Marblehead moments of the year

And just like that, another year is coming to a close and 2023 is right around the corner. As we look ahead to see what might be in store for next year, it is common tradition to look back at the events and moments that got us to this point.

For a town that has a population of less than 20,000, there was a lot that happened in Marblehead in 2022. While there was a lot happening in town, there were specific events and moments that shaped the year. Some made us laugh, some made us cry, and some did everything in between, but they all helped form the year 2022 in Marblehead. 

Below are the top stories that came out of the town this year. 

 

Marblehead schoolmates honor memory of a friend

On March 18th, the Marblehead community and football family were shaken by the loss of beloved student athlete James Galante who died from injuries sustained in a car crash on the causeway.

Galante was a senior at Marblehead High School and was a standout football player for the Magicians, effective in all three stages of the game playing at running back, cornerback, and serving as a punt returner, and helped his team capture the Division 3 Super Bowl in his final season. 

The following evening, the community gathered at the high school to hold a farewell ceremony and candlelight vigil in honor of the late football standout. The ceremony was held in the school’s gymnasium where those in attendance wrote their farewells to Galante on a banner that was raised next to a photo of the football team.

Afterwards, visitors gathered onto Piper Field, where Galante thrived and played the game he loved, for the candlelight memorial as friends, family, and the rest of the Marblehead community came together to remember and honor one of their own that was lost too soon. 

On the morning of Monday, Mar. 28, an abundance of Galante’s classmates, friends and family attended his funeral ceremony at the Catholic church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea.

A number of Galante’s Marblehead teammates carried his casket through an honor guard that was also made up of his teammates. During the funeral, his older sister, Dahlia Galante stood next to his #19 jersey, and paid a heartfelt remembrance to her brother:

“James, I am sorry that it is only through loss that I have been able to understand life’s indispensable necessities, but I promise to forever be grateful for all that you have left behind for me to apply,” she said. “While you will no longer be physically with us, I will always have three little brothers who I will love and protect with all my heart. Until we meet again.” 

 

Marblehead election results determined after hours of delay

In June, Marblehead’s annual town election went haywire after the town’s three polling locations ran out of ballots. Town officials immediately scrambled for a solution and decided to photocopy the ballots. 

But there was only one problem: The photocopied ballots could not be counted by a machine.

This forced a manual hand count for the ballots, which delayed election results by hours. In total, there are six precincts in Marblehead and two of those precincts, precinct 1 and 3, were able to have results scanned by a machine. The rest were forced to hand count and after a mad dash to get votes counted, results were finally posted in Abbot Hall on the morning of Wednesday, Jun. 22. 

Two questions were put forth on the ballot this election. Question 1 which dealt with an override for a five-year, $12.5 million road and sidewalk management program passed relatively easily with nearly 60 percent voting yes. Question 2 however, which was Proposition 2 ½ tax override to provide an extra $3.1 million to the town’s School Department budget, was shot down by roughly a 2-1 margin. 

As far as election winners, all five Select Board members, Jackie Belf-Becker, Moses Grader, James E. Nye, Erin M. Noonan, and Alexa J. Singer won re-election. Helaine Hazlett won the race for Board of Health director, and incumbent Sarah Fox won another three-year term on the school committee with Alison Taylor securing the second seat up for grabs on the committee. 

Jean-Jacques Yarmoff won a close election over incumbent Water Homan for one of two seats on the Municipal Light Commission. The second spot on the commission went to Incumbent Michael Hull. Pam M. Peterson won a one-year position on the Cemetery Commission, and John “Jack” Attridge won the position of town moderator. 

 

Transfer Station Catches Fire 

On the first day of August, the town’s Transfer Station was once again in the news after two mounds of debris went up in flames around 3:30 p.m. The fire started in the yard waste area of the station which is where residents can go to pick up compost. 

Known to be extremely flammable, the fire spread quickly and aggressively, with tall, bright red and orange flames that could be seen from buildings on the property. The fire was so hot and viscous that it began cracking nearby windows.

 At one point, firefighters on scene became worried that the fire was going to spread to a nearby apartment complex after it had made contact with some brush in the area.

The fire was ultimately contained before any other major damage occurred in the area by 6:30 p.m., but the heaps of debris continued to smolder well after the initial blaze was put out. This resulted in a tractor having to sift through the piles to help firefighters extinguish any remaining flames to keep the fire from restarting. 

The station had been under scrutiny earlier in the year which centered around poor, unsafe working conditions and failing infrastructure and a fire breaking out at the facility certainly didn’t extinguish the controversy. 

Three months later, after years of deliberation, the Board of Health finally made progress towards building a new transfer station by approving the stations’ new design plans. The board now needs to reconvene to determine how the project will be able to stay within the budget that has already been determined for the remodeling. 

 

Abbot Library getting ready for a new era

This year marked the historic Abbot Library’s 145th birthday, and it was arguably the biggest year for one of the town’s biggest landmarks.

The project to restore and upgrade the library, located on 235 Pleasant St., was awarded a $9.5 million dollar total budget to upgrade things like replacing the building’s escalator, HVAC and fire alarm systems, as well as repairing the ADA-access and the surface storm-runoff. In the meantime to allow for preparations and construction of the library to begin, the library temporarily moved to the Eveleth School at 3 Brook Road in early November, and will operate there until the project is completed sometime in 2024.

Ideas to begin the massive project started four years ago in 2018 when research was conducted on what repairs and replacements needed to be made to the building. Talks became more serious about starting a renovation project during the library’s 140th anniversary celebration, however the pandemic halted those ambitions.

Finally, the project was able to kick off this year and those associated with the library were pleased that the first steps have been taken to restore the beloved book haven.

Built in 1877, Abbot Library has been a cornerstone of Marblehead’s rich history, and Library Director Kimberly Grad couldn’t be happier to keep Abbot alive and well.

“Abbot Public Library serves as an oasis for the Marblehead Community,” said Grad. “We will be equipped to grow with the community offering a high standard of service in the years ahead.”

 

Lynnfield, Marblehead football help to remind us that it’s more than a game

Still reeling from the tragic passing of Marblehead football player James Galante in March, the community was rocked again after losing another member of the Marblehead football family. Jeff Scogland, the father of Marblehead lineman Jake Scogland, died unexpectedly on Friday, Sept. 16, just hours before Jake Scogland was about to take the field for the team’s second game of the season against Lynnfield. 

Despite learning of his fathers passing, Scogland courageously made a vow that he would play that night. Not only did he play, but he had a huge impact in the game. An injury early on in the contest on the defensive side for Marblehead meant that Scogland wound up playing both sides of the field for the entire night, and blocked an extra point to help Marblehead secure a 26-18 victory over the Pioneers.

Players engulfed Scogland after the victory and both tears of joy and sorrow poured from teammates and coaches. At the end of the game, an incredible class act and display of unity was seen at midfield when Lynnfield head coach Pat Lamusta gathered his team to meet with Marblehead to console Scogland and his teammates, as well as to give them words of encouragement and strength. Though it was a terrible loss for the town, actions like these are what sports are all about. 

 

Pair Charged with $3.5m COVID aid fraud in Marblehead

In one of the most jarring and bizarre fraud schemes in recent memory, Brian Andrew Bushell, 47, and Tracey M.A. Stockton, 64, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and unlawful monetary transactions in order to receive inflated Economic Injury Disaster Loans that totalled more than $3 million. In a situation that sounds like it came straight out of a movie, both Bushell and Stockton used the funds to “live a lavish lifestyle”  by overstating the expenses of the organizations that Bushell owned. 

He presented himself as an Orthodox Christian Monk, however, the scheme led many to question the legitimacy of not only his position as a monk, but the legitimacy of his businesses as well.

Among the organizations that he owned were St. Paul’s Foundation; a “monastic house” known as Shrine of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Patron of Sailors, Brewers & Repentant Thieves; a purported residence for clergy known as the Annunciation House; Marblehead Brewing Co., a monastic brewery; and Marblehead Salt Co., a craft saltern, which were all based in town. 

It was a story that had more twists and turns than a bike trail, and it continued to get stranger and stranger as more details were revealed, making it one of the most intriguing stories to ever come out of Marblehead, and the North Shore as a whole. 

 

Armini wins Eight Essex District race

In the November election, Marblehead’s Jenny Armini won the highly contested Eight Essex District race for the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Armini ran against five other candidates in the primary, and edged out Tristan Smith to win the seat by 308 votes. In total, she earned 2,309 of the 8,355 votes while Smith earned 2,001 of the votes. 

Armini won the Marblehead vote, garnering over a third of the votes with 1,810. In the general election, she did not face a Republican challenger, securing her victory for a Massachusetts House seat. Armini will be sworn in during the first week of January, and has her eyes set on addressing issues involving the cost of prescription drugs, housing issues, and transportation access. 

 

School Committee vice chair resigns, position still vacant

Emily Barron caused quite the stir through the town’s school committee and Select Board on Oct. 27th when she stepped down from her position as vice chair after learning that there was a possible conflict of interest between her role in the committee and her professional work.

Shortly after, the committee decided that it would not fill the vacancy, but it was ruled that state law mandates that the seat must be filled, thus sending the committee and the select board into an ongoing saga that has not yet been completed. 

Barron was told by the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission that the only way for her to continue serving in her position was for the designation of School Committee members to be changed from regular municipal employees to special municipal employees.

Barron brought that proposal to the Select Board, which then did not want to vote on that change without approval from the school committee.

On Thursday, Nov. 17, the committee was slated to make a decision on if they should recommend the change to the Select Board, but it was tabled until further notice. Applications for the vacant position were then due by Nov. 30 and interviews were to be conducted in a joint meeting on Dec. 7 at Abbot Hall.

However, the process was again delayed until further notice due to scheduling conflicts with a Select Board member and concerns regarding errors in applications.

To this date, the joint meeting has not been rescheduled and won’t happen until after the holidays. In total there are 10 candidates for the position though there were 11 applicants with one being deemed ineligible as she is not a registered voter in town.

  • Ryan Vermette is the Item's Marblehead reporter. He graduated from Springfield College in 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Communications/Sports Journalism. While in school, he wrote multiple sports articles for the school newspaper, the Springfield Student, and joined Essex Media Group in August, 2022. Ryan is a college basketball fanatic and an avid Boston sports fan and in his free time, enjoys video games and Marvel movies.