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Town will miss Jesse L. Rice

Date: 11/23/2010

Nov. 22, 2010

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

WILBRAHAM -- At the Nov. 11 Veterans' Day ceremony, Selectmen James Thompson noted the Nov. 9 passing of longtime resident Jesse L. Rice with the phrase, "he was always involved in everything."

A quick check of his service to the town, as listed in his obituary, shows just how involved this 91-year old was in his hometown.

He served three terms as an elected Wilbraham Selectman and two terms as Veterans' Agent. He also contributed to the Wilbraham Radio Advisory Committee and the Bicentennial Celebration Com-mittee, was a Cemetery Commissioner for 15 years, Fence Viewer for 27 years, Weigher of Grain for 53 years and Surveyor of Lumber for 21 years. He served on the Wilbraham Board of Appeals, the Wilbraham Community Business Association, the Wilbraham Athenaeum Society, the Wilbraham United Church Finance and Building Committees, the Wilbraham Nature and Cultural Center.

"He was a fixture in this town. Talk to him and he would give you the history of all the different things in town," said former Selectman Kevin J. Moriarty, who knew Rice through his dealings with him as the town bought and preserved Rice's beloved apple orchard.

Moriarty was also a regular customer of the former Rice's Fruit Farm farm stand. "It was fascinating to talk to him, " he said.

Moriarty remembered Rice "loved Wilbraham."

And it seems the town was very proud of his service to it. In 2009, the Board of Selectmen recognized Rice's many years of service by declaring Aug. 11 of that year "Jesse L. Rice Day."

A proclamation issue that day read: "Jesse L. Rice has given generously of his time and resources to town endeavors, and has ever sought to remind us of our agricultural legacy, challenging Wilbraham citizens to recognize and value our agrarian past."

"He was a real gentleman." Moriarty said. "He was very proud of Wilbraham, very proud of his business and of his family and he loved his wife, Winner. When she passed, it broke his heart."

Rice was pre-deceased by his wife of many years, Winifred C. (Wallace) Rice and his son, Wayne N. Rice.