He was considered the father of regional schools in Massachusetts. The $2,500,000 Mahar Regional senior-junior high school which opened in 1957, was named in his honor. Born Jan.4, 1912, son of Mrs. Bertha I. (Mills) Mahar and the late Dr. Harold R. Mahar, he was a graduate of Orange High School ’30, Tufts College with a BS degree, 1934, and Northeastern School of Law. He also received an honorary MA degree in 1949 from Tufts College for work in the fields of education, public health, and public welfare. He was a member of the Massachusetts and Franklin County and Hampshire County Bar Associations.
Senator Mahar was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1937 at the age of 25 and served in the Senate from his election in 1944 until his death in 1962. In 1947, he introduced the bill that changed Massachusetts State College to the University of Massachusetts and was said to consider the university his “pet project.” He worked hard to bring a community college to Orange, even though a reluctant school committee at the time would not go all out for the idea. It went to Greenfield. He also served on the special commission for postwar problems following both World War II and the Korean conflict which is credited with the establishment of the Soldiers Home in Holyoke and a complete revision of the veterans laws. He was a chairman of the Ways and Means Committee under Governor Christian A. Herter and chairman of the Education Commission, a member of the recess commission for retarded children and the State Taxation Commission. He took all seven degrees of the Grange and was a member of the state and national Grange. (Athol Daily News: August 6, 1962)
Senator Mahar worked hard in Boston, often against the tremendous odds brought by the fact that the greater population of the Commonwealth is in metropolitan Boston, and is often apt to overlook or disregard the needs of smaller communities throughout the State. His honesty was unquestioned in a State government which had been rocked by scandals during his service. It was rumored that he was to be appointed to a judgeship, and would in his later years be freed from the constant pressure of a State Senator, which anyone knows is tremendous.
Senator Mahar was the principal speaker at the graduation exercises at our school the year of his death (1962). At that time he told the class:
“May you always have faith in yourselves whatever hardships may develop in the years ahead. May you be the individuals in the sense that you make up your minds, that you think straight and that you stand on your own two feet. May you have a sense of social conscience which shows concern for your fellow man, and yet, may I urge you to beware of the philosophy of those who advocate something for nothing.”
Whether it was in behalf of the dam and pond at the Mahar Regional School, a small matter when considered on a State-wide basis, or in behalf of an appropriation for the 6th World Sport Parachuting Championships in Orange, during which he was subjected to some ridicule by other legislators who knew little of what they were talking about in this matter, Senator Mahar always went all out and fought hard for what he believed in. (The Orange Enterprise and Journal: August 9, 1962)
- A Special Thank You to Janice Lanou, Librarian, Wheeler Library, Town of Orange, for providing much of the above material!