In the past several years, if you've gone to the Town Clerk's office, you may have been greeted by a gentle older man who spoke with ease and seemed to know the answer to your question before you even finished asking it.
This week, that gentle voice went to rest.
Harold "Dutch" Dushame passed away last weekend at Merrimack Valley Hospital at the age of 83.
Dushame showed that not only can someone be a "townie" and still lead a fascinating life -- often, someone's life is made fascinating by their devotion to their town.
Dushame raised in North Andover, in a house on Saltonstall Street, and graduated from Johnson High School in North Andover in 1947 before earning his bachelor's degree at Union College in Kentucky.
He entered the Air Force in the early 1950s and rose to the rank of liuetenant colonel, serving two tours in Vietnam. He also taught ROTC at Boston University.
Dushame spent his military career stationed in various locations all over the world before retiring in 1973.
He later returned to North Andover and worked in local businesses and also cared for his mother until she passed away. He lived in that childhood house on Saltonstall Street for the remainder of his life as well -- seeing the town through decades of change and growth and remaining active in it until he died.
"Dutch Dushame was the very definition of the word 'Community,'" Town Moderator Mark DiSalvo said. "He was a son of our town, served our country in war and peace (a very rare person who went from enlisted man to Lt. Colonel), and returned to become its favorite uncle. Always affecting a twinkling grin he was a man of wit, generosity, hard work and commitment to community. North Andover was his family."
A decade ago, Dushame walked into Town Hall and saw Town Clerk Joyce Bradshaw, very busy and overwhelmed.
"He looked at the outrageous piles of census forms and said, 'What?!'," Bradshaw said. "And he asked if I needed some help."
That began Dushame's tenure as the face of Town Hall. He volunteered in the office helping with paperwork and answering calls. He seemed to know everything about the town's history and landscape.
"He was the town's biggest ambassador," Bradshaw said. "He was not only a wealth of knowledge but also a fascinating person. He was always right there. If something needed to be done, he would step to the plate and do it."
Dushame volunteered registering voters and at the polls during elections and loved interacting with people, she added.
"I think the important thing to him was being vital," Bradshaw said. "He had a reason to be here."
Dushame was family at Town Hall.
"He was just very special to us all," Bradshaw said. "He came to my daughter's house every New Year's Eve. All of us here used to tease him and tell him, 'look, you may be a colonel but we outrank you here.'"
Dushame served on the School Building Committee, the North Andover Improvement Society and the board of the North Andover Historical Society and also spent time raking Patriot Park next to the library.
He was also generous with what he had. He donated money to local organizations, toys to the Fire Department as well as uniforms for the Honor Guard. And that big clock you see outside on the Stevens Memorial Library was donated by Dushame as well. Those are just some of the many ways he contributed to the improvement of the town.
And in 2010, Congress awarded Dushame a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.
"Reminders of him are in every corner of our town," DiSalvo said. "Every time I look up at the library clock I will be reminded it is Dutch Dushame time and I should strive to be as selfless and generous as Harold."