SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 3, 2012

Our view: Three things to like about Beverly

(Continued)

“I was concerned, especially with Sophia being 6 years old,” he said. “The Beverly schools really stepped up. We want to be focused on the mission and not be worried about the homefront.”

Coming through for River House

Cheers to Ralph Bates, the 81-year-old Manchester-by-the-Sea resident who is spending his twilight years giving away much of the fortune he made in real estate. He donated $1 million to The Jimmy Fund in 2006, $300,000 to the ALS Association in 2010, and $100,000 to the Pine Street Inn in Boston this year. He has also given $1 million to a community center in New Brunswick, Canada, where his family has roots.

The latest beneficiary is River House in Beverly, which is reopening this week, thanks in part to Bates’ $100,000 gift, after being closed since April.

“It was astounding,” said Kate Benashski, executive director of River House. “The generosity is unbelievable. Single, homeless men often don’t get a lot of attention in a positive way. For him to think about them and make a donation is just a remarkable gesture.”

For his part, Bates downplayed the donation.

“I’m a bachelor,” he said. “I figure I can’t take it with me, so I might as well be good to a lot of people.”

And Bates is ready to give more — he will match any new donations to River House up to $25,000.

An “irreplaceable treasure”

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t share in the praise for Nancy Peabody Hood, who has served as caretaker of Beverly’s Historic Balch House since 1970.

Hood, 88, doesn’t just give tours of the 17th century house — she lives there.

“She cares deeply about the house, and she cares deeply about the family history,” said Beverly Historical Society Director Susan Goganian. “She does this because she is really devoted.” The Society recognized the caretaker as a “unique and irreplaceable treasure” during a reunion of Balch family members last weekend.

It is because of Hood that the historic home is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 4 p.m. from June to October, with no appointment necessary.

Unique and irreplacable indeed.

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