The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, March 24, 1981
Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 092)
Two of Burlington’s finest
Every so often in town affairs, one meets a person who deserves more than just a “Thank You” for a job well done. Two such people of recent history were persons connected by family ties, by love of community, by love for their fellow man, and by their involvement with this town’s police department during its fledgling years. One was Mrs. Julia Connors, the other was her son-in-law, Raymond Litchfield. Julia lived to be 80, but Ray was struck down in the prime of life at a time when he had everything to live for.
Raymond Walter Litchfield was born in Boston in 1924, the son of Charles and Sophie Litchfield. The family had moved to Billerica when he was very young and made another move to Burlington when Ray was 10 and his sister Minnie was 13. They moved into a house on Hillcrest Road when it was little more than a dirt wagon way leading from Great Pines Avenue to the Livermore brothers’ place.
Ray completed his grammar grades here in the old Union School and then entered Burlington’s new high school. He never completed his schooling there, for he enlisted in the Army in 1942, volunteering for paratrooper training, training which was denied him because of some degree of color blindness. The next two years were a nightmare for young Litchfield. Shipped overseas with just two months training, his outfit in Africa became an enemy target and Ray was one of the members of a unit overrun and captured. The high school yearbook dedicated a page to him while he was a POW.
Taken to Italy and herded like cattle into rail boxcars, those unfortunate Americans were transported to detention camps in Germany. Ray never talked too much about that horrendous trip from Italy to Germany, compliments of the Wehrmacht. The long train ride with little ventilation and no toilets became an experience to be forgotten – if possible. Almost two years later, as prisoners were being moved away from the Russian front, once again Ray had the experience of being overrun by other troops, this time, Russian. As German soldiers, guards, and prisoners alike were cut down on the open road, Ray threw himself into a ditch and tried to conceal himself with as much snow and slush as was possible. Cold, wet, hungry and bedraggled, he survived. After painfully trudging across most of Poland and part of Germany, he was picked up by American troops and sent home, an emaciated shell of his former self. He was “rehabilitated” at Lake Placid, N.Y. and released in September 1945.
All growing boys have dreams, and Ray was no exception. Very early in life, he had visions of some day becoming a member of Canada’s Royal Mounted Police, wearing a bright red coat and riding a horse through the great open spaces of that country. He applied to become a state constable, but when that didn’t work out, he applied to Burlington’s police department. He became this town’s first full-time night patrolman, on duty six days a week, from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. for which he was paid the princely sum of $36.00. He became a sergeant in 1955 and then lieutenant in 1965 as the department grew in step with the town. He became the town’s police prosecutor at Woburn District Court.
In 1949, Ray married Patricia Connors. The couple had five children: Patricia in 1951, now married to Ed Schuler, an employee of Wang Laboratories; Gary in 1952, now a member of the Burlington Planning Board and the owner of Classic Realty in Woburn; Jeanne in 1955; Robert in 1957; and Paul in 1959, now in the service doing duty as an M.P. in Maryland. For three years of their early married life they spent living in Mrs. McLaughlin’s home on Center Street. Later they bought a Rita Avenue house.
Ray had always been active in local sports. He played on the Burlington Town Team, for a Woburn baseball club, and for the American Legion basketball team. Standing over six feet, he was a player to contend with. He was the pitcher for his side in the police/fire baseball game to raise money for the Jimmy Fund when he suddenly sickened and died. His illness was a short one stemming from his horrid war experiences. He died Nov. 14, 1969, a man well respected by all who knew him.
Men and women from all corners attended the funeral. Scores of police came; the Woburn court was closed for half a day to allow judges and court personnel to attend, along with selectmen, journalists, town employees, and many of the youth he coached.
A street off Peach Orchard Road bears his name.
Ray’s mother-in-law was just as much appreciated, respected and loved. A woman who loved nothing better than doing things for people, assisting someone with a problem, or just helping the sick feel just a little bit better because of her cheery Irish smile and gentle manner, Julia Mehigan Connors was truly an extraordinary lady.
She was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1892 and came to this country with her brother when she was a teenager. Here she fell in love with and married an Irishman from Galway, Michael Connors. Nine children Julia Marie, Nancy, Donald, Veronica, Gerald, John, Patricia, Mary and Michael – were born to them. Two of those have gone; Veronica, and John who had followed Marty McGah as Tax collector for the City of Woburn. Four still live in Burlington: Mrs. John Farrell, Mrs. Patricia Litchfield, Mrs. Mary Langone, and Michael, who is a building contractor here. Donald now is a professor at Bunker Hill Community College and Gerald is a vice president of the Woburn National Bank. Julia had given her children the proper foundation for a healthy and meaningful life.
The Connors’ moved to Burlington in 1923 and settled down in a house on Edgemere Avenue in the Winnmere section. Before the Catholic Church came to Burlington, the family used to walk to St. Anthony’s in Woburn every Sunday.
Julia had taken nurse training at Boston City Hospital and wore her cap with pride. She was appointed the first full-time school nurse in 1942, a time when she had yet to acquire a driver’s license. Tessie Ward drove her around town for a while. She became police matron in 1944 and soon was doing similar emergency work for the Woburn and Wilmington departments. Called sometimes in the middle of the night, she would cheerfully pick up her things and go wherever needed. She was Burlington’s Florence Nightingale. Julia early became involved in the Lexington Red Cross as another means of helping people, and with the local unit of the Salvation Army, where, working closely with Mrs. Georgianna Nelson, countless, unfortunate Burlington people were helped over the years.
How she managed to do all that she did do and still raise a family and run a household is a mystery, especially when her husband became too ill to work and required constant attention until he had to be hospitalized some three years before he died in 1970. She was active as well in the Nurses Guild, the Burlington Grange, the American Legion Auxiliary and St. Margaret’s Sodality. Finally her body just rebelled. After a short year of restless inactivity, she passed away in 1973.
Hers had been a wonderful, beautiful and rewarding life. A street off Peach Orchard Road bears her name.