WellesleyWeston Magazine


Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Page 113 of 219

asking price for the adjoining property was above what Town Meeting was willing to pay (several years later, the town would agree to spend even more for the land). Other sites were considered; other plans sub- mitted. The saga could fill a book. Meanwhile, over in Hopkinton, Senior Center Director Cindy Chesmore could only sympathize. In 2006, after a years-long battle, Chesmore moved her town's seniors from the town hall basement to a building of their own. With much more room for programs, participa- tion increased fivefold within weeks, she said. "All the naysayers who did not want Hopkinton to build a senior center are very happy to tell me… how wrong they were." More than a decade after Tolles's bequest, Wellesley Town Meeting last April approved a $5.5 million debt exclusion to build the senior center. After the building opens, which is expected to be on September 30, Thieme plans for the staff to have time to settle in before launching a full slate of programs. "We must first get used to the space, understand the systems, and reassess how responsibilities might be changed," she said. One lesson Thieme learned from other directors is that you need time to break a building in and make sure everything is in working order. The Council on Aging has launched a marketing campaign to pro- mote the senior center. Last fall, it sent a survey to 3,700 residents age 55 and over, asking about their perceptions of the council, their desires for the senior center and their concerns about growing older. The response rate was 26 percent β€” an excellent sign, considering that typically only 15 percent answer such polls, Thieme said. Eventually, the center will be open several nights a week to accom- modate working boomers. It will also provide meeting space for town boards and be equipped with audio/video for recording government and cultural events. The council's three-day-a-week lunch program will go to five days, and a breakfast program may be added. Meals will be catered from a local restaurant, but the onsite kitchen opens possibili- ties for dining alternatives. But if you ask Mary Bowers, the recipe for the senior center is simple: "Anything and everything to keep us young." "She Wanted to Make ings Beer" Mary Esther "Billie" Tolles knew what it was like to grow old alone. In 1988, she lost her cousin and housemate, long-time Wellesley physician Evelyn Parsons. The people she met through the town's Council on Aging became her family. "She realized she wasn't the only person, even in a town like Wellesley, who was in that situation," said her lawyer and friend, Gail Kingsley. "She wanted to make things better." That's why she donated money first for a room for seniors at the commu- nity center and then left $825,000 for a stand-alone center when she died in 2005 at age 94. "Anybody would tell you she never spent anything on herself, ever," said Kingsley. "I can't say I ever saw her in anything new. She would wear polyester pantsuits that probably dated back to the sixties." Tolles was renowned for counting not just her own pennies, but those of many town organizations. "Everybody trusted her to be treasurer with everything," Kingsley said. "We would all sit there and roll our eyes while she read her reports because they were so detailed, but you never thought anything would go missing. That was who she was." Gayle Thieme, the Council on Aging director, got to know Tolles visiting her house to pick up a check to pay for Wellesley Senior Neighbors mailings. "I admired her passion for the seniors. She was very forward thinking," said Thieme. "She was very spry and very sharp." Up until her last year, she would swim daily in a one-lane lap pool she had built in a greenhouse-type room off the back of her house. Besides sports β€” she loved watching the Red Sox and was an avid tennis player in her younger days β€” she raised black Scottish terriers. If the town had rejected the senior center, much of her estate would have gone to animal welfare groups. Were Tolles around to see the result of her bequest, Kingsley said, "I think she would be blown away." Patio 112 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s u m m e r 2 0 1 7 A Place for Seniors to Grow Young

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