MANCHESTER, NH – For those who knew and loved Bill Cashin, word of his passing Friday moved like a wave of sorrow through the city. Cashin served the city for more than three decades as an alderman – recognized as the longest sitting Alderman – and remained an active part of city life until his health began to decline. He died Thursday at the age of 85.
Former Manchester Mayor Sylvio Dupuis grew up on Winter Street with Cashin, it was a friendship that truly spanned a lifetime.
“We lived two houses away from each other, and from the time we could get out of the house, we were either at his home or ours,” recalled Dupuis. Although Cashin attended St. Raphael’s school and Dupuis was a Sacred Heart kid, their common stomping ground was Sweeney Park.
“It wasn’t like Little League today with uniforms, bats and hats. We were always there playing with the other kids from the neighborhood. We were very close to the same age and we always stayed very close, right to the end,” Dupuis said, describing a friendship that was both personal and political.
“When I ran for mayor he was one of my strongest supporters. He took me to all the neighborhood gathering places and clubs. He was very much responsible for my being elected mayor, and once I got elected we stayed very close,” Dupuis said.
When Dupuis took a job as CEO of Catholic Medical Center in 1975, Cashin soon followed.
“He’d been in the shoe industry for years, which was collapsing, and he came over to CMC with me and became director of operations there, and he made his career there, staying 20 years until he retired,” Dupuis said.
In a word, Cashin embodied integrity, said Dupuis.
“He was the embodiment of integrity. Once you had his word about something you had it. At CMC we’d discuss what was happening and he said let’s make it happen, and he did. He was the guy who made things happen,” Dupuis said. “He was an incredible public servant and human being.”
Even as a kid, Cashin was always an organizer.
“He was the first one to start a new game or get people to work together. From the time I can remember him, I can’t remember a time he didn’t keep his word. That’s what people found most endearing about Billy. If he said he wasn’t going to do something that was it, and if he said he was, he’d take that task right through to the end,” Dupuis said.
Another longtime friend former mayor, Bob Baines, reacted to the news Friday, remembering Cashin as a legendary figure in Manchester politics.
“I’ve known and worked with him for decades, most recently on the Board of Manchester Public Television. I had the honor and privilege of partnering with Bill on many major projects while I served as mayor,” Baines said. “The longest-serving alderman in Manchester history will be remembered for his love and passion for our great city. We have all lost a cherished friend.”
The MPTV board also included Dupuis, former Mayor Ray Wieczorek and former Alderman Dave Wihby and if the four of them seated around the table had been a TV show, it would have been a fan favorite with high ratings for its nostalgia, political banter and the brotherly bonds of friendship, Baines said.
The two worked together on many projects in the city, but Baines especially appreciated that Cashin was a champion of education.
“Bill and I had a long friendship – in my 20s I served on the school board and he was on the board of aldermen, and when I was principal of West I got to know him as a parent, because his kids went to school there. But the best part of it all has been the last several years on the public TV board. Bill was the chair and it was by far the best board I’ve ever served on,” Baines said.
He credits former Mayor Ted Gatsas with putting the board together to raise the bar at the public TV station and make it a more professional operation.
“Bill Cashin was also the force behind making the senior center on the West Side a reality, and it happened despite all kinds of controversy, but Bill worked behind the scenes and we even duped Gatas, who was opposed to the West Side location. In the end, we switched some money around and maneuvered it to make it a reality. It’s his signature project for the city, and bears his name, rightly so,” Baines said.
“He was a good man. He was a force – you had to work with Bill or you would have more difficulty. He was someone you wanted to have on your side, and he’d become one of my close friends over the years,” Baines said.
Mayor Joyce Craig said on Friday in a statement she was “heartbroken” by the loss of Cashin, someone who she considered not only an advisor but a dear friend.
“He was one of a kind and, sadly, one of the last of his generation of leaders to serve our city,” Craig said. “Bill was my earliest, closest and staunchest supporter when I decided to run for mayor. We spoke often up until our last call a few weeks ago. During his final weeks, he continued to offer meaningful advice and always left me laughing long after we hung up the phone. Now, he joins the love of his life and center of his world, his (late) wife, Esther, and his dear friends, Bill Craig and Fern Gelinas, who have probably already poured him a cup of coffee and are waiting to get caught up on Manchester politics,” wrote Craig.
Also sending condolences by way of a joint statement were Manchester’s state senators, Donna Soucy, Lou D’Allesandro, and Kevin Cavanaugh.
“Alderman Cashin was a dedicated servant to the city of Manchester and a credit to our beautiful community. As the longest-serving alderman in Manchester, he has left his mark on so many projects, particularly in his beloved “West Side.” We will be forever grateful for his work and the impact he has left on our city. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.”
Former Alderman Dave Wihby said he remembers vividly the first time he met Bill Cashin. Wihby was a newcomer to City Hall, elected to the Board of Aldermen in 1985 for the first time, and Cashin made sure to let him know how things were done.
“He said you’re coming in new. You’re a Republican, I’m a Democrat. We’re going to have different philosophies. You vote the way you want to vote and do what you want to do. Just know that after the votes are done and the discussion is over, we leave City Hall as friends and work together on whatever comes next. That really stuck with me, to this day,” Wihby said.
It’s that spirit of camaraderie and cooperation Wihby says has gotten lost somehow in modern politics, locally and nationally.
“I tell people he was my best friend, and even when we switched chairmanships we always got together and talked it out and we always kept our word to one another,” Wihby said.
“All those years I served with him, 18 years of committees and boards and meetings, we weren’t always on the same side of things but we always got along and I think that’s how he wanted it to be, for everyone. He loved the city and everything he did, he did for the city,” Wihby said.
Cashin was Ward 10, through and through. He was born on Winter Street and, when he got older and was ready to buy his own house, he bought a house just across the street from where he grew up. Only briefly did he represent Ward 11, during a four-year period when the city lines were redrawn due to redistricting, says current Ward 10 Alderman Bill Barry.
“Back when I first decided to run for Alderman of Ward 10 in Jan 2013 Bill Cashin was the first guy I reached out to – not just for his thoughts on me running but I asked if he’d be willing to be my fiscal agent, and he has done that for me ever since. I have the utmost respect for him. He had such a wealth of knowledge of how the city runs and should run, he’s absolutely an icon,” Barry said.
Following Cashin’s lead is how Barry says he learned about constituent services.
“All the work I’ve ever done, volunteer work, coaching baseball or basketball, I always wanted to give back to the same leagues that gave to me and organizations that gave to my family when I was young and we struggled. Bill Cashin and Mayor Stanton and others, they were the ones who looked out for us,” Barry said.
He remembers a particular piece of political advice Cashin gave him, which he lives by.
“Don’t ever give someone a phone number when they call with a concern. If they need help from Public Works you pick up the phone and you make that call on their behalf, and you take care of it. That always stuck with me, and it’s one thing I pride myself on in my work for the people of Ward 10,” Barry said. “If it’s important to them, it’s important to me. It’s that mindset that has helped me win some people over who may not have voted for me, but because of the way I try to help them, they have changed their minds about me. I owe that to Bill.”
Although final arrangements for Cashin have yet to be announced, Dupuis knows that Cashin wouldn’t want a big fuss.
“He was a humble guy. He wouldn’t want a lot of folderol about him,” said Dupuis.
He says it’s hard to quantify Bill Cashin’s clout in the Queen City. He was a leader who led by example. He was a man of values, and there was never any question about where he stood, or his steadfast loyalty to others.
“When President Biden began his run for office he went physically to Bill Cashin’s home on Winter Street to speak with him and chat with him. That was the kind of person Billy was. After he married, he bought a larger home on the same street where he grew up, literally two houses from where we grew up, because he loved that street and his life on the West Side. He was parochial in a positive way. He loved what he loved and the people who were there,” Dupuis said. “For him, that was home.”
They last saw each other three months ago. Between COVID-19 and Cashin’s declining health, the visits diminished.
“In the end he was so incapacitated. For a time we moved the public TV board meetings to his house just so he could be there. But after COVID we abandoned going to his house because we wanted to protect him,” Dupuis said.
“What more can I say? It’s the end of an era of his kind of personal political process, of trust and of service. We were friends in many different ways – kid friends, adult political and adult personal friends. It’s a friendship that, once it started it never really ended,” Dupuis said. “At least not until now.”