Former mayor Doug Morrissette, and current mayor Aaron Richardson are linked in more ways than just having shared the same role.
Richardson’s first job was as a grocery bagger at Fauerbach’s Fine Foods, where he worked alongside Doug’s wife Mary, who was a clerk.
In the coming months, there’ll be another connection between them: Richardson will give a proclamation honoring Doug, who died on Oct. 16, with a special resolution opening a city council meeting. Richardson will invite past council members and mayors to recognize all that Doug did for Fitchburg.
“It was obviously a big loss of someone who had a big impact on the community,” Richardson said.
Doug was a town chair for Fitchburg from 1975-1981, and he later as served as mayor from 1993-1999. He and Mary lived in Fitchburg for 48 years, building one of the first houses on Pembroke Drive in 1971, at a time when Fitchburg was just forming and the street was still surrounded by cornfields.
Mary died in February. Their daughter, Jean Morrissette, a kindergarten teacher who now lives in Texas, said she believes a broken heart might have contributed to his passing.
“It was difficult for him to continue living in that house without Mom,” she told the Star. “He tried to put on a brave face, but the upcoming holidays were going to be hard.”
They were married in New Richmond on Oct. 27, 1956, and were together for nearly 63 years.
Fitchburg resident and historian Winnie Lacy was one of many people to speak highly of Doug, telling the Star that she enjoyed being in his company, and that he kept “ a good head on his shoulders.”
“I enjoyed his company,” she said. “He did a good job, he was a clear thinker, he did what he thought needed to be done for the community.”
Jean remarked on how many comments she received at her father’s funeral about how fair her father conducted himself as a mayor: He never targeted anyone, defended everyone in a position lower than him and remaining level-headed.
Jean was surprised to hear comments like that about her father, she said; that wasn’t exactly how she remembered him while growing up. She felt he usually took the hard line as a parent while her mother went easy on her and her siblings.
“I was surprised to hear he was like that as town chair and mayor, because as a parent, it was a totally different thing,” she said.
At the funeral, Fitchburg Fire & Police provided an honor guard and escorted the former public servant to the Oak Hall Cemetery. The Oregon-Brooklyn VFW Post provided military honors. Doug served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.
During the funeral proceedings last month, Msgr. Thomas Baxter of Good Shepherd Catholic Parish spoke to Doug’s love for the city and its residents, and his dedication to making Fitchburg a better place for future generations.
“Doug Morrissette truly lived to make life better for others and all the many gifts he gave to us and countless others will long serve as a testimony to his lifetime of serving and gifting others,” Msgr. Baxter said during the service.
Baxter added that Doug’s final resting place, next to Mary in a cemetery on Fitchburg’s south side along County Hwy. M, was fitting.
“Doug Morrissette poured his heart and soul into the betterment of this community and all he did to enrich this community and make it better will be long remembered,” he said during the homily. “The land they so loved and served – Fitchburg – is now to be their final resting place.”
Doug’s children moved out of Fitchburg in their adult years. He remained a supportive father, Jean said, as he would make an effort to talk to his four children and five grandchildren regularly.
“Tech was hard for him, but he tried, and was surprisingly good at it,” she said.
Jean said she’s proud of her father’s accomplishments as mayor, particularly an initiative to get the recycling program started. It wasn’t something Doug boasted about, she added, but it was something he felt was the correct thing to do.
“That was a big one for him, but I remember complaining about having to clean jars and remove labels,” Jean said.
She also was proud of how he campaigned.
“He wouldn’t answer critics,” Jean said. “He’d say, ‘people should know me for who I am.’”