Marietta Pritchard: Amherst loses one of its can-do people, Ed Perron
AMHERST — When I read that Ed Perron had died at the end of July, I thought, “Oh, no, that can’t be.” And then I thought, “Oh, no, he was supposed to stick around for us” — a response that was certainly selfish, but also completely heartfelt.
Of course, Boyden & Perron Garage, the family business, is still there, but a central presence will be missing.
For most of our lives here in Amherst, Ed and his auto repair shop have been crucial to our well-being, keeping our wheels moving, a still point in our automotive world. I learned from the fine obituary in the Gazette, written by his son, Tom, that the garage opened in 1956, just two years before we arrived in town with our second-hand 1952 DeSoto, a sort of pre-wedding gift from my father-in-law.
Over the years, Ed was always patient, if humorously ironic about our lack of automotive or mechanical savvy. But he always gave us the best advice about buying or keeping the latest in our long string of used cars. He had definite views about things. A World War II vet, he was not enthusiastic, in the early days of small Japanese cars, about having us own one of them, a point of view that surely softened in later years. He also believed in taking care of machines as long as they were worth it, but not beyond. “Shoot the horse, Bill,” was a famous recommendation for the final days of our early ’70s Mercury Comet, a phrase that has entered our family lexicon for any item that has gone past its prime.
A lot has been said and written lately about trying to hold on to the character of our community as large developers and slum landlords move to cash in on Amherst’s student population, degrading the housing stock as well as the atmosphere of neighborhoods. Like many others, I am appalled at these developments, and hope the town will find ways to encourage sensible and sustainable forms of growth, more density closer to town centers, even if it means making changes to “historic” properties.
But even more than real estate, what is important to me is the group of people, the individuals who make up the essential human core of the community, far more important than authentic 19th century facades or fences. These are people like Ed Perron and now his family, who are continuing to make our lives functional, agreeable, and yes, sustainable.
Here are a few others that I see as essential: Without Hastings and its pleasant, rumpled staff, life would be completely different in Amherst. Where would we go for newspapers, office supplies and Amherst College or UMass T-shirts? Where would we take our grandchildren for comic books, markers and playground balls? A full-service store that welcomes dogs and offers them treats is a rarity in our larger, homogenized world. Imagine trying that at Staples.
Another essential in keeping us going is a doctor you can talk to. We followed Andrew Hall across the river to Northampton, because we couldn’t imagine staying healthy without him. This is a man who can’t stand the corporate direction medicine is taking, who doesn’t like being told what to do by insurance companies, who can always fit us in, who doesn’t believe in extra tests or procedures, but who will spend as much time as it takes to find out what’s wrong, then figure out what to do to make it better.
Around the house, we need George Skorupski, who does business as Valley Painting and Maintenance, and who keeps our place from falling apart. A painter by trade, he also has many other skills we lack. He solves our problems — a collapsing sofa bed, rotting porch steps. He’s willing to do smaller and larger maintenance jobs, installing a sump pump, cleaning out bathroom fans, rejiggering a storm door.
These are the people and services that make a small town worth living in. Good-bye Ed, and rest in peace. I hope there are plenty of machines for you to fix wherever you are.
Marietta Pritchard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.