By James Niedzinski
---- — ROCKPORT — Politics in Rockport tend to be a big part of this town, with volunteers and activists taking important roles in deciding issues from development to the desire to preserve the community’s character.
And, by all accounts, Rockport lost one of its most committed public servants and generally concerned citizens when John Krenn, 88, died at his home last Tuesday.
Krenn, who was born in Atlantic City, N.J., was also a World War II veteran, serving in the United States Coast Guard. From there, he used GI Bill benefits to finish High School and later graduated from what is now Rowan University followed by a year of graduate study at the University of Michigan.
After working with electronics for a number of years, his family settled in Rockport in 1962; first on Tregony Bow then High Street. He become an active member in a town affairs, boards and committees.
“He was quite a guy, he worked awfully hard for the town,” said former selectman Fredrick “Ted” Tarr.
“We used to fight like mad of course, which is the fun of it,” Tarr said. “I think we had a couple of good words to say about each other, but not very often,” he joked.
But, as a self-described trouble maker, Krenn was always one to speak his mind — and was often the only person in the room willing to say what others were clearly thinking, Tarr and others said.
Tarr especially commended the efforts Krenn made both on the Planning Board, where he served on for five years as chairman and later on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
While chairman, he was responsible for the complete reorganization of the existing zoning bylaw.
“He was instrumental on the Zoning Board of Appeals to make sure there were fair rules, but (rules that would) not change the whole feel of the town,” said Dr. Sydney Wedmore, who chairs the Thatcher and Straitsmouth Island Committees.
Krenn and Wedmore served together for a time on the island committee. Krenn was one of the original pilgrims on that committee; helping make the island accessible to the town, Wedmore recalled.
Like other Rockporters involved with local politics, Krenn had — and needed — a good sense of humor.
”He would make jokes on himself before he would make jokes of other people,” Wedmore said. “He was not one who was self-serving or self-grandiose.”
Wendell “Sandy” Jacques, another former selectman and longtime member of the town’s Finance Committee, said Krenn regularly offered a view that was a factor to consider.
“We saw eye to eye more than I have with most people,” Jacques said.
Through his time on boards in town — and through various letters to the editor for the Times —Krenn was not one to hide his opinions, and he became well-versed in zoning and planning. That included when he spoke about at annual town meetings regarding the long-dormant former Cape Ann Tool Company site on Granite Street.
He described the site as “poisonous,” and was one of many residents who wanted to slow the process down and preserve some aspect of the industrial site, while salvaging other parts of it for some waterfront access and use.
While former Tool Company Task Force member Zenas Seppala said he did not know Krenn too well, but he said it was a good feeling to have someone like Krenn share his point of view at an annual town meeting.
“He was the only person that saw my point of view — that’s the impression I got,” Seppala said.
A dedicated participant in town government even after leaving his positions, he was recognized in the 2008 Fall meeting by being named temporary moderator for a complex property purchase article.
And in 2011, State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, whose district includes Rockport, paid tribute to Krenn for 33 years of service to the town.
Krenn also served on the Rights of Way Committee, Granite Pier Committee in addition to being a member of the Sandy Bay Yacht Club. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Phyllis (Raymond) Krenn of Elmhurst, Ill., and his three daughters: Jaime Krenn, Kathryn Krenn and Susan Krenn of Towson, Md. and son, Christopher Krenn, he also leaves behind a slew of grandchildren.
Although some around town may have disagreed with Krenn’s positions, all seemed to respect him.
”He was all for the town, he really devoted himself to that,” Tarr said. “He will be very sorely missed.”
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.