James A. Shea also was involved with local community television for more than 40 years, beginning when he was a Bedford High School student. The 1977 BHS graduate was Bedford’s Citizen of the Year in 2001
Shea’s interest and expertise in video technology were first manifested when he established the Telemedia closed-circuit television system at Bedford High School while still a student. Later he was a long-time member of the municipal Cable Television Committee.
But his greatest impact was realizing his dream to recognize Bedford’s railroad heritage at the site where it flourished, near the corner of Loomis Street and South Road at the terminus of the Minuteman Bikeway.
“He was the one who created this wonderful thing. There is no person I know who comes close to the amount of time and effort he invested,” said Joe Piantedosi, who was a member of the Board of Selectmen when Shea made the initial proposal in 1995. The two men subsequently served for many years as members of the Depot Park Advisory Committee.
Shea also founded and for many years directed the Friends of Bedford Depot Park, writing and producing a quarterly newsletter for more than two decades.
“If it had not been for Jim’s initiative to honor Bedford’s railroad history, there likely would not be a Depot Park today as we know it,” said former Town Manager Richard Reed. “He had a vision for what the area could become, which was realized through his persistence.”
Reed pointed out that Shea’s intense research and documentation – which included the 19th-century Narrow-Gauge Railroad as well as the Boston & Maine spur — “enabled the town to qualify for grants from the federal and state government that funded the preservation efforts at the park.”
Shea actually wrote the grant application and led the effort to procure and place the retired Buddliner railroad car at the park. He also spent significant time as a volunteer staffing the Freight House welcome center, raising funds for Friends of Depot Park.
Shea was at the heart of the technology when local-access programming began in Bedford almost 40 years ago, said David Dalrymple, who was also part of that team.
“Jim was always the engineer on a lot of the programs because he understood a lot of the equipment,” Dalrymple said. “He would make sure that all the monitors were adjusted and when you switched from camera one to camera two you couldn’t tell they were different cameras.” Shea helped with a lot of the remote local productions, he added.
“He was in grade six when I first began teaching at Center School,” recalled Ralph Hammond, who served with Shea on the Cable TV Committee. “I was always impressed with his knowledge and background related to the industry. Dealing with TV contracts, Jim really knew his stuff.
“He shared stories of how he worked with (Principal Thomas) Duggan and Bruce Morse (director of audio-visual services) to get that program up and running, especially by getting the TV students to take on other budgeted projects for free to enable money to buy used to support TV equipment costs. That team of dedicated students pulled together that program basically out of thin air, and Jim was right in the mix the entire time.”
Shea was also educated at Syracuse University and Emerson College, and worked for many years as a freelance video editor, at some of the area’s major television stations, most recently Channel 10.