Frank James Lord, who reenacted the role of “schoolmaster” at the Mashpee One-Room Schoolhouse for a decade, has died at the age of 87. The former Mashpee resident died at home in West Yarmouth on February 7.
He was the husband of Elizabeth (Webber) Lord, to whom he was married for 61 years.
A retired US Navy captain and school guidance counselor, Mr. Lord was a life-long learner and an active volunteer in the communities where he lived. Over the years Mr. Lord helped with the building projects for more than 250 Habitat for Humanity homes throughout the country.
Mr. Lord had served on the Mashpee Historical Commission since 2006 and the Mashpee Community Preservation Committee beginning in 2009. The Mashpee Board of Selectmen at its meeting on December 5, 2016, accepted his resignation from both seats after Mr. Lord explained in a letter he wrote to the board that he would be moving to West Yarmouth, adding, “I have enjoyed living in such a well-managed town and wish you all well.”
Soon after moving to Mashpee from Duxbury in 2003, Mr. Lord became a member of Mashpee Town Clerk Deborah F. Dami’s election staff. He was one of the election workers helping out the next October in a mock election at Mashpee High School. The event, organized by the town clerk’s office and funded by the school department, gave 1,163 students in grades 5 and up a taste of democracy and a chance to voice their opinions on the issues. Mr. Lord said he was “impressed” by the mock election, but more so by the enthusiasm he saw in the students who participated. “These kids are showing a lot of interest in the election, which is great,” he said. “The taxpayers’ money is going to a good cause.”
In addition to his duties at the schoolhouse, in September 2018 he gave a talk about the structure and Wampanoag culture and its long history on Cape Cod to the Mashpee Men’s Club, a group of which he was a longtime member. As a follow-up to the presentation, attendees visited the site to experience what a typical day might have been like in a one-room school in the mid-1800s.
In 2019 Mr. Lord retired from his post as schoolmaster. At its inaugural preservation award ceremony last June at the Town Archives building, Mashpee Historical Commission presented awards to Earl H. (Chief Flying Eagle) Mills Sr. and Mr. Lord.
The commission recognized Mr. Lord for his 10 years helping to preserve and give tours of the one-room schoolhouse and for his efforts over the last several years in bringing back the old schoolhouse in the community park. Originally built in 1831 on Red Brook Road for $135, the building was closed but eventually donated to the town in 1975. In the late 1990s Mashpee Women’s Club raised $50,000 for renovations, and Mr. Lord was instrumental in helping to secure those funds as well as acquiring additional funding for the project.
The son of Frank and Olga Lord, he was raised in Newton. In junior high school he read all the library’s books about adventures at sea, and he received a full Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Scholarship (ROTC) to Brown University.
After graduating from Brown, he trained on the battleship USS Missouri and sailed the world from Norway to France to Cuba. He also trained with the marines for amphibious training and flight indoctrination, and then cruised on the destroyer USS Harry F. Bauer to Brazil, Columbia and Cuba. After three years of active duty in the Pacific on the heavy cruiser USS Bremerton, he spent 18 years in the Active Naval Reserve and retired as a captain.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth Webber, in 1958 after completing his active duty, and while he was earning his master’s of education at Boston University and she was starting her career as a microbiologist. Their daughter, Jennifer, was born in 1962 while they were living in Lexington, and after their son, Jeffrey, was born in 1964, they moved to Needham.
While teaching at a high school in Lexington, Mr. Lord realized he found more satisfaction talking with students after school about their personal problems that were interfering with their schoolwork than he did in teaching world geography classes. He decided to pursue training to become a guidance counselor and returned to BU on a full scholarship for advanced graduate study.
Mr. Lord worked for 38 years in education, as a guidance counselor in both Wellesley and in Duxbury. Popular with the students, he guided many through academic issues and provided further support by writing recommendations for college and employment. He also worked with young people in Sea Scouts, church youth groups and as a Sunday school teacher.
Throughout his life, he was very much involved in his church, serving on the vestry and participating in adult programs. At the time of his death he was an active member of Mashpee Congregational Church.
After retiring in 1994, Mr. Lord and his wife bought a small travel trailer and in January they headed south. On that first trip they traveled across the country to San Diego, with stops in New Orleans, San Antonio, Big Bend, Grand Canyon, and at an archaeological dig in Chaco Canyon, Colorado.
For the next 12 years they spent four months every winter building houses with Habitat for Humanity throughout the South. By the time they sold their trailer, they had traveled in every state except Kansas, visited countless National Parks, and worked on more than 250 Habitat houses.
Based on their experience with Habitat, for five years they led their Duxbury church high school youth group to build or repair homes with Rural Missions in South Carolina, exposing the teenagers to a very different part of the country and culture.
As education chairman of the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society, Mr. Lord gave summertime bus and walking tours of the town. Every year he and his wife gave a PowerPoint presentation for all the 3rd grade classes about how Duxbury evolved as a town, beginning with the Wampanoags, the first “summer visitors” to Duxbury. Mr. Lord had a deep interest in learning about the tribe’s culture and history, so the couple attended the Mashpee Wampanoag Annual Powwow in 2000.
In 2003 he and his wife moved to the Southport community and Mr. Lord became president of the Southport Woodworkers Club. Because he enjoyed doing historical research he wrote a monthly article about Mashpee’s history as a Wampanoag town for the “Southport Village Voices.”
He was the former assistant moderator of Mashpee Men’s Club, and looked forward each year to the presentations by “High-Five” students from Mashpee Middle-High School and then interacting with them at an annual luncheon hosted by the men’s group for the students and administrators. He also was passionate about the men’s club’s annual fundraising campaign for the Boys & Girls Club of Cape Cod.
In addition to his wife, he two leaves their children, Jennifer Blum and her husband, Jonathan Blum, of Edgartown and Jeffrey Lord and his wife, Pamela Lord, of Plymouth; six grandchildren; and two sisters, Phyllis Higgins of Framingham and Lillian Milek of Michigan.
A private family burial service will be at Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
A celebration of the life of Frank Lord will be Saturday, February 22, at 1 PM at New Seabury Country Club in Mashpee.