BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — In the more than 50 years that Robert Osgood has been a Town Meeting member, the retired firefighter missed a couple of meetings, once when he was sick, and another time when he had planned a trip to the Expo in Montreal in 1967.
Otherwise, Osgood, 83, has been a persistent presence in town politics, diligently preparing for Town Meetings, which are held once a year and sometimes more often. Because he is getting older, he watches many of the Finance Committee budget hearings on cable TV, allowing him to keep up on the issues heading into Town Meeting without having to attend in person.
“To me, it’s just an interesting aspect of the overall town,” Osgood said about why he likes serving as a Town Meeting member. “You get to understand the different aspects of the town.”
Osgood, according to fellow Town Meeting member Andrea Daley, is the longest-serving Town Meeting member in the history of the town, and to honor that, an event will be held this Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Toomey Hearing Room at Town Hall. Osgood, a Danvers native, has served continuously as a Town Meeting member for 55 years.
Along the way, he also served on the Conservation Commission for 15 years, was a member of the Danvers Bicentennial Committee and was an original member of the Danvers Historic District.
Many may know Osgood as one of the founders of the Danvers Alarm List Company, a Colonial re-enactment group, or as the 15-year caretaker of the Rebecca Nurse House, the home of a woman hanged during the witchcraft hysteria in Salem Village in 1692.
Osgood and his wife also used to open their former 1700, Colonial-era house on Forest Street for a haunted house event that raised money for the Dolphin Swim Team at the YMCA.
“I have a great deal of respect for all he’s done over the years,” Selectman Bill Clark said. “He’s the epitome of volunteers in town.”
Osgood said he is honored but somewhat embarrassed by all the fuss.
“I don’t try to pat myself on the back,” said Osgood, who lives with his wife of 57 years, Josephine, in an apartment at the Danvers Housing Authority’s Tapley Manor. He commended his wife for putting up with his volunteer work all these years, as he has missed a lot of time with his family. He and his wife have three daughters; their son, David, died at age 49. They also have five grandchildren and two great-grandsons.
In 2008, Osgood survived a punishing battle for election after he moved from Precinct 2 to Precinct 7. The race was punishing not only because he had to run as an outsider in a new precinct, but because he sat outside the polling place at Danvers High all day in the sun, earning himself not only the right to his 50th year as a Town Meeting member, but “a terrible sunburn.”
He topped the ticket that year.
Osgood, who graduated with the Class of 1948 at the former Holten High, worked at the John and Henry Tutko Farm during World War II and later attended the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, earning an associate’s degree in horticulture. He worked as the caretaker for the Pingree Estate in Hamilton, then for the wholesale florist market in Boston. He also spent eight years in the Navy Reserve, serving as a torpedoman on the Sea Wolf, which was stationed at Pickering Wharf in Salem.
He then went to work for the town and began a 30-year career as a firefighter.
So, why did he run for Town Meeting?
He was challenged to do so by fire Capt. Phil Davis, he said.
“I took him up on it,” Osgood said of the dare. After winning a seat, he became interested in town government and volunteered for various committees.
He was a Town Meeting member when Campanelli Brothers, the developers of the Woodvale neighborhood of ranch homes, donated 46 acres to the town to build Danvers High, which opened in 1962. Osgood was also a Town Meeting member in the fall of 2009 when the massive, ongoing renovation was approved.
“They are doing a great job with this one,” Osgood said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.