Mike Standley 1928-2020

Mike Standley died last month.  What appears below his photo is the nomination of both Mike and Caroline Standley for the 2015 Medfield Foundation Volunteer Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award written by Richard DeSorgher.  And indeed, the Stanley’s were awarded that 2015 Medfield Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.

I first met Mike when our service on the Zoning Board of Appeals overlapped, later we worked together on the Friends of the Dwight-Derby House, Inc., and he eventually recruited me as part of a crew he had assembled, to build a section of the Bay Circuit Trail behind the Wheelock School.  Mike had strong opinions about open space, all things historical, and what he regarded as proper design.  From the trail building I also recall that he had loppers with the longest handles I ever saw – for all the more leverage – and it seemed appropriate that Mike would have the ultimate tool. I believe I am correct that it was because of Mike’s aesthetic preference that no canopy was ever permitted to be built over any gas pumps in Medfield.

Mike’s obituary can be found here – https://robertsmitchellcaruso.com/book-of-memories/4134888/Standley-Burgess/index.php

The following was from Richard DeSorgher’s submission of his 2015 nomination – “I am nominating the Standleys as a couple, not as an individual, for throughout their long marriage, they have been one unit; where you saw one, you saw the other. As a life-long resident of Medfield, I know of no other couple, who together, have done so much for the town of Medfield, and they do so without fanfare or publicity. In each of the 13 different town boards and commissions they have served on (not to mention the many private and non-profit boards), they have contributed in extraordinary ways that have impacted the town. They did not just serve on these boards and committees, they led them.
They are a class-act in every sense of the word. Medfield would not be Medfield today without the Standleys.”

Mike Standley

Carolina Standley grew up in Kentucky and Burgess in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Burgess served his country in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He was in the same troop as Medfield’s former police chief, Bill Mann. From Bill Mann he heard about a beautiful place called Medfield, Massachusetts. After their marriage Caroline and Burgess moved to a rented house on Remsen Avenue. In 1954 Burgess and Caroline Standley moved from their rented 10 Remsen Avenue house into the caretaker’s cottage, which they purchased from the breakup of the former McElwain estate on 75 Elm Street. The barn on the grounds of Holiday Farm had been moved to the rear of the caretaker’s cottage and was part of the Standley’s 40-acre property, called 75 Elm Street. Here the Standleys settled, raised a family and became two of the most respected citizens in town.

Clearly no one fits Thomas Jefferson’s description of the “active citizen” more than Caroline and Burgess, known by almost everyone as Mike. For 61 years, the Standleys have given their heart and soul to the town of Medfield. Between the two of them, they have served on the Library Board, Planning Board, Historical Commission, Historical Society, Historic District Commission, Master Plan Implementation Committee, Medfield State Hospital Reuse Committee, Medfield State Hospital Preservation Committee, Town Hall Renovation Committee, Conservation Commission, Open Space Planning Committee, Long Range Planning Committee, Committee to Evaluate Senior Tax Work Off Program, and Zoning Board of Appeals. They have been the driving force, and I mean the driving force, behind every, and I mean every, piece of open space purchased by the town. Of special impact were their efforts for the town obtaining all the Noon Hill property, which is an invaluable treasure of over 400 acres of conservation land, forest and trails now under town and Trustee control. Their efforts in saving the Charles River flood plain and having it turned over to the Army Core of Engineers has also turned out to be an invaluable treasure for the town of Medfield and an ecological bonus and flood protection for the City of Boston and all the towns down river from Medfield. The Army Core purchase included all the lands along the Charles River that pass through Medfield.

They have been vocal participants at every town meeting since 1954, and have been in the forefront in trying to save Medfield’s historical character, including the purchase of the Dwight-Derby House. Mike was the first chairman of the Dwight-Derby Committee, Inc., both were instrumental in having the town save our oldest house and what we believe to be the 20th oldest house in the United States. They have been a leading force behind charities more numerous to list and active participants with the Trustees of Reservation.

As active members of the Medfield Historical Society, they have opened up their home for socials, fundraisers, programs and on a special occasion to host the donors of the Richard C. Derby donations. Richard C. Derby was killed in the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War and, a collector finding his pistol, diary and other written material, brought it from North Carolina to Medfield and presented it as a gift to the Society. The Standleys opened their home for a spectacular “thank you dinner” for the donors and Medfield history buffs.

Five years after moving into the caretaker’s cottage and with a growing family, they secured an architect from Boston’s Royal Barry Wills Associates to enlarge and preserve the caretaker’s cottage. The result was the addition of two bookend sections on each side of 1910 caretaker’s cottage. Mike and Caroline personally hand planted 1000 trees on the property; 500 Red Pines and 500 Spruces. Today, almost 61 years later, those trees provide an ecological forest that abuts the town’s water wells. The barn has been preserved and converted into a guest house, garage and loft office space. They have placed their property in a conservation trust, so the land around our water wells will always stay in a natural state; financial loss to the Standleys but ecological gain for the residents of Medfield

Through their care and with Caroline personally mowing all of the lawn and extensive open grassland, the once rustic caretaker’s cottage has been transformed into a beautiful home on a breathtaking setting; Medfield’s own Monticello, cared for by a couple who have had a positive impact on the town in so many areas; an impact that has made our town a better place in which to live and an impact that will benefit future generations of Medfield residents.

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