June 27, 2022 By Carol Britton Meyer
Hingham residents Jon Asher and Deirdre Anderson were recently named the Hingham Anchor's Hinghamites of the Year for their outstanding service to -- and deep love for -- the town and will be recognized in the Fourth of July parade.
They were chosen for this honor by a selection committee that considered many nominations from members of the community.
This award recognizes individuals who have shown outstanding leadership while demonstrating exemplary vision, civic pride, and commitment to the betterment of Hingham.
For her part, Anderson -- who is the Executive Director of Hingham Historical Society -- has served on the Master Plan and Harbor Development committees, as president of the Hingham Middle School PTO for the past school year, and as East Elementary School PTO Vice President from 2016 to 2017. She is currently a member of the Route 3A Task Force.
In her four years with the Society, programming has been greatly expanded to include historic walking tours, the annual Springham celebration, Tavern Night, Haunted Hingham, and a popular annual lecture series and new exhibitions, in addition to continuation of its signature annual Historic House Tour.
"This expanded programming has resulted in increased memberships and donations, which as a non-profit are vital to our continued success," Anderson said.
A significant accomplishment was the purchase of the Benjamin Lincoln House in 2020 with the help of the town's Community Preservation Act funds in order to preserve the historic building as a museum.
Anderson -- the youngest of Leo and Kathy Cavanaugh's five children -- was raised in Hingham. "This town brought my parents and me and my siblings so much joy. I went to East School, Central Junior High School, and am a proud graduate of Hingham High School," she said.
Anderson spent her summers working as a Rec Camp counselor and winters working at Brigham's, the Fruit Center, and the Talbots Outlet. After graduating in 1986 with a great interest in seeing the world, she thought she'd "never" come back to Hingham.
That said, after time spent in New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle, Anderson returned to Hingham with her family in 2008. "My husband, Dave, and I were fortunate to be able to buy my parents' house, and our children ended up having the same school bus stop that I did," she explained. "We’ve been back in Hingham for 14 years now, and I feel lucky every day."
Anderson loves many things about this historic seaside village -- the schools, the open space, Loring Hall Cinema, the public beach, Hingham's designation as a Tree City, and "the incredible spirit of volunteerism. Most of all, though, I love this town for the deep sense of pride people have in it, its history, and its future," she said. "I am one Hinghamite in a field of 'lifers' and 'newcomers' who care so much about this town that they give back in so many ways. Their service to our community makes my heart swell, and it makes living in Hingham a gift."
Asher's contributions to the town have also been significant, and his support of veterans is well-known. In 2006, after retiring from his corporate role, he submitted a Talent Bank application and was appointed to the Capital Outlay Committee.
The following year, Asher was appointed to the Advisory Committee. "As part of AdCom budget reviews in 2009, we learned that the Town’s Veterans’ Services Officer needed administrative help that the town’s Great Recession budget wouldn’t accommodate," Asher recalled. He welcomed the opportunity to help and has provided assistance to town veterans from that time forward.
As an example, Asher worked with the town Treasurer/Collector in 2010 to establish the Veterans In Need Trust Fund and the tax-bill stuffers that have since provided more than $40,000 of assistance to veterans and dependents in need. The authorizing 2010 Town Meeting article became a model for subsequent Massachusetts legislation enabling other towns to implement a similar program.
In 2014, he refined the town’s application for the annual Department of Defense Freedom Award. Competing with 2,960 other applications -- "including the likes of BP America, Cigna, CVS Health, and the Walt Disney Company" -- Hingham was one of 15 national recipients at a ceremony in Washington, DC in 2015 at which Selectmen Chair Paul Healey, Town Administrator Ted Alexiades, and VSO Keith Jermyn accepted the award on behalf of the town. "The Freedom Award eagle is now proudly displayed by the Town Hall staircase," Asher said.
In 2014, with Town Meeting’s acceptance of the Valor Act, Asher began service as the recorder and reporter of volunteer tax-work-off hours to the Town Accountant’s office. As chair of the town's Veteran’s Council, he worked with the late Dr. Edward Schreier to arrange for and dedicate the POW/MIA chair in the Hingham High School auditorium.
Following the tragic loss of United States Marine Corporal Christopher Orlando in a training exercise in Hawaii in January 2016, Asher worked with Jermyn and now-Select Board Chair William Ramsey to establish a scholarship fund to honor his memory that has awarded multi-thousand-dollar scholarships each year to graduating seniors meeting the criteria established by the Orlando family.
That same year, as chair of the Veterans’ Council, Asher worked with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to finalize construction and obtain approval for the installation and dedication of a bronze bust on a granite pedestal memorializing the Town’s Spanish-American War Medal of Honor recipient Seaman Herbert L. Foss at the Hingham Shipyard Intermodal Facility.
"From 2011 forward, I’ve enjoyed working with Hingham Police Chiefs since Mike Peraino was appointed, providing Excel spreadsheet support as each chief and deputy has prepared the department’s proposed Hingham Police Department budget for the upcoming fiscal year," Asher said.
In 2012, he was appointed by the Board of Selectmen to serve on the newly formed Water Company Acquisition Study Committee to investigate, on behalf of the Town, the feasibility and advisability of the Town’s acquisition of the Aquarion Water Company’s Service Area A, providing water to Hingham, Hull, and a portion of west Cohasset.
Town Meeting 2019 voted overwhelmingly to authorize acquisition of the water company, which was finalized in July 2020 "following a long and detailed negotiation with executives from Aquarion and its parent, Eversource," he said.
In 2017, Asher served as a member of a financial planning working group formed at the request of the Advisory Committee to assist with estimation of property tax impacts resulting from potential future Town capital borrowing.
As a result, he developed an Excel model to facilitate AdCom deliberations. In 2021, Asher significantly enhanced what is now called the "Financial Planning Model" to assist the town’s Sustainable Budget Task Force. The FPM -- available on the town website -- now incorporates both the property-tax and budget implications of any potential town debt exclusions and/or operating overrides.
In 2021, Asher served as the VSO’s "interim" administrative assistant for four months, working with the town’s Human Resources department to refine the job description and conduct interviews for an eventual hire that was made in October.
Asher was also appointed to the Water Transition and Evaluation Committee, "which -- per Town Meeting authorization -- will formulate recommendations for potential changes to Weir River Water System governance when appropriate," he explained.
Asher and his wife, Isabel, moved from the Annapolis area back to where they had "ancestral and family roots" in 1997. After traversing the length of the Massachusetts coastline from north to south, they entered Hingham on a "Touch-a-Truck" day.
"The Hingham beach looked ideal for windsurfing, and the historic homes on Main Street were similar to what we both remembered when we were growing up," Asher recalls. "We looked at each other and agreed, 'This is it!' We purchased our extended Cape on Hingham Common in 1999 and have enjoyed being a part of Hingham’s historic-preservation community since that time."
Years later, the Ashers learned that one of his ancestors, John Strong, was one of the first recipients of a five-acre plot on Town Street (now North Street) in 1635 --"true serendipity!" Asher said with a smile.