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Independent Thoughts: Passing of Allessio, Phipps leaves void among veterans

by | Mar 4, 2024 | Featured, Featured: Features

Hank Allessio

Hank Allessio (left) sits with Mike Whalen last year during a Veterans Breakfast at the Senior Center. FILE PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

With the passing last month of Hank Allessio and Russ Phipps, the town lost two of its most distinguished military veterans.

Allessio, an Army veteran who died Feb. 16 at the age of 83 after a long battle with cancer, was devoted to recognizing fellow veterans in town, taking the lead for the monthly Veterans Breakfast at the Senior Center and organizing a photo gallery of more than 600 local veterans so they would not be forgotten.

“He was certainly probably the unofficial leader of our veterans community,” said Mike Whalen, a longtime member of veterans committees in town and the American Legion Post 202 adjutant. “No official title, but he was, and we’re all going to miss him. He’s leaving a lot of good friends who enjoyed his company here in town.

“Certainly, Hank was involved in so many activities in Hopkinton. He had so many good ideas that led to Hopkinton being a better place to live. I used to joke with him that he was full of ideas of what to do next — he couldn’t live a leisurely life, always had something next, some project he wanted to implement here in town. Not just for veterans, but a wide range of things.”

It’s not yet clear who will step up to run the Veterans Breakfast program.

“Right now, it’s been month to month, and with Hank unable the last few months, the Senior Center has been doing it,” Whalen explained. “I’d like to get it more organized, however that shakes out, or even if the Senior Center is open to that. I think most veterans would be happy if a veteran or group of veterans ran it.”

Phipps, who died Feb. 25, about two months after his 102nd birthday, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II before building his own home and woodworking shop on Winter Street, where he lived until the end.

Russ Phipps with pin

Russ Phipps displays the challenge pin he received from the Hopkinton Police Department on his 100th birthday. FILE PHOTO/JERRY SPAR

Whalen was not as close with Phipps, but he recalled bonding with the centenarian about their bird feeders and what types of birds each attracted during an occasional visit.

“The few times I talked to him he was very proud of his family, proud of his service, proud to be an American,” Whalen said. “That was obvious. You didn’t have to know him that well to know that.

“As a community, when we lose somebody who was a World War II veteran, we should pause and think about that generation that saw so much and left us a world full of promise despite all the hardships they endured in their time, whether they were 102 or 82. He’ll be remembered I think generally by the town as one of the most respected citizens, for sure. He wasn’t respected just because he was old, but for who he was.”

Whalen said Allessio and Phipps will be recognized in some fashion this year during veterans ceremonies in town.

“Over the years, I have recognized people — including them — in a speech on Memorial Day, for the contributions that they made,” Whalen said. “They will be recognized [this May], certainly. And on Veterans Day, too.”

Food for Families drive underway

The Knights of Columbus Bishop Rice Council 4822, which represents Hopkinton and Ashland, once again is organizing its Food for Families Lenten Food Drive, which started March 2 and runs through March 17. The drive benefits the food pantry at Hopkinton-based Project Just Because.

The council notes that approximately 19.5% of all households in Massachusetts reported food insecurity in October 2023, according to data from the U.S. Household Pulse Survey.

Anyone interested in supporting the effort can donate in a few ways. One is by sending a check made out to Project Just Because, with “K of C 4822 FFF Food Drive” written in the memo line, to ATTN: K of C Food Drive, St. John the Evangelist, 20 Church Street, Hopkinton, MA 01748. Another is by purchasing an Amazon e-gift card, including “K of C FFF Food Drive” in the message box and having it emailed to pjboffice@comcast.net. Lastly, gifts can be made through donor-advised charitable funds by selecting Project Just Because in Hopkinton (Tax ID 06-1728553) and specifying in the use or note area that it is for the K of C Council 4822 Food for Families Food Drive.

Neshe joins Community Foundation board

Hopkinton’s Dana Neshe recently was named to the board of trustees for the Community Foundation for MetroWest.

Neshe is the president of Middlesex Savings Bank, where she has worked since 1995, and is set to become the company’s CEO in April. She also serves as the president of the board of the Middlesex Savings Charitable Foundation.

Neshe has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including Framingham State University, the MetroWest Health Foundation (chair) and its grants distribution committee, Philanthropy Massachusetts, the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce and Jewish Family Service of MetroWest. She currently sits on the board of the Warrior Within Yoga Project and the Savings Bank Employee Retirement Association.

The Community Foundation for MetroWest (communityfoundationmw.org) provides support for individuals, families, nonprofits and businesses in the region that are “driven to enhance the quality of life for all in MetroWest.” Since 1995, the organization states, it has awarded more than $34 million in grants to charitable organizations.

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