An Appreciation: Richard “Dick” Dimes – A Civic Man

By Frank M Costantino

Dick Dimes has left his town of residence a better place for his being in Winthrop. From what was in the Transcript over the last couple of weeks, residents learned of his energetic commitment to town affairs, and also his sailing prowess and teaching it to young sailors at the Cottage Park Yacht Club, as well as his personal interests that encompassed many areas. He leaves his dear sweetheart Margaret, his wife for 73!! years (of whom I never heard him call her “Marge”; though that was how most folks called her). He also leaves his two sons, Rick and Jon, and his devoted daughter Debbie; as well as his grandchildren, with whom he shared his many interests.

It’s fair to say Dick was a man of dimensions, even though his profession as a structural engineer would qualify him for that description. His was a slight, almost wiry build, but with a very hearty laugh for a person his size. He was a structural engineer, designing and specifying steel framing for various size buildings. He would often be working nights in his home office to verify some key math for properly sizing beams. He also would visit the fabricators all over New England to make sure they were producing the steel to proper specs. No doubt, his home office was where he also worked on numerous town affairs too.

Dick was a Town Meeting Member until its dissolution, and served on numerous committees for more than four decades, eventually becoming Selectman for better directing the Town’s affairs. He and his many neighbors and friends supported his efforts in so many areas in making Winthrop a better place. Dick’s lengthy public service was an invaluable resource when advising officials on the formulation of the New Town Charter. After which, he was a regular visitor to Town Hall providing insights and background to ongoing affairs that helped new officials and department heads, as well as attending numerous Town Council meetings, where he was never shy to speak his mind – sometimes pretty forcefully.

Such persistent efforts and expertise brought eventual large results with the completion of the DPW garage, named in his honor a number of years ago. This project was special to him, since he personally knew all the separate Department heads, their operations and equipment, which all had to be combined in one efficient facility. But he was also instrumental in the eventual conversion of the old Winthrop Hospital, where he had served as a director.  That remarkable conversion, which resulted in the Arbors assisted-living building (now PARC), being a process which took about ten years, and which is now such a boon to so many of our elder citizens, and a huge asset for the community.

He was also concerned, many decades ago, about getting a combined facility for both the Police and Fire stations; a study for which he had recommended me with four other residents to prepare a report for a Town Meeting. That study did not make it further than that meeting however. But the idea is now again on the table; for which project we can again be thankful to Dick’s sustained efforts.

Dick (and family) as a long-time resident on Johnson Ave., had many close friends and neighbors in the Center, and he couldn’t have been closer to the Cottage Park Yacht Club, where he finally became a life member. But he could be seen enjoying many a Friday night dinner and its sweeping harbor views with Marge, and their close friends David and Claire Hubbard, among others. Dick enjoyed sharing his sailing skills with many a CPYC member and youth sailor, and attended numerous affairs at the club. Dick also supported Margaret in her civic interests, especially when she served with me and others on the Beautification Committee for over 15 years; with hands-on plantings, and she was frequently the host for our meetings, always ended with her delectable home-baked goodies.

Dick’s friendships were many and enduring; such that for a time he attended early breakfasts with his buddies – first at Brothers restaurant, and then at other spots in town. He also enjoyed splendid three-mile walks around Deer Island with Dave Hubbard and a few other friends. Some of his era-buddies would call him by the nickname “Red”. I was curious about that – whether Dick was a sandy-haired guy in younger days; or his face was reddened by many hours sailing the coves and harbors from the CPYC; or that when forcefully making his points at meetings, his scarlet complexion matched his vigor.

In addition, Dick was devoted to the Winthrop Improvement and Historical Association – WIHA. After a number of years in other positions, he had served as President, as well as long-time Chairman of Building and Grounds. He was a guiding light to WIHA for over forty years. The Deane Winthrop House, our first period national treasure of a lived-in residence, was always given Dick’s closest scrutiny to oversee its necessary repairs and upkeep. He and Marge faithfully attended the monthly dinners, sharing a table with other close couples and friends. He also worked with Dave Hubbard, our Town Historian, on finding the right piece of history for WIHA; or the town for that matter. Dick and David had always planned an addition for the barn, for which I had joined their design effort for this lengthy and complicated undertaking; with many a meeting at my office or at the barn; and our ongoing oversight during construction. From Dick’s Planning Board experience and knowledge of the Zoning guidelines, WIHA was able to obtain the needed approvals for substantial enlargement and improvements to the barn.

Richard “Dick” Dimes – A Civic Man

Dick was also instrumental in the preparations for WIHA’s annual Strawberry Festival, arranging for the tables, chairs, cream, strawberries, shortcakes, etc., as well as coordinating the set-up and take-down of the event. Dick could help with anything needed to keep the long lines moving during the servings. Marge, ever-smiling and pleasant to guests, was always a most generous short-cake server, even as late as the last event in 2019 before Covid shut things down. For WIHA’s famous Barn Sales, Dick would also garner help from many members to pick up and lug donations of all kinds from all over Town, which bi-annual event helped in raising ever-needed funds for the House upkeep.

His example and legacy at WIHA endures, for current Board and members, from his keen level of responsibility for keeping WIHA’s 400 year-old treasure in the best possible shape

Whenever Dick ran his errands at the Center, he would often drop into my studio on Pauline St, just to have a chat, or ask a question or seek my opinion about some current issue that he was keeping an eye on. We shared a lot about design and construction, and he was always interested in whatever architectural projects I happened to be working on.

Even though Dick was somewhat unassuming, you knew right away that he had the know-how and capacities to get things done, and strong ideas about how to do them. And so he did, in so many ways, for so many projects.

Although he would be the last one to seek praise for his hard work, Dick was given many awards for his civic work. He received honors from the Jaycees; the Rotary; from the Town Council; probably a citation from the State House, and the Chamber of Commerce, with its Community Service Award, among others.

Other of our neighbors had very high praise and opinions about Dick – “He was a man of his word and a true legend that always cared and put others ‘first’ – his incredible focus, drive and passion in everything that he did – sailing, civic work, town boards.”

“…Dick and Marge were so helpful and gracious. That was just the being of multiple committees we work together on. I discovered if I listened to Dick, my road became so easy, especially in WIHA.”

“… Dick …was an honest, dedicated person. He and I would differ on political issues, but he was reasonable and I held him in the highest respect.”

 “… Dick Dimes was always associated with civic pride, community involvement, a big smile and enthusiastic wave.” 

“… Dick as an engaged citizen and avid participant in the Winthrop’s planning process. His attendance at our planning board meetings always included thoughtful comments on how best to move Winthrop forward. His love for the Town was inspiring and his presence will be missed.”

“He brought so, so much to this community. Every time he shopped at my store he would take the time to tell me a little more about our town. Always trying to make this the best place to live, never about himself, he put our town first.” 

“….so privileged to have known Dick and…worked with him on so many issues. I often thought that Dick forgot more than some of us ever learned. Certainly one of the finest guys I’ve ever known. Winthrop has lost one of our most influential founding fathers.” 

“I get to look out my window at The Richard Dimes Public Works Department and Say, I know the Gentleman that brought this building to light a visionary…”

For such folk that knew him, they and so many others, would hope that Dick dimes’ brand of civic commitment and generosity would somehow effuse into the Town’s residents (younger or older or newer), with the realization that the efforts for our community welfare brings its own rewards and satisfaction. Dick did so for a better life here, and we have all benefitted.

“This world would certainly be a better place if more people cared like Dick. I hope that the powers to be cycle Dick back to earth fast to do some good for the generations ahead.”

The Dimes Family has said Goodbye to its Patriarch. Dick was an ever-energetic and engaging man, who not only always held the larger community of Winthrop in mind, but also directed his talents and energy to a broad variety of worthy and needed tasks. He gave so much of himself to civic affairs, always with the Town’s betterment his imperative. He always made time for his family affairs, but somehow found (or made) the time to serve at Town Hall, on various committees, and at events that endeared him to so many people, young or old. Everyone who knew Dick won’t forget this wonderful man. A special mold now lies empty since Dick has left us.

Frank Costantino is a Winthrop resident and local artist.

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