The Island has lost another wonderful treasure.
Peter Williamson, the former chief of police in Oak Bluffs who died Jan. 23 left a legacy that goes way beyond his contributions and service to people on the Island.
Forty years ago I became a part-time police officer on the Oak Bluffs police force, working for Peter. I was the first of a line of summer police officers who either graduated from the same school, St. Michael’s College in Vermont, or were friends of ours who went on to become members of the force for varying periods of time.
For most of us Peter was our first boss after college and many of us stayed on for multiple summers. Some, like John McCarthy, the former chief of police in Vineyard Haven, became full time officers. A number of his legion of former officers from off-Island ended up buying homes and staying on the Island either full-time like superior court clerk Joe Sollitto, or seasonally like me.
As word spread among the Williamson alumni, I could not help remark at how we all seemed to be so unified in our high regard for and indebtedness to Peter because of the positive influence he had on our lives since the very first day we met him. Every one of the dozen or so friends of mine who worked for him expressed such pride that he picked us and that we were listed among his tens of hundreds of friends.
Among us are successful lawyers, ministers, business people, military officers, government employees and teachers, all of whom credited Peter in some measure for their success and stayed in touch with him over the years.
Peter’s gift of common sense, his political, teaching and leadership skills along with his sense of humor set an example for all who worked for and with him.
His compassion for the people he served and protected extended to all of us and made us see the good that could come from respecting those we dealt with, sometimes under very difficult circumstances. To steal from the author Tom Wolfe, Peter was A Man in Full.
The chief extended his good example as a good husband, father, friend and boss and will be missed by more people than you can imagine. It was an honor to have known him.
John Verret lives in Sharon.