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Amherst bridge renamed for Ellen Story

  • Retired state Rep. Ellen Story stands in front of sign dedicating Amherst bridge in her name. Gazette Staff/Scott Merzbach

  • Rep. Ellen Story Bridge sign. —Scott Merzbach



Staff Writer
Friday, November 24, 2017

AMHERST — Two new signs, one on either side of a Montague Road bridge over the Mill River in North Amherst village center, will be a permanent reminder of retired state Rep. Ellen Story’s nearly quarter-century of service to the 3rd Hampshire District.

Yet even though Story’s name is featured prominently on the white signs with the official state seal, Story teased during a ceremony the afternoon of Nov. 17 that she actually wanted a more elaborate tribute.

“I was sincerely hoping for at least one life-size statue,” Story said, as roars of laughter erupted from the more than 50 friends and local, regional and state officials who gathered for the tribute. “Even better would have been two, one welcoming people to Amherst, the other bidding adieu.”

But Story quickly became modest. “I am very, very pleased to have two signs,” Story said. “Thank you all so much.”

The decision to rename the 1946 bridge on Route 63 over the Mill River was made by the state Legislature, and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this year.

Solomon Goldstein-Rose, who succeeded Story in January, explained that after he was elected in November 2016 he was at a transition event with Story and remembers her saying she liked how a Boston bridge had been named after David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox designated hitter.

“‘Yes, and I should like to have a bridge named after me too,’” Goldstein-Rose said Story told him. “Not knowing any better, I decided to take that seriously and introduce a bill to that effect. It turned out Ellen thought that was hilarious, but nice.”

Among those paying tribute to Story during the ceremony was Becky Michaels, co-chairwoman of the Amherst Education Foundation, an organization Story co-founded with her legislative aide, Jan Klausner-Wise.

Michaels said Story recognized that strong public schools needed a commitment not only from the state but also the community.

Select Board Chairman Douglas Slaughter also praised Story.

“It’s really been an honor to know you and have you serve our community,” Slaughter said.

Klausner-Wise said it was fitting that the bridge chosen was so close to Mill River Recreation Area, a location where Story’s “kitchen cabinet” held fundraisers and picnics for constituents over the years.

Others in attendance included retired U.S. Congressman John Olver, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, state Rep. John Scibak, Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman and Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, who arrived shortly after the brief ceremony concluded, said only someone with remarkable talent could get such a tribute, and cautioned that no one should run for public office with the intent of having a similar dedication.

“I always tell me my colleagues if you got elected to get a bridge named after yourself, you’ve made a mistake,” Rosenberg said. “This took almost 25 years of Ellen distinguishing herself in the Legislature.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.