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Public invited to memorial service for Saran Gillies

Posted by Johanna Seltz  August 27, 2010 11:05 AM

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Townspeople are invited to pay their respects to the late Saran Gillies, a pioneering politician who was the first woman to serve on Braintree’s Board of Selectmen and, later, the town clerk.

She died last month at age 79. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. in the Cahill Auditorium at Town Hall on Sept. 8.

“Saran was a trailblazer,” said Peter Morin, a family friend and Mayor Joseph Sullivan’s chief of staff. “She was idealistic and principled but never lost her sense of humor. She truly made a difference in the town.”

Gillies won her first election in 1978 and topped the ticket. She served for 12 years, and was chair for the last four.

“I was an anomaly, I had no political experience. I thought of the job as public service,” she told the local newspaper when she stepped down.

She was elected town clerk three times, serving from 1991 to 2000 before health issues led to her retirement.

“I inherited her entire staff, and she chose well and I clearly benefited from that,” said Town Clerk Joseph Powers, who succeeded Gillies. “She was a great judge of people and character.

“She was a dear friend and a wonderful, wonderful public servant, and a great asset to the town,” he added. “She had a great smile and a great laugh, and beyond that, intelligence and wit.“

Gillies was active in the League of Women Voters before getting involved in elected politics and championed recycling issues, as well as what later became known as transparency in government.

“I admired Saran Gillies long before she was a selectman,” Morin said. “She was a family friend in a difficult time. When my mother lost her sight due to diabetes, many of her friends became uncomfortable and stopped calling and visiting, but Saran became a frequent visitor to our house and often read to my mother.

“As I became involved in government, Saran served as a mentor. She taught me the importance of perseverance, remaining true to your principles, and, most importantly, keeping a sense of humor. As she did for so many, she made a difference in my life. I am indeed fortunate to have been her friend.”

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seelenfam@verizon.net.

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