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Hopkinton’s Anne Slusser demanded excellence, cherished her community

Eugene and Anne Slusser of Hopkinton pose for a photo in July 2008.

(Concord Monitor photo/Mandy McConaha)

Eugene and Anne Slusser of Hopkinton pose for a photo in July 2008. (Concord Monitor photo/Mandy McConaha)

Decades ago, in the annals of Hopkinton social lore, there were good parties and there were great parties. And then there were Anne Slusser’s unforgettable affairs.

Ornate and arduously planned, Slusser’s gatherings, which she hosted with her husband, Eugene, were known for detail and flash. “You didn’t just leave her house thinking, ‘That was well done,’ ” said Shirley Dunlap, a longtime friend. “You left thinking, ‘That was the best party I have ever been to.’ ”

Over the years, the Slusser name has become practically ubiquitous in Hopkinton and the surrounding region. It adorns signs and is engraved on numerous plaques acknowledging charitable donors. There is the Slusser Senior Center, the Slusser Center for the Concord Regional Visiting Nurses Association, the Eugene and Anne Slusser Gallery at the Hopkinton Historical Society and the Slusser Oncology Suite at Concord Hospital. The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire is now twice the size it once was because of a $1 million donation from Eugene, an engineer and avid pilot who died last October.

But behind the extensive philanthropy lay what those

close to Anne Slusser, who died last week at age 90, described as an assertive, driven woman who adored her community and refused to ever settle for mediocrity.

A Hopkinton resident for nearly six decades, Slusser became involved in numerous community groups and activities before developing Alzheimer’s five years ago. Her list of endeavors included the Hopkinton Woman’s Club and the Second Chance Boutique thrift store, which she co-founded with St. Andrews Episcopal Church. Slusser was also the architect behind Dial-a-Ride, a bus service for seniors used in towns and cities across the country.

“She had a real need to generate achievements,” said her son, Rob Slusser, a retired teacher in Washington state. “She could be a hard driver, but things got done.”

Her other son, Jon Slusser of Arizona, described his mother as a disciplinarian who “demanded excellence” and valued ambition.

“I think that gave me a sense of responsibility,” he said. “I remember, for example, asking to drive the convertible rather than the station wagon. And she said, ‘No, not now.’ And when I asked why, she replied, ‘If I let you do that now you won’t have anything to look forward to.’ ”

Slusser was born in 1922 in Lynn, Mass., the fourth and last daughter of a salesman and a first-generation Norwegian immigrant. She revered her father, Rob said, so much so that she ended up marrying someone with a nearly identical “entreuprenurial spirit.”

When the couple moved to Hopkinton in the 1950s, they quickly began to carve a niche in the community. Eugene founded an electronics company called Aerotronic Associates Inc., which manufactured equipment to test electronic devices, including General Motors cars and IBM computers. Anne joined local civic groups and managed a strict house, instilling in her children the importance of responsibility.

“Mother was not protective,” Rob said. “She felt we should make mistakes, deal with the consequences, pick ourselves up and move on.” He said Slusser was a fan of Henry David Thoreau, and when he turned 16 she presented him with a copy of Walden. “She said, ‘Be yourself, be independent and make your own world.’ ”

Slusser played a silent but influential role in her husband’s profession. Rob said the family struggled through a handful of “lean years” after Eugene started Aerotronic Associates, and that Anne provided him with consistent support.

Slusser also helped the couple develop a wide pool of friends in the community, which proved invaluable in their charitable work.

“My dad brought the business acumen and my mom brought the social acumen,” Jon said. “They learned from each other.”

Eugene sold the electronics company in 1984 and, as their wealth accrued, the couple began contributing more and more to local groups, a move in which Anne played a large part.

“When it came time for dad to start making donations, she was influential of where the money went,” Rob said.

Slusser is survived by her sons, Rob and Jon, her daughter, Carolyn, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The family plans to hold a celebration of her life sometime in April or May.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319 or
jblackman@cmonitor.com)

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