tree?” he is remembered as saying. “This isn’t a tree, it’s a WEED!”

In the words of a friend, “Quite a guy, wouldn’t you say?”

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