Lowell, MA — The gift of a great teacher is the ability to lead others to discovery and to share in the joy of that learning. Eugene “Gene” Chester Winter, Jr., was such a teacher. Soft-spoken yet deeply passionate about his work as an educator and as an archaeologist, Mr. Winter touched the lives of countless students, colleagues, and friends. Ever a scholar and gentleman, Mr. Winter, of the Belvedere section of Lowell, died February 24, 2014, after a lengthy illness at age 86.
Gene was born in Lowell in 1927 (he would be quick to tell you that was the year Lindberg flew solo over the Atlantic) to Eugene C. Sr. and Jesse Lennox Winter (nee Normandie). Raised on Shawsheen Street in Tewksbury, he attended Foster Grammar School, actively participated in the Boy Scouts and graduated from Tewksbury High School, Class of 1946. Gene played saxophone with the first Tewksbury High School band. He earned his degree in Music Education at Lowell State Teachers’ College supporting himself by playing the saxophone and clarinet in local clubs. After graduation, Winter joined the U.S. Army (1952 to 1954). He was stationed in Iceland during the Korean War, and he often said the Army must have had a sense of humor sending a man with the name Winter to Iceland.
After his military service, Mr. Winter began an educational career in Middleton, Mass., first as a science teacher and later as Principal of the Howe-Manning School, acquiring his Masters of Education from Boston University along the way. Towards the end of his career he left administration behind to return to the classroom, this time to teach music where he expanded the music program and started the school band. He retired in 1992 after 38 years. Gene was active in the Lowell Historical Society and presided as president at one time. He contributed to the preservation of Lowell’s industrial history and worked to help create the Lowell National Park. Gene also worked to establish the Tewksbury Historical Society, on whose Board he remained until his death.
Gene ardently pursued his love of New England archaeology. Influenced by stories of a native American who worked for his grandmother in Tewksbury, Gene began his lifelong study of Native American history. Gene first visited Andover’s Robert S. Peabody Museum when he was 11 years old, riding his bike from his home in Tewksbury. That visit kindled a lifelong interest in archaeology and history and Gene became a prominent figure in the archaeology of the northeast. He worked on projects with Peabody personnel like Doug Byers, Fred Johnson, and Scotty MacNeish. In the 1980s, Gene served as caretaker of the Peabody when the museum was all but closed, and again in 2002, Gene’s quiet strength helped guide the rebirth of the Peabody. Gene served as the institutional memory of the Museum itself and his knowledge was that of a New England Archaeology research library.
As Gene's knowledge of regional archaeology grew, so did his commitment to sharing it. Mr. Winter became an indispensable part of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society. Twice serving as president of the Society and later as the Museum Coordinator of its Robbins Museum of Archaeology in Middleborough, Mr. Winter dedicated himself to educating the general public about the archaeology and history of Massachusetts. He thoughtfully steered the Society through several episodes of growth and change, and oversaw the curation of more than 150,000 archaeological, ethnographic, and archival objects. But, for him and for the many visitors and students who came to the Robbins, these were not just objects behind glass. These artifacts preserved the history of complex and important groups of people whose legacy could still be felt.
Gene was an active member of the New Hampshire Archaeology Society since the mid 1950s and served as its president from 1975 to 1978. Gene played an important role in the creation of the Maine Archaeology Society in 1957, helping to change its status from a chapter of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society to an independent organization.
Gene shared his knowledge and enthusiasm. He published his findings, and equally important, he encouraged and assisted others in getting their work into print. Always a teacher, he gave an uncountable number of public talks, presentations and courses. His students became the seed bed for responsible local archaeology creating an informed constituency that appreciates and protects the region's archaeological resources.Gene’s incredible life of service to Archaeology earned him the Society for American Archaeology’s Crabtree Award in 2005, as well as the eponymous Eugene C. Winter Award from the Peabody Museum and Phillips Academy. The Massachusetts Archaeological Society established the Eugene Winter Fund for New England Archaeology in 2012 (www.massarchaeology.org/Gene%20Fund/Gene%20FundC.htm) as a scholarship acknowledging Gene’s love of learning and deep knowledge of northeastern archaeology.
Gene was married to the late Pearl E.(Gammans)Winter and survived by his daughter, Nancy E. Winter of Lowell; sister, Lois Hallett and husband Richard and family of Delaware; sister, Audrey Desrochers and her family of Plymouth; beloved companion, Barbara Brown of Andover; several nieces and nephews and innumerable friends and colleagues. Gene was predeceased by his brother, Richard Winter. The family is deeply grateful David Pickul, MD and staff and the Merrimack Valley Hospice Team for allowing Gene to live his life as he wished until the end.
ARRANGEMENTS: Calling hours have been omitted and his private burial took place at the Edson Cemetery, Lowell, MA. Arrangements by the Mahoney Funeral Home, 187 Nesmith Street, Lowell (978-452-6361).
A Memorial Service of Gene’s life will be held on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at 4 p.m. at the Robert S. Peabody Museum, 180 Main Street, Andover, MA. For complete details, please visit the Massachusetts Archaeology Society website www.massarchaeology.org and the Robert S. Peabody Museum Face Book page.
In celebration of Mr. Winter’s legacy, memorial contributions in support of the Eugene Winter Fund for New England Archaeology may be made to the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, Inc., P.O. Box 700, Middleborough, MA 02346 or through the Society’s website at www.massarchaeology.org.