Richard Sheridan remembered with testimonial gathering at White Cloud Diner

Friends gather for a closing ceremony in front of the Peace Statue following a gathering to honor Richard Sheridan, who passed away earlier this year.

Friends gather for a closing ceremony in front of the Peace Statue following a gathering to honor Richard Sheridan, who passed away earlier this year. PHOTO CREDIT/TERRY REED

The memorial display at the entrance to the White Cloud Diner for a testimonial gathering of friends of Richard Sheridan.

The memorial display at the entrance to the White Cloud Diner for a testimonial gathering of friends of Richard Sheridan. PHOTO CREDIT/TERRY REED

A memorial poster served as a backdrop for speakers during a memorial ceremony held at the White Cloud Diner.

A memorial poster served as a backdrop for speakers during a memorial ceremony held at the White Cloud Diner. PHOTO CREDIT/TERRY REED

Friends of Richard Sheridan gather in Memorial Park to close a ceremony held on Sunday, June 9.

Friends of Richard Sheridan gather in Memorial Park to close a ceremony held on Sunday, June 9. PHOTO CREDIT/TERRY REED

By ANN REED

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 06-19-2024 5:01 PM

ORANGE – Dozens of surviving friends filled the White Cloud Diner after hours on Sunday, June 9, to honor the memory of local “man of the people” Richard Sheridan.

At 78, Sheridan, who had served in several official posts over many years, died on April 29, less than three months after stepping down from his long held seat on the Board of Selectmen.

A funeral for Sheridan had been held in May, largely for family, who reportedly remain hard-hit by their sudden loss. Sunday’s testimonial gathering aimed to satisfy a need for friends in particular to collectively pay their respects.

Specially selected recorded music that greeted them Sunday included “With A Little Help from My Friends,” “If I Had A Hammer” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” among other selections. A long buffet quickly filled with hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and flowers. Proprietor Bill Sheldon generously provided hot and cold beverages as well as use of the venue itself – a place Sheridan had enjoyed frequenting in life.

Friends took turns at the microphone, or speaking from their tables, to share personal stories and sentiments celebrating “Richard” as each knew and appreciated him. Whether drawing laughs, tears, or vigorous nods of agreement, every anecdote was delivered with warmth and respect.

Sheridan’s family was acknowledged for having “made the sacrifice” of somewhat “sharing him with the world,” given how civically driven and prolific in friendships Sheridan had been throughout his life. Although unable to attend, Sheridan’s beloved widow, Paula, had graciously sent a delivery of prepared dishes and a large photographic memorial meme, featuring a smiling Richard and including the words “Loving Husband, Father, Brother and Friend.” That two-by-three-foot poster served as backdrop for the speakers’ stage.

A separate memorial sign, placed near the entrance amid fresh flowers, read “Let us honor and remember Richard Sheridan – 1946-2024 – beloved Man of the People.” The smiling image of a visibly humbled Sheridan had been captured at a Special Town Meeting last January, as the departing selectman faced a standing ovation following unexpected spoken tributes and bestowal of a special citation from the House of Representatives and Senate. That honor had been delivered by former state Rep. Denise Andrews, Orange, who helped organize Sunday’s gathering.

Following Sunday’s testimonial and reception at the diner, a contingent of attendees proceeded to Memorial Park, where they conducted a closing ceremony in front of the Massachusetts Peace Statue. Reed noted that Memorial Park, as town green, is a particular “bastion of free speech.”

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At that, Michael Sinclair read a poem Sheridan had written exactly one month before his passing. Sinclair had also read this poem at the selectmen’s meeting held shortly after Sheridan’s death. The poem, citing what Sheridan termed an “oligarchy,” interpreted as a local reference, reads in part:

It’s saddening to see the common man looked down upon.

I want to help change it before I’m gone.

Don’t be apathetic, speak out until they get it!

Sherri St. John read aloud from a publication noting that Sheridan and his wife, for their unsung charitable acts, had been named 2023 recipients of the Marine Robert M. Carey Award, bestowed by the Pequoig Detachment 1168, Marine Corps League.

The dedication reads in part, “Every year, Paula and her husband appear multiple times at toy collection areas with their vehicle jam-packed with toys, bicycles and children’s clothes and articles in support of the local veterans collecting toys during the holiday season.”

St. John explained that the Sheridans had initiated successful efforts to expand the program’s range to benefit children living specifically in the North Quabbin region.

Before departing Memorial Park, the group of friends Sheridan leaves behind sang “America The Beautiful,” led by esteemed local soprano Candi Fetzer. Some voices rose in harmony.