It's tough to go anywhere in Norton without seeing something or meeting someone who has been helped in some way by Clarence "Butch" Rich Jr.
Whether that means he's installed a new heating or plumbing system for you or given your son a little cash to pay for college, Rich's fingerprints are all over this town, with no end in sight. Even though Rich's public service is not quite as public as it used to be, he's still there when he's needed.
Rich, a lifelong Norton resident and long-time Norton selectman, is a member of the Tri-Centennial Committee and the town crier tasked with publicizing the year's worth of events tied to the town's 300th anniversary. Who better to share the news than the voice of Norton?
"There isn't a person in this town I can say I have ill feelings toward," said Rich, 68. "I love being recognized. If someone says 'hello' to me, I always try to stop and have at least a couple of words with them. I'd say 99% of the people in this town treat me very well.
"The most important thing in this town is if anyone needs anything, they know they can talk to me, no matter what it is or who it's for," he said. "When I do someone a favor, all I want is their friendship."
After the town puts the finishing touches on its 300th anniversary next year, Rich knows exactly what the next big cause will be in town: a new senior center. Several previous attempts to get Town Meeting approval were voted down, so Rich along with his cousins Daniel Rich, Alec Rich and Joyce Bernardo will employ what Butch calls "The Rich Push," and get started on getting the new center designed and built on their own dime.
"It's a disgrace the seniors in this town don't have anything," Rich said. "I see these beautiful senior centers in the towns all around us, and Norton shouldn't be any different than anywhere else.
"One of the reasons they couldn't get it off the ground is no one ever asked us to get involved. We're going to take it upon ourselves to get it built," he said.
Rich is also a member of the Coyle-Cassidy High School board of trustees and the group hopes to soon build a new science wing at the school. The design process recently started.
This sense of selflessness and community is nothing new for Rich. Interestingly, he calls the Blizzard of '78 "the greatest moment in the town of Norton." He remembers helping to clear the streets of several feet of snow and helping people find their way home for essentially four days straight after the February storm dumped record amounts of white stuff. What most sticks out for him is the fact that no one turned down the chance to help a neighbor.
"Everyone worked together," he said.
That's the approach Butch has always taken to life, with a little encouragement from his parents. With his mother Virginia "Dolly" Rich as the matriarch, some Norton residents have compared the family to the Kennedys because of their penchant for public service.
Butch has been a member of the Historical Commission for six years, part of the Historic District Commission for five years and on the Cemetery Commission for four years. The biggest changes Rich has seen in town came in public safety. After spending time as a captain on the fire department and police commissioner, he's seen a change in the types of crimes and more emphasis on removing and handling hazardous waste.
"These men and women have to be better trained and they need much more sophisticated equipment," he said.
Rich also spent about 35 years taking care of his mother after his father died.
"The last words my dad ever said to me were, 'I've taken care of her until now. I'm counting on you to take care of her from now on,'" Rich said, as his eyes welled with tears. "I kept my word and she died a happy person."
Partly because of his promise to his father, Rich remained single throughout his life and he's got no plans to change that at this point in life, calling himself "a confirmed bachelor." And that just gives him more time to do good for the Town of Norton.