“Every night after dinner, we would dry the dishes as mom washed,” recalled the three children of Dorothy C. Ahearn. And there was musical accompaniment. “She let us take turns in picking records to play, and she loved The Beatles!”
They thought of that as being a “cool mom,” and she was. But there also was a cultural connection – Mrs. Ahearn volunteered for the Red Cross during World War II, serving not only in England but also in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge when she was 26.
Mrs. Ahearn, who died on Nov. 30 at the age of 102, was a Bedford Renaissance woman for three generations. She loved to read almost any book but mastered computer technology. She supported nascent enterprises, like the reconstituted colonial Minutemen, local public transportation, and the Minuteman Library Network.
John and Dorothy Ahearn met after the war. Their children said he knocked on her door in Brighton brandishing a petition for a new form of city government. They were married in 1950, and soon “fell in love” with a house on Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington Center, across from St. Brigid’s Church. But the $25,000 price tag was out of range, so they chose an unfinished half-Cape on Woodland Road in Bedford, in the Lexington Park development close to the town line, for $9,000.
They had three children: Karen Ahearn of Acton, Michael Ahearn of Lunenburg, and Ann (Ahearn) Ringwood of Lowell.
Dorothy Ahearn was one of those residents whose involvement in town affairs and activities was boundless. She was most widely known as a volunteer and employee at the Bedford Free Public Library, working mostly in technical services, as well as at the circulation desk.
More than 40 years ago, recalled former Library Director Rob Maier, “I remember going down to the technical services room where she managed ordering, receiving, cataloging, and processing new books to suggest that we participate in a new program to get sets of catalog cards and to register our ownership of the books in the Boston Public Library system. This would help us get electronic records that could be useful in future automation.”
“To my delight, she was enthusiastic about the opportunity. Soon we were on our way to Boston for training and in due time we received a terminal to connect to the system via a telephone and modem. Dorothy named the terminal Stanley and she and Stanley did great work together.”
Another former Library Director, Meredith McCulloch, said, “Two words I associate with Dorothy are kindness and integrity. She and I shared a love of mysteries, especially British who-done-its. Her sense of right and wrong was so strong that she did not approve when the fictional villain went unpunished. I feel privileged to have been her friend.”
Another associate, Dr. Desmond McCarthy, remembered, “When I was a 15-year-old kid with my first job working at the library, I remember her as uncommonly kind.” Indeed, it was Ann’s classmate Wayne Braverman who came up with the acronym GOMA (“Good Ole Mrs. A”), which she used when electronic mail emerged. Her children pointed out that she took Bedford Local Transit to work because it was “yet another opportunity to socialize with the community.”
During those years, when a visitor asked to see the Bedford Flag kept securely in the library basement, Mrs. Ahearn was the tour guide. That isn’t surprising, considering that her husband, who died in 1983, was not only the driving force behind restoring the company of Bedford Minutemen in the early 1960s but also was the biggest advocate for the sanctity of the flag.
“Mom did a lot behind the scenes to help out with the Minutemen,” her children testified. Besides serving strawberry shortcake for years at the company’s July 4 fundraiser, she knitted the caps for the first few years of April liberty pole-capping at Willson Park.
For decades, she was a poll worker on Election Days. “It was perfect for her as she got to see all her friends and neighbors,” the children said. “And on slow, low-turnout days, she knitted. Her family was the beneficiary of many beautiful sweaters that way!” She rarely missed a town meeting.
Mrs. Ahearn was a Girl Scout leader, including a number of years as cookie chairman. Her garage would be full of cases of cookies, to be distributed to the various troops in town. She learned rug hooking and rug braiding at the former Bedford Adult Education program. “We would come into the house to find mom dyeing wool in the kitchen,” the family recounted.
St. Michael’s Parish “meant the world to her,” her children said, beginning with the former chapel that stood on The Great Road near Hillside Avenue. “Sunday morning 8:15 Mass was regular as clockwork and, after her retirement, she helped out at St. Michael’s in (what a surprise!) their library.” Mrs. Ahearn also was part of the team for the Bedford Santa program, including some shifts as a driver.
The children said she was devoted to her family, and always cherished family gatherings. “Her second greatest joy in life was visiting Cape Cod every year,” they added.
Mrs. Ahearn also is survived by a granddaughter and many nieces and nephews. Funeral services were private.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763
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