Avid Wilton volunteer Charlie McGettigan dies at age 91

  • Charlie McGettigan in his days as Wilton road agent. COURTESY PHOTO—

  • Charlie McGettigan as a young man clearning land for his future home with his wife, Laura McGettigan. COURTESY PHOTO—

  • Charlie McGettigan on the farm where he grew up, after it had been preserved by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. COURTESY PHOTO—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/18/2023 9:23:35 AM
Modified: 1/18/2023 9:20:20 AM

Longtime Wilton town volunteer Charlie McGettigan Jr., who spent decades on town committees, died Jan. 8 at the age of 91.

“He was always a gentleman to everybody,” said Charlie’s son, Steve McGettigan of Temple. “He didn’t play favorites with the people he dealt with. He was honest and genuine with his dealings with the public, and in any of his jobs.”

McGettigan was born in 1931, the oldest son of Charles and Dorothy McGettigan. A Wilton High School graduate, he would go on to give decades of service to the town where he had been born and lived until his last few years of life.

McGettigan served on the Select Board for Wilton from 1956 to 1980, a 24-year stint. He first entered the office at the age of 24, unseating nine-year incumbent Guy Holt. After narrowly losing the 1980 race to Stuart Draper, it was not the end of his role in Wilton town government. He served as a volunteer firefighter on the Wilton Fire Department, and for over 30 years was the town’s welfare officer, as well as the road agent for 18 years before retiring in 1999.

He also held positions on the town’s Water Commission, and as a cemetery trustee.

More recently, McGettigan served on the building committees for the expansion of the Wilton Fire Station and Florence Rideout Elementary School.

The town recognized McGettigan’s long service by naming him Citizen of the Year in 2011.

Pam Moriarty of Manchester, McGettigan’s daughter, said her father had a universal reputation for honesty and reliability.

“He was always involved,” Moriarty said.

One of his favorite things to do with his seven children was to take rides around town to check on things.

“It didn’t seem like a chore, for us or for him,” Moriarty said. “We’d go up and check the reservoir, or the pump station, or new construction or bridges, or the town cemeteries, and you or whatever kid was along felt like his sidekick. He took everything seriously – it was his town, and his responsibility.”

In addition to his town life, McGettigan was also involved with several businesses, including running the Wilton school bus company for 21 years and operating the Jones and Whiting textile firm, including building a new facility and moving the company to Wilton.

From a large family himself, McGettigan was a devoted family man, raising seven children with his wife Laura, with whom he celebrated 70 years of marriage in 2022. The couple met at a square dance in Mont Vernon, when Laura approached Charlie during a “Ladies Choice” dance.

The couple lived almost their entire married life on McGettigan Road, on land that they cleared themselves along with Charlie’s sisters and brothers, Laura’s father and some contracted help. They lived in that home until two years ago, when they made the move to Summerhill Assisted Living Community in Peterborough.

While growing up, the family often took vacations, including a two-week road trip to California and back with five of their seven children. While they didn’t always have a lot of money, they never felt deprived, Moriarty said.

McGettigan’s daughter-in-law, Nikki McGettigan of Temple, said Charlie was very frugal himself, but was also very generous. For example, she said, when their children were celebrating their parents’ anniversary, he asked that instead of gifts, they make donations to the local food pantry.

“They taught through example,” Nikki said.

“He was frugal and fair and treated the town the way he would have wanted to be treated,” Steve said.

Moriarty said when she was in college, in a phone call home she was told that her father had lost the Select Board race to Draper by a handful of votes. She asked him if he’d be asking for a recount, noting that he had been a selectman her entire life by that point, and she could not imagine him spending his Monday nights anywhere else. But ever fair-minded, he told her that Draper had won, and would do a fine job.

“Of course, then they turned around and asked him to be road agent,” Moriarty said with a laugh.

Moriarty said her father always taught his children to not hesitate when they saw a job that needed doing.

“He never looked for recognition, or power, or titles,” she said. “He would just do what he needed to do and help each other out. He just did what needed to be done, and that was something that was pushed onto us kids – don’t worry about whose turn it is, or whether it’s your job, you just do it.”

Even in times when he had disagreements with people, Moriarty said her father had an ability to put those disagreements aside, and was still willing to greet anyone he saw downtown with a friendly chat – a little too willing, his children joked, as any “chat” might drag on for quite some time.

In addition to his volunteerism, McGettigan and his siblings also left a lasting legacy to the Town of Wilton. The nine of them donated the Wilton farm where they were born and raised to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in 2008, putting into protection 141 acres of one of the state’s oldest farms.

The parcel included 20 acres of open land used for haying, old orchards and forest.

In a press release issued by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests at the time, McGettigan is quoted as saying, “We all worked the farm growing up together, whether it was milking cows or selling vegetables house to house two days a week. Conserving the property means it will stay like this forever, in its natural beauty. Our parents did not like seeing the development in the area, nor did we, so we all decided that placing a conservation easement on the property was the right thing to do—for us and for the town.”

In accordance with McGettigan ’s wishes, there will be no calling hours, and the family will hold a private celebration of life at a later date. Memorial donations can be made to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, 54 Portsmouth St., Concord, or at forestsociety.org.

To view an online tribute or leave a message of condolence, visit csnh.com.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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