A recent news article in the Sun-Transcript noted that a former resident, James B. Athens, a 1941 graduate of Winthrop High School, has donated $100,000 to the Winthrop Public Library.
Such a huge gift to our local library, the building for which originally was funded 120 years ago by a gift of $10,000 by Mrs. Eliza Frost in the memory of her late husband, Morrill Frost (which is why our public library officially is known as the Frost Public Library), by itself is worthy of a news story.
However, a few other items in the story caught our attention. Mr. Athens was a veteran of WWII who after the war went on to earn an undergraduate degree at Boston University, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a law degree (at night) from Boston College — quite an amazing resume!
But what really stuck out, for us at least, was Mr. Athens’s observation that during the Depression years, his family circumstances were “poor like everyone else.” That was mindful of a comment that Marie Turner, the late and great Winthrop public servant, once made to us: “During the Depression, we were all poor.”
For Americans who were raised during the Depression and came of age during World War II — who often are referred to as “The Greatest Generation” — what undeniably is true is that for Mr. Athens and his contemporaries, they learned that the American Dream is achievable through hard work and determination. And yet, despite the sacrifices they made to attain the American Dream, they never forgot their roots. They always understood that their individual success derived from America’s collective success, and that they owe a debt to those who will be coming after them.
We wish to thank Mr. Athens for his incredibly generous gift to our public library, which not only will be of immediate benefit to the present users of this wonderful town resource, but to future generations as well.