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Wellesley Senior Center breaks ground

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By Lisa Moore
Hometown Weekly Correspondent

After nearly 11 years in the making, one Wellesley woman’s dream is finally becoming a reality. Mary “Billie” Tolles, a long time Wellesley resident, left a bequest to the Town of Wellesley of $825,000 from her estate when she passed away in July of 2005. The gift, if accepted by the town, came with the stipulation that the money be used for “the founding, constructing, and equipping of a senior center … on land or in a building provided for that purpose by the town.”

On Monday, June 20, after years of effort by many different people in multiple town organizations, Gayle Thieme, the Director of Senior Services at the Wellesley Council on Aging, Matt King from the Permanent Building Committee, Terri Tsagaris a former town Selectman, Gail Kingsley Wolfahrt Trustee, and Mary Bowers, an advocate for the senior center from the very beginning, officially broke ground at 494-496 Washington Street, the site of the new Tolles Parsons Senior Center.

It was an emotional day for all of the attendees, many of whom have been working from the beginning to see this day become a reality. Choruses of “we have been fighting for this for years” and “this is long overdue” could be heard amongst those gathered as the five shovels struck ground. Gail Kingsley Wolfahrt, Trustee for the Tolles estate, spoke at the ceremony. “I didn’t think I would live to see this day. Billie was my client, my guest in my home, and a civic-minded citizen who didn’t need the top job. She bore no ill will toward anyone but Phil Mickelson and the New York Yankees. And was a penny pincher. Those who knew her know she was reluctant to spend it. But Billie saved her pennies, not for new clothes or a flashy new car, but to leave this legacy. Billie’s dream was to create a senior center as a way to prevent, combat, and treat profound loneliness in our seniors.”

Terri Tsagaris, a former selectman who has been working on this project for the last 7 ½ years called the project “a labor of love for so many, bringing together so many town organizations. At times, the odds were against us, but we marched forward. As my father taught me, hard work eventually pays off and patience is a virtue.”

The town will have to be patient for a little while longer, as the project is estimated to take 18 months to complete. All those involved in getting the project to this stage can watch as the dream of one resident that became a shared vision of many grows into a reality for the town and its seniors. Gayle Thieme summed up the ceremony saying “It is a wonderful day for Wellesley. The seniors deserve a wonderful home and we will have one now.”

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