Born August 15th, 1921 in Wilmington, Delaware, Reed C. Fulton grew up alternately in Wrentham, Massachusetts and Rangeley, Maine. He was a Boy Scout, a soldier, and a Mason, as well as a Golden Eagle and Life Member of the National Rifle Association.
Prior to World War II, Reed worked as a night foreman at Winter Brothers Company, a tool and die manufacturer in Wrentham. When he learned that married men were being drafted, he abandoned his draft deferment and left Winter Brothers for the Army. A Sergeant in command of a tank company in WWII, he saw action in Europe as part of the U.S. Third and Seventh Armies and, at the end of the war, participated in General George S. Patton's rescue in Austria of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions from advancing Soviet troops.
Click here to learn more about this amazing event and “Operation Cowboy”.
Fulton wrote in a letter home, “I am glad it is over here, but I would not trade the experience I have had for anything in the world.” When asked about that quote a few months before he died in 2016, he said, “Yeah: I still feel that way, today.” A grateful cavalryman, he also commented, “Stay away from any outfit that has to walk to work.” Following the war, he was given a belated field commission as a Captain.
After leaving the Army, he returned to his job as a diemaker at Winter Brothers and later operated the machine shop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's college of chemical engineering, teaching students to operate machine tools to manufacture the test apparatus they needed for their theses. During his time at MIT, he was intimately involved in the development of hydrazine—then not yet recognized as a fuel for spacecraft—as a torpedo fuel in highly-classified research for the U.S. Navy.
He spent decades as a Boy Scout leader, and between that function and his years at MIT, he exerted a positive influence on the lives of countless young boys and men and women as they grew to adulthood.
A consummate autodidact, Reed studied a dizzying variety of disciplines and excelled at all of them. With the help of his Wrentham Scouts, he built a fire engine for them from a surplus military truck, then taught them to use it. The engine, along with Boy Scouts and Reed, were quickly absorbed into the Wrentham Fire Department and used to positive effect in fighting forest fires. It was the beginning of Reed's lifelong passion for fire science. He bought a war surplus torpedo retrieval boat, converted it to a utility boat, and gave countless Boy Scouts work experience and both seamanship and “gunkholing” experience that would last them a lifetime. Gunkholing is a boating term referring to a type of cruising in shallow or shoal water, and refers to the gunk, or mud, typical of the creeks, coves, marshes, sloughs, and rivers that are referred to as gunkholes. Reed and his Scouts successfully retrieved a large number of unmoored vessels from the Massachusetts coast following a hurricane and returned them to their yards for repair.
Following his retirement from MIT, Reed moved to Georgetown, Maine in 1972. He joined the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Department and enriched that organization with his encyclopedic knowledge of firefighting. The Department benefitted from his close ties with the Wrentham and other Massachusetts fire departments. He served as Chief of the Georgetown Department for ten years. After stepping down as Chief, he continued to serve as First Deputy Chief and Forest Fire Warden for fourteen more years.
In 2012 Fulton was honored for his 50 years as a Mason by representatives of his Masonic organization, based at MIT. Fulton received the award from Philip A. Nowlan, the then second district deputy grand master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, who listed a number of Fulton’s accomplishments, including Fulton’s Masonic service, his long tenure as fire chief in Georgetown, ME, his 20 years as a Scoutmaster with Boy Scouts of America, during which he was presented the Scouts’ Silver Beaver award, and his military career during World War II. The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts is the oldest lodge in the Western Hemisphere and the third oldest in the world.
Reed C. Fulton died at his home in Georgetown, Maine on April 3, 2016 at the age of 94. A new road at The Preserve at Mill Pond off Park Street in Wrentham has been named in his honor.
Compiled by Paula Kowalewski Sullivan