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George Fletcher lived in the four-bedroom-one-bathroom farmhouse his grandfather built in Westford, Massachusetts, in the late 1800s.
In many ways, George Fletcher was Westford. Most of us loosen our roots as we grow up and away, but his grew so deeply that where George ended and Westford started was hard to tell.
“That’s always been the way his life was,” said Peter Fletcher, one of his sons. “He had a lot of irons in the fire all the time. When you say Westford, the Fletcher name is very synonymous with Westford. He never left, and we knew he would never leave.”
George and his wife raised five children and 150 cows on their fourth-generation Stony Brook family farm. A 2000-gallon milk tank was filled every other day, and cans were trucked to North Chelmsford, where they were processed and distributed to local schools. The Fletcher family drank whole milk themselves — none of that skim or 1 percent milk that’s so thin someone can see right through it.
Small dairy farmers aren’t rich men, and George supplemented his income to provide for family. He started in the Westford Fire Department in his early 20s before rising to deputy chief. The dispatch radio in the kitchen was constantly on, though some calls were seasonably predictable.
“Every town had a dump,” Peter explained. “We had the town dump. And at least a couple of times every summer, the dump would catch on fire, and it always used to seem like it was on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. You could see the black smoke.”
George was never a meanderer; after selling the farm and retiring from the fire department, he became Westford’s animal control officer. When a farm bull or stallion ran errant, the owner would call the police — and then, the police would call George because these were not moments for amateurs.
As the town Sealer of Weights and Measures, George visited every gas station and deli counter, testing their scales for accuracy. A gallon of gas was a genuine gallon, and a pound of ham was a true pound. His word and stature were behind it.
“Originally,” said Peter, “he was 6 feet 2 inches tall, but over the years he shrunk, like I guess people do when they get older. But he just had a presence about him, let’s put it that way. When he would walk into a room or walk toward someone, people would say, ‘oh, there’s George Fletcher.’ ”
If it had been up to George, he would never have left New England. When the kids were old enough to run the farm, and in later years, he did take a few cruises with his second wife. He visited England, saw Las Vegas and the West Coast.
But he preferred to pass his rare free time sitting on the porch of the house his grandfather had built, perfectly content. Westford was the greater world to him.
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This segment aired on August 2, 2017.
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