Brian H. RehrigBrian H. Rehrig

 A wise voice that quieted Robbins Auditorium as Town Meeting members paid heed has gone silent, but his work on behalf of Arlington sings still.

Brian Houser Rehrig, 67, died Jan. 21, at his Academy Street home after a long illness. He spent his last days surrounded by loved ones; listening to Bach, show tunes and James Taylor; and wearing T-shirts from political campaigns -- in other words, as he lived.

Some of the many people whose lives he touched provided remembrances below.


AN APPRECIATION


Mr. Rehrig was born Oct. 24, 1954, to Marjorie and Carl Rehrig and grew up in Bath, Pa., attending Northampton High School. He went on to MIT, where he intended to major in mechanical engineering in pursuit of a career building pipe organs, but graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in 1975. He was involved with MIT’s Glee Club, Drama Guild and The Tech newspaper. In Boston, through the city's musical-theater scene, he met Sheila (Duffy) Rehrig, his wife of 45 years.

Conservation advocate

He spent a 37-year career in investment and commercial property management for Renco Management, Waltham. His true professional passion was his position as executive director of the Fields Pond Foundation, a grant maker focused on land and river conservation. This allowed for his favorite professional perk: taking “business hikes.”

Mr. Rehrig loved nature and protecting open spaces for recreational use. His favorite spots included the White Mountains, especially Franconia Ridge.

He was a founding board member of the Arlington Land Trust, serving as treasurer for more than 20 years. He was particularly proud of his work to protect Elizabeth Island, in Spy Pond, and the ongoing efforts to preserve open space and wetlands at the Mugar property in East Arlington.

In 2021, he was appointed as an inaugural member of the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition’s Conservation Advisory Council, a group of leaders in land-protection issues in the state.

Love for music, theater

Mr. Rehrig loved music and theater: He was a gifted pianist and an accomplished music director and sound designer for community theaters across the region. He was particularly involved with Arlington Friends of the Drama, where he served as the investment committee chair for 25 years, was sound chair and volunteered in countless other ways. In recognition of his contributions, in 2008 he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the organization.

He had a warm baritone voice and participated in the Berkshire Choral Festival for several years.

Mr. Rehrig was deeply committed to his local community in Arlington. He was an elected Town Meeting member for more than 30 years; was vice chair of the Symmes Advisory Committee, the group providing a local voice in the change of the former Symmes Hospital site to housing; as vice chair of the town Capital Planning Committee; and among the 18-member Arlington High School Building Committee.

He played a key role in many local and state political campaigns, inspiring and encouraging candidates to run for office. He was sought after for his unwavering support and his expertise at understanding and managing campaign data.

Land Trust remembers

In an email, the Arlington Land Trust wrote: "We have lost a dear friend and advocate for open-space preservation. Among his many contributions, Brian was instrumental in organizing the Campaign to Protect Elizabeth Island and the Land Trust’s 2010 purchase of the island for conservation and public enjoyment.

Brian helps take visitors to Elizabeth Island during Spy Pond Fun Day in September 2017. / Land Trust photoBrian helps take visitors to Elizabeth Island during Spy Pond Fun Day in September 2017.

"Recently, Brian focused tirelessly on efforts to protect the open space and wetlands on the Mugar property in East Arlington.

" ...  It is impossible to recount all the wisdom and expertise that he contributed to this organization, and to the promotion of land conservation and community service in Arlington and beyond.

The Rehrig family has suggested that donations in Brian’s memory be made to the Arlington Land Trust Mugar Protection Fund. Those wishing to make a memorial donation will find the fund on the Join/Donate page.

Joseph A. Curro Jr., former Select Board and School Committee member:

"When Brian and I first crossed paths, we found ourselves on opposite sides of some key questions surrounding the Symmes Hospital redevelopment project. Over the ensuing years, a great mutual respect grew between us.

"As a new Town Meeting member, I noticed how a hush would come over the hall whenever Brian got up to speak, because people wanted to hear what he had to say. A few years later, he was one of the first people to ask me to run for townwide office, and his advice and counsel and ability to slice and dice databases were invaluable.

"Brian had a unique way of encouraging people to find their potential, to look at a problem in a little different way, or to hit just the right communication points. And although he was a committed progressive, he understood the importance of working with people across the political spectrum and the wisdom of recognizing that one's adversary today might be their ally tomorrow.

"Our transformation from opponents on the Symmes project to friends and allies was complete when we paid a joint visit to the new management of Arlington 360 to ensure that accessibility of the surrounding deed-restricted park and conservation land was preserved.

"And there is no project on which we worked more closely than the ballot initiative to win voter acceptance of the Community Preservation Act. As in so many other instances, Brian proved himself to be a champion for our town. Throughout the campaign and beyond, he maintained bridges with key CPA opponents and supporters alike that ensured a successful implementation of the act after its approval.

"I enjoyed meeting Brian for coffee or a beer, often in Waltham where we both worked, and it breaks my heart that our plans to do so again were derailed by the pandemic and his untimely passing. Instead, I find myself looking upward and saying, "Thank you. This one's for you, my friend."

State Sen. Cindy Friedman:

Noting that she found it difficult to express -- "Brian’s death has hit me pretty hard" -- she wrote: "Brian cared and was active in many things outside Arlington, but he took his responsibility to be an active, engaged and supportive resident here very seriously. Arlington was always a priority of his, and he loved this town, he loved the people and he was committed to having Arlington be a great place to live for everyone.

"He practiced his values in everything he did. He was amazingly kind, welcoming and giving to everyone. Just look at all the things he did and issues he was active in.

"His death leaves a big hole both in my personal life and this community’s life. He really was one of a kind." 

Carol Band, a Town Meeting member who often sat near Brian in Town Hall Auditorium:

"Brian Rehrig was a friend and a mentor. It was Brian who encouraged me to run for Town Meeting and presented me with a copy of 'Town Meeting Time,' the bible of community government. 'Light bedtime reading,' he joked.

"Brian was always supportive, thoughtful and the person I’d go to when I needed advice about how to introduce a warrant article or what scotch to buy.

"I lost two pairs of prescription sunglasses sailing with him out of the MIT boathouse on the Charles River. 'Come about hard alee!' he’d call out gleefully as the boat heeled on the waves. Glasses be damned.

"I got new glasses, but Brian Rehrig — well, he is irreplaceable. And he will be missed."

Survivors 

Mr. Rehrig leaves behind countless friends and a family, including mother Marjorie; wife Sheila; daughter Jenna and her partner Adric Giles; and son Matthew, daughter-in-law Anna Bishop Rehrig, and granddaughters Elise and Nina. His father, Carl, died in 2015.

A memorial ceremony celebrating Brian’s life will be scheduled for this spring. Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, he has requested donations to the Arlington Land Trust’s Mugar Protection Fund.

For information about memorial planning, donations and space to share memories, see rehrigs.com

Providing obituary information was Keefe Funeral Home >> 


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 This news summary and appreciation was published Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.