To the editor:
On Wednesday, Jan. 15, Amesbury lost one of its most ardent and enthusiastic supporters: a man who greatly influenced its renaissance at a time when others could not envision its true potential, a man who through words could encourage, cajole and coerce the town to move forward and realize that potential.
Bob Wallack came to Amesbury in the early ‘80s as editor of the Amesbury News. Bob made the news a newspaper about Amesbury’s future, about residents. He wrote stories of depth and importance, stories of substance and relevance. He challenged us to take a closer look at our surroundings and to move forward.
When Bob arrived, the Upper Millyard was a collection of deteriorating buildings filled with parked construction vehicles and oil tankers. But Bob saw through that clutter to the falls that roared through the area. He could see the heritage of the downtown buildings hidden behind aluminum siding and garish signage. Through his articles, he educated many to the rich history of the town.
Bob was not one to pontificate. He was one to participate. His editorials encouraged residents to do the same. He would often opine on Amesbury’s future as a destination to come to, not leave from. We worked together to revive traditions such as Amesbury Days and brought it to some of its most successful years. Horse-drawn carriage competitions in the park, Children’s Day, fiddler competitions in the Pines, a fireman’s muster and the first downtown dinner were all organized. In keeping with his love of music, Bob championed the first concerts in the Millyard. At the same time, he was raising the prestige of the news and winning numerous awards for his work. He was the motivating force behind the creation of the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce.
But most importantly, when others could not see beyond what many said was a town down on its luck and fading while neighboring communities were basking in the light of renewal, Bob saw the vision of Amesbury’s future and used his position as a catalyst, encouraging town leaders to make it a reality. He was committed, tenacious and effective. It’s not often that one person can have such a major influence on a community or shape its future in such a positive way. Bob did that for Amesbury.
Bob left Amesbury to bring his services to a number of other publications along the Maine coast. He brought his exceptional culinary abilities to a small café in Mt. Vernon, Maine, which, in keeping with his history, is a noted success.
So I ask Amesbury residents, as you walk through the tree-lined plaza of Market Square or stop to ponder the falls in the Millyard, take a moment to think of Bob and whisper a thank-you. He was a friend of mine and a great friend of Amesbury.
Joe Fahey, Director
Office of Community and Economic Development