Walter Meredith Bird Jr. (Tad), 90, passed away in his sleep on Dec. 11, 2020 in Green Valley, AZ. Prior to living the past 27 years in Green Valley, Tad and his wife Carolyn spent 35 years in Stow, Massachusetts where they raised their five children.
Tad marched forth into the world on March 4, 1930 in Sydney, Nova Scotia, the son of Walter M. Bird Sr. and Hortensia Celestina Lopez Bird. Doted on by his mother and two older sisters, Tad was sent away to Culver Military Academy by his father to toughen up. It was at Culver he developed his ramrod posture that made it easy to pick him out in a crowd. From Culver he followed his father’s footsteps to Harvard College. Following a family tradition which he perpetuated, Tad graduated in 1952 in the bottom third of his class, but with great stories and many lifelong friends. Earning the rank of Lieutenant in the Army ROTC program, Tad went to work for Uncle Sam.
He was sent to Japan to support the Korean war. Upon returning from military service in April 1954, Tad took a job at United Shoe Machinery Corporation and searched the Boston college campuses for eligible women. To his everlasting good fortune he was able to entice Carolyn Garrett to join him for a canoe ride around the pond at Wellesley College. He quickly worked his way up from the “Sunday Night Date” to fiance and they were married in July 1955.
Around that time, Tad joined his aunt to run Red Acre Farm, a non-profit he remained involved with for the rest of his life in various roles. With four young children (eventually 5) underfoot he was able to convince Carolyn that if she could look after the children for a couple of years, he could earn an MBA at Northeastern night school. That led to a career in the investment world. First at Arkwright - Boston Insurance and later Shawmut National Bank, from which he retired in 1993.
He occasionally asked the question, “Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?” He often chose to be part of the solution. He was the junior warden of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Acton, Massachusetts in its early days and during the construction of its place of worship. He served on the town of Stow’s Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and School Committee. After the School Committee election, Tad invited the opposing candidate over to the house for some bourbon while they waited for election results. For the record, Tad won.
His true calling, however, was leading his flock through outdoor adventures and bringing good humor and levity to all that he touched. The entire family climbed the 63 New England 4,000-foot mountains by the early '70s. During the winter the family went skiing on many weekends. These mountain-based activities were still considered somewhat fringe activities by most. But Tad had met and befriended a number of outdoor enthusiasts that advised him as he and Carolyn led their flock into the hills. This dovetailed well with their challenge to wear out the kids. But the real joy was in creating a team effort. He didn’t hire landscapers. Instead he trained his own five children. Though not appreciative at the time, the five children followed his lead and learned how to work hard, make things, break things, and finish a job.
Tad loved the saying, “when given lemons, make lemonade.” One night in Baxter State Park while preparing to climb Mt Katahdin, the rain and howling wind knocked down three of the family tents. As the family shivered with the wet tents pressed against their faces, a voice could be heard through the storm singing, “It looks like rain, in Millinocket Maine. In Millinocket Maine it looks like rain.” And there was Tad, setting the tents back up and making sure the trenches around them were sound.
His endless curiosity led to many an adventure and his good humor to many an opportunity. Such as leading the Stow Minutemen aboard one of the tall ships in Boston in 1976 as Queen Elizabeth was in town to help the rebels celebrate. Or talking a train engineer at the Sudbury, Ontario Nickel mine into giving the family a ride in the switch engine.
Not that they were stay-at homes before then, but when Tad retired he and Carolyn set off to see the world. And almost always with a group of friends. Such as the fourteen 70-year-olds who floated the Grand Canyon. They traveled to Africa, the Middle East, New Zealand and too many other places to name. And then there were the 23 trips across the country seeing all famous sites, visiting friends and finding off-the-beaten path stops, such as the world’s largest ball of twine. Frequently Tad would wander off from his group, engage a stranger in conversation and be invited to explore something unknown to most of mankind.
Tad is predeceased by his wife Carolyn (2012), and survived by his children, Walter M. Bird III of Melvin Village, NH; James G. Bird of Mont Vernon, N.H.; John Q. Bird of Salt Lake City, Utah; Helen C. Bird of Durango, Colo.; Andrew W. Bird of Salt Lake City, Utah, their spouses and 10 grandchildren.
There will be a memorial service at date and location yet to be determined, as COVID-19 allows.