New Ipswich remembers Ed Dekker and the mark he left on town planning

  • Planning Board member Ed Dekker of New Ipswich passed away on June 15 at the age of 62 from complications following a heart transplant. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/26/2019 4:09:32 PM

Without Ed Dekker, New Ipswich might look very different today.

Dekker, 62, passed away on June 15, following complications from a heart transplant. Until his death, he was an active member of the town’s Planning Board, a role he’s held for the past fifteen years. 

Dekker was diagnosed with congestive heart failure nearly 20 years ago, his neighbor and friend, Nick Monaco, said Tuesday. In 2017, he made it to the top of the list for a heart transplant and got a new heart.

“I had high hopes when he got his transplant,” Monaco. “Unfortunately, shortly after he began having complications, kidney failure, and unfortunately spent the last two years in pretty bad health.”

Despite his long illness, Dekker left his mark on the town.

In his professional life, Dekker was a software engineer and owned a software consulting firm, with a background in electrical engineering from Northwest University. But the lasting impact he had on New Ipswich has mainly come from his work as a public servant on the town’s Planning Board, which he’s served on continuously since 2004, including a long stretch as chairman. 

“This town owes a great deal to Ed,” said Liz Freeman, the vice-chair of the Planning Board, who served with Dekker during the entirety of his tenure. “He had a very large impact, though people may never recognize him for what he did in that respect.”

In fact, that impact began before he ever got elected to a town board, Freeman said. Dekker was “instrumental” in organizing residents and gathering expert testimony to oppose a large-scale gravel mining operation that would have operated on the ridgeline above Water Loom Pond.

“Ed led the fight,” Freeman said.

Woody Meiszner of New Ipswich said he first met Dekker when he and other residents started a group to look at creating zoning rules in reaction to some proposed developments, including the mining project and a large proposed residential development on Binney Hill. 

Meiszner said he and Dekker could talk about almost anything – excluding politics – and that he was the kind of person who would have in-depth knowledge about the most surprising things.

“It was amazing the things he was knowledgeable about. If you pushed the right button, he’d just start talking and you’d be good for the next hour,” Meiszner said. “He could tell you everything about military tanks, for example. He was a complicated, interesting person.”

Monaco said Dekker was a huge World War I and World War II buff, and had an encyclopedic knowledge on politics, environmental affairs, and was a foodie who liked to cook everything from brisket to Indian cuisine.

“He was the type of person who, if he gained interest in a hobby, he totally immersed himself in it,” Monaco said.

For instance, Dekker, who once held a pilot’s license, purchased a kit to build his own light aircraft.

Meiszner said at a federal level, he and Dekker’s politics were fundamentally opposed, but when it came to local concerns, they were able to find common ground.

“He was very concerned with the quality of life and protecting the community. He was a very conservative guy, but when it came to local zoning, he wasn’t laissez-faire,” Meiszner said. “He wanted to make sure the quality of life in the community was high.”

Freeman said Dekker brought that attitude to his elected seat. 

Some of the ordinances he worked on as a member of the Planning Board have been huge influencers in town, she said, such as the commercial noise and lighting ordinances. But perhaps most significantly, he also was a leading creator of the town’s large-scale wind energy ordinance in 2010, which became relevant when a developer was interested in installing turbines on the border of Temple and New Ipswich, and New Ipswich fought to keep the decision making at the local level, rather than allow the state committee to decide on the matter. 

“He worked hard on things that would protect the rural nature of the town, which our Master Plan has been clear the people want. He took his responsibility very seriously. He was a brilliant man, and he could anticipate the consequences of zoning. The town owes him a great deal,” Freeman said. 

Meiszner said Dekker did “yeoman's work” for the town on several zoning issues, including the wind ordinance.

“He did good things for the town, as far as the Planning Board, and even before he was on the Planning Board,” Meiszner said. “When he believed in something, he would get in there and work at it and make it happen. And good for him. We need more people to step up.”

A Celebration of Life for Dekker is scheduled to be held at the Souhegan Country Club, 290 Old Country Road, New Ipswich, on July 14 from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. The event will be pot-luck, and attendees may bring a dish to share. 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT. 


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