Elsie Fiore listens as her proclamation is read on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. / Susan Gilbert photoElsie Fiore listens as her Select Board proclamation is read in 2018. / Susan Gilbert photo

Elsie C. (Thornton) Fiore, called a "force of nature" by one who knew well her longtime environmental defense of East Arlington, has died at age 95.

Her relatively brief obituary recording her May 14 passing does not sketch the public face of the neighborhood guardian she was in 56 years served at Town Meeting. Some contacted provided piercing memories.

Clarissa Rowe, the former member of the Board of Selectmen and long an opponent of the current Mugar project, planned near Route 2 since 2015, recalled Fiore's natural force.

"Many people will miss [her] fierce determination," she wrote. "Elsie and her family lived adjacent to the Mugar land for decades. She was a thorn in David Mugar’s side and his world.

"She looked out her windows and saw the wildlife on the Mugar land and knew firsthand about the flooding on the land."

YourArlington Editor Bob Sprague remember sheafs of photos she brought to him, showing flooded homes near Thorndike Park after a 1997 deluge.

Ahead of her time

Rowe continued: "Elsie was an environmentalist and an advocate, and Arlington is better for her work. She was a believer in the 10-taxpayer lawsuit to help her causes."

She was ahead of her time. Long before the public focused on climate change, Rowe wrote, "Elsie was looking around her neighborhood of East Arlington and knew that there were severe water problems.

"I believe in the 1990s that she and the Good Neighbor Association started going house by house in East Arlington to find out about all the problems with flooded basements, overflowing manholes and catch basins and other harm. Her work led to our getting state Rep. Anne Paulsen to ask FEMA to redo their flood elevations in the area. Anne worked tirelessly to get it done, and it was."

As a longtime Town Meeting member, she often spoke about these issues. In addition, she was devoted to her family, especially her three sons and their families.

"I know I will miss her," Rowe wrote, "but her spirit helps guide us through the latest Mugar oversized development."

Mahon remembers

Diane Mahon, a current member of the Select Board, wrote that "Fiore made many contributions to protecting and improving the quality of life for all Arlingtonians, whether as a Town Meeting member, often being the solitary voice questioning a warrant article or standing up to developers seeking to build upon the Mugar Wetlands in East Arlington or other developments that were deemed detrimental to ... our neighborhoods.

"Elsie was a woman of uncorruptible character and integrity who spoke to truth to power, no matter what the consequence. She began her activism in Arlington working to protect her own backyard, the Mugar Wetlands, and like many an activist who's taken this journey before her, she expanded upon those activities working to protect all of the green space of the town.

"Elsie was an inspiration and a model to a then-young activist like myself who grew up in East Arlington who came to admire her relentless work to protect and educate all of us here in Arlington. I see her as a woman who paved the way for [others] to get involved in Arlington and follow her example, and I will truly miss her.

"I will especially miss my phone calls to her where she would play music for me as she said she would 'tinkle the ivories'."

Honored in 2018

In 2018, the selectmen delivered a proclamation honoring Fiore as an "unsung heroine, person of the year and legendary local."

As reported by Legendary Locals of Arlington by Marjorie Howard and Barbara Goodman (Arcadia, 2015):

"If anyone thinks Elsie Fiore is too old or too tired to fight a project proposed for a wetland, they had better think again." The profile goes on to say that she helped lead the initial opposition, in 2015, to the Mugar project planned between Thorndike Field and Route 2. Her opposition to building on the site dates to 1970.

Information from the clerk's office and provided by Marie Krepelka, selectmen's administrator, shows Fiore was elected to Town Meeting in 1962, when her precinct at the time was No. 4.

She served on the Conservation Commission from August 1972 to August 1981, the committee to procure independent survey of facilities of Arlington Schools, in 1975; the Committee to Study Senior Citizen Tax Rebate Program, in 1995; and the Uncle Sam Committee (appointed 2012).

In 2016, she was the current measurer of wood & bark, appointed in 2012. In Massachusetts, the title dates to the 18th century and refers to duties no longer followed.

One wag asked on a Facebook group Feb. 13: Who would now serve as the measurer of wood and bark? "[W]e could see a contested election in Town Meeting to see who succeeds Mrs. Fiore, who served in the position with honor and distinction for many years."


She was the devoted wife of the late Joseph A. Fiore, to whom she was married for 49 years. She had four sons -- David J., Carl W., Peter J. (also a Town Meeting member) and Russell A. -- eight grandchildren (Kimberly, Christopher, Kristianne, Dianna, Christian, Andrew, Christopher and Daniel) and six great-grandchildren (Justin, Jordyn, Kellen, Aria, Logan and Thobias).

She is also survived by nieces, nephews and many other loving relatives and friends.

Visiting Hours at the Rogers & Hutchins Funeral Home, 292 Mass. Ave., were observed Friday, May 20. The funeral Service was held Saturday, May 21, at the Trinity Baptist Church, 115 Mass. Ave. Rogers & Hutchins Funeral Homes Arlington & Cambridge rogersfuneralhome.net

In lieu of flowers, consider making a donation in Elsie's memory to the Woodward School, 1102 Hancock St., Quincy, Mass. 02169, where she was a graduate of the Class of 1945.

Feb. 14, 2018: For Fiore, 91, serving Town Meeting 56 years is long enough

This news summary was published Tuesday, May 24, 2022.