Spanning more than 25 years of Bedford governmental service, Joseph W. Sweeney saw it all.
Indeed, no one in the town’s history has been elected to the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and town moderator, and appointed to the Zoning Board.
Sweeney, who died this week at his home in South Harwich after a period of declining health, was 86.
He grew up on Concord Road in Bedford Center, son of a milkman and a cafeteria worker, and experienced the town’s transformation from an agricultural community to high-technology center. “He told us about going down Concord Road to shoot baskets with a friend who had a hoop on the side of his barn,” said his daughter, Ann Marie Copland.
Sweeney played football at Concord High School (Bedford High School opened in 1955) and later worked as a police patrolman in Concord as a part-time job during his college years, his daughter said.
Elected to the Bedford School Committee at age 31 for a single three-year term in 1966, during the administration of Superintendent John Glenn, Sweeney was just warming up.
He was a member of committees planning the addition to Bedford High School from 1966 to 1968, and 10 years later was named to a special town task force to review school finances. John Linz recalled that the issue was financial management after unexpected special education expenditures. “Joe was very good with organizational requirements,” Linz said.
Sweeney was a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals between 1971 and 1980, and served on the Board of Selectmen from 1983 to 1988. “I remember Joe as a dedicated leader. He was a memorable selectman for Bedford,” said his former colleague on the board, Judy Barber. “I always liked and respected him,” added Betsey Anderson, whose term also overlapped with Sweeney’s.
He was on the search committee that recommended hiring Richard T. Reed, who served for 30 years as town administrator and manager.
In 1989 Sweeney began a three-year term as moderator, officiating at annual and special town meetings.
Sweeney was very active with the Parish of St. Michael, serving on the Finance Committee and the Parish Council, and was a Grand Knight in the Concord Knights of Columbus. “He was very committed to the town – he was just always there,” said longtime volunteer and former School Committee member Bobbi Ennis. She added, “He had a dry sense of humor.”
Sweeney spent his career as a financial executive, and his pastime – his passion — outside of public service was golf. He served as president of the Lexington Country Club for several years, and shot his age on an 18-hole Florida course when he was 83 and 84, Copland said.
He also remembers her father pitching in the men’s softball league on Page Field for the Stefanelli Fruit Flies, sponsored by the Bedford Fruit Store.
One of Sweeney’s more unusual roles was as a member of an ad hoc committee formed in 1988 to challenge a state plan that would have deposited thousands of tons of fill from Boston’s Central Artery project (the “Big Dig”) into a private Bedford location. The outcome was averted for environmental reasons.
Visitation will be at the Blute Chapel, 678 Main St. in Harwich Center from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 3, followed by a funeral Mass at 11 am in Holy Redeemer Church, 57 Highland Ave. Chatham. Burial will take place on Friday, June 4, at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Needham.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763