I awoke this morning to the very sad news that William L. Saltonstall, a former Massachusetts state senator, longtime philanthropist, and good friend and leader of the Massachusetts Historical Society, died at his home on Friday night. He was 81 years old. A full obituary is in today's Boston Globe.
I first met Mr. Saltonstall when I started working at MHS, and feel compelled to write a few words about a man I found to be unfailingly gracious, kind, and interested in the people around him. He had an impish sense of humor and could always be counted on for a clever quip; I've never seen anyone else's eyes actually twinkle the way his did when he drew a smile from his listeners, as he did with great frequency.
While I was still working part-time at MHS and part-time at a bookshop, Mr. Saltonstall came into the shop one day and I greeted him as I normally did at the MHS front desk. He stopped and looked at me for a second, then said "Well Jeremy, I almost didn't recognize you, you're out of your natural habitat." We laughed, and he said he'd come in to check for any copies of his father's book Salty, since he liked to purchase copies of that for his grandchildren. We didn't have any that day, but he bought something else; when I told him the total he smiled and said "Yes, I guess I'd better pay the sales tax, since I voted for it."
A gentleman of the highest order, who will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege to know him.
[Update: I've received word that a memorial service for Mr. Saltonstall will be held on Saturday, 31 January at 11 a.m., St. John's Episcopal Church, Beverly Farms MA.]