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John F. Dolan

Former Massachusetts State Representative John F. Dolan, a WWII veteran and champion of conservation, passed away at his home in Ipswich on Thursday May 24, 2013. He was ninety years old. The eldest of five children born to Charles L. Dolan and his wife Rose Kilborn, Dolan was born at Cable Memorial Hospital in Ipswich on September 7, 1922, and spent his early years on Grape Island. Later, the family moved to Ipswich where Dolan would attend elementary school. A proud native son of Ipswich, for much of his life Dolan would enjoy telling his grandchildren and other young people stories of the fond memories he had of growing up along the Ipswich River, and the countless tales of characters he encountered over the years.

For most of the 1930s, however, Dolan was a student at Hillside Boarding School in Marlborough, Massachusetts. It was at Hillside that during these years he grew into the empathetic and compassionate family oriented man that all who knew him will remember. His years at Hillside would long remain some of his fondest adolescent memories.

After graduation, Dolan remained at Hillside and worked there until he enlisted in the United States Navy in 1942. Dolan first served as a Gunner’s Mate on the USS Pastores a transport vessel that carried supplies through the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor during the early years of the Pacific War. Then, in 1945, Dolan was transferred to the newly commissioned heavy cruiser USS Chicago CA-136 where he would serve as a gun captain on the ship’s anti-aircraft battery. Dolan’s ship soon joined Admiral Jack Shafroth’s bombardment group as it sailed into the battlegrounds of the Pacific. Fighting alongside battleship Massachusetts on July 14, 1945, Dolan and his fellow gunner’s mates participated in the first naval bombardment of the Japanese mainland.

After WWII, John Dolan, better known as “Jack” to his friends returned to Ipswich and in 1948 married Lucy Eustace, who would be his best friend and partner for forty-seven years. Their first child, Jeffrey Dolan was born in the summer of 1949 and a daughter, Rebecca followed in 1954. Twin sons Robert Allen and Robin Adair Dolan were born in 1952, though sadly they passed away within a few weeks.

Dolan first entered public service in the years following WWII, initially in the local veteran’s affairs office and later as Town Clerk. In the fall of 1950, John Dolan was recalled to active duty with the US Navy during the Korean War and was stationed in a Naval Weapons Depot in Japan. In a rare turn of events, his wife Lucy stepped in and became town clerk, the first woman to hold that office in Ipswich’s long history.

That same year, Dolan’s brother James was killed in action while serving in the Army’s 24th Infantry Division. Initially listed as Missing in Action after the Battle of Taejon, James Dolan’s remains were recovered while his brother was on duty in Japan months later. With only one living son remaining, Charles Dolan lobbied to have John relieved from active duty so that he could escort his brother’s remains home from the Far East for burial in Ipswich. This would be his final duty as a member of the US military.

In 1954, John Dolan won his seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and would go on to serve his Essex County district for nine consecutive two-year terms. Conservation of natural resources, environmental issues and veteran’s affairs dominated his efforts in the house throughout the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1957 he filed the bill which became the Conservation Commission Act which was trailblazing conservation legislation at that time. In his spare time he continued to enjoy clam digging, duck hunting, and boat rides out to Grape Island to visit his uncle Lewis Kilborn, the last resident of the island after its inclusion in the Parker River Wildlife Refuge.

When his final term in office ended in 1972, Dolan continued to serve the Commonwealth as the Research Director for the Committee on Natural resources until his retirement in the late 1970s and was the recipient of the National Wildlife Federation Legislative Conservation Award. In his later years, John Dolan enjoyed writing historical articles for the Ipswich Chronicle, hitting up countless book sales and flea markets, trips to the Agawam Diner and especially taking day trips with his wife Lucy around New England, until her passing in 1996 at the age of 69.

Perhaps most importantly though, Dolan’s life was enriched with the love of three grandchildren; Bronwen Dolan Penniman who adored her grandfather, Michael Dolan Penniman, who shared his love of baseball, and Samuel K. Dolan who shared his love of history and books. In 2009, Dolan became a great-grandfather with the birth of John Kilborn Dolan, who like his great-grandpa is called “Jack”.  But even more lasting than shared interests and family names, Dolan’s greatest legacy to his family is one of a tremendously loving and sensitive man, who instilled both a love of nature and a genuine believe in service to others.

He is survived by his son, Jeffrey M. Dolan and his wife Susan of Sedona, Arizona; daughter Rebecca Dolan of Ipswich; grandchildren Michael and Bronwen Dolan Penniman of Ipswich; grandson Samuel Kilborn Dolan of Los Angeles and his wife Suzanne; a great-grandson John Kilborn Dolan, his cousin Ruth Barrows of Ipswich, a brother-in-law Earl Eustace of Napoleon, Ohio and his wife Susan, and numerous other nephews, nieces and cousins. He was predeceased by sisters Jane Stansfield of Ipswich, Gloria “Chickie” McKay of Gloucester and Dorothy Campbell of Tennessee. 

His funeral service will be held 11 am Wednesday, May 29, 2013 in the First Church in Ipswich followed by interment with Military Honors in the Cowles Memorial Cemetery, Ipswich. Family and friends are respectfully welcomed. Visiting hours are Tuesday 5 to 8 pm in the Whittier-Porter Funeral Home, 6 High Street, Ipswich.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in his name may be made to Hillside School Development Office, 404 Robin Hill St. Marlborough, MA 01752 or First Church in Ipswich, 1 Meetinghouse Green, Ipswich, MA 01938.

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