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Editorial: Ray Ellerbrook’s service will be long remembered in Northampton

Early Monday morning, workers with the Northampton Department of Public Works, the Recreation Department and Look Memorial Park set out 300 white folding chairs in an athletic field off Burts Pit Road. Then, to be on the safe side, they hauled a set of bleachers over for the planned community memorial for Ray Ellerbrook.

That seating was especially fitting.

The space, after all, is known as the Ray Ellerbrook Athletic Fields, named for the man who was a prime mover in their creation, helping to meet a longtime, much-bemoaned shortfall of fields on which young people could play sports in the city. It turned out to be a good thing all that seating was available. Almost every space, including the bleachers, was filled as a community turned out — some from afar — to appreciate the role Ellerbrook played as head of two important community institutions.

For 27 years, Ellerbrook was director of the city’s Recreation Department; for the last decade, he was the person who ran the show at Look Memorial Park. In both roles he set a tone of service to the community and was a forceful personality who made things happen.

As is common for memorial services, this one drew people from the many corners of Ellerbrook’s rich life: his time as a standout athlete at the University of Massachusetts, where he played basketball and baseball; people who knew him as a leader in the municipal recreation field; those who crossed paths with him as an energetic advocate for public parks.

He was a New Jersey native who met his wife, Wendy, while they were students at UMass. After graduation, he settled into a life in Northampton that made many who knew him assume he’d lived here all his life.

He was deeply connected to the community, and worked tirelessly for its betterment by building programs at the Recreation Department and Look Park that benefited young people and families.

The fruits of his labor will be appreciated for generations to come.

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