Joshua Brackett – writer, editor, teacher, activist, musician and beloved husband, father and grandfather – died peacefully in his Rockport home on the morning of Thursday, April 26th, surrounded by his family. He was 77.
A towering 6’6”, Josh was an unmistakable presence on Cape Ann for 41 years. He was a member of Rockport Democratic Town Committee; the chairman of the Rockport information-technology committee, which created the current Town of Rockport website; a leader of local water conservation efforts during one of the town’s worst droughts, in the late Seventies; and an active voice at Rockport town meetings and in the letters page of the Gloucester Daily Times.
The son of Anthony Hicks Brackett and Katharine Conner Brackett, Josh was born in Boston in 1934; he lived in Jamaica Plain until age seven, then Hingham, Mass. He attended Milton Academy, then Harvard University, where he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1956, and a masters degree in education in 1961. He served in the U.S. Army National Guard from 1957 to 1963, where his last assignment was communications platoon sergeant.
In the 1960s, Josh taught English at the Englewood School for Boys, in New Jersey, and at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York; he also taught composition to masters degree candidates at New York University. In the 1970s, he taught English as a second language to recently immigrated Gloucester middle school students. As a writer and editor in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, he worked at Para Research, the software and trade book publisher; technology marketing firm Onyx Communications; and consulting firm Technology Management International. In the 2000s, he worked as a freelance editor.
A lifetime of activism and community service began in 1964, when he and his wife, Babette, joined the Peace Corps, teaching English in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, until 1966. He would go on to be draft counselor at New York University, and help start one of Brooklyn’s first recycling programs (his slogan: “Your garbage is you; love it or leave it”). He was a leader of the Clamshell Alliance, which fought the construction of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He served on the board of Project NUVA, a Gloucester drug treatment program, and twice as the president of the Cape Ann Food Coop. A natural public speaker and performer, Josh became an in-demand mail-order minister almost by accident: In 1985, a friend asked him to perform her wedding ceremony; it was such a success that he ended up marrying dozens of couples over the next few decades.
Josh began playing guitar in his teens; he also played bagpipes in the Clann Eireann Pipe Band in Brooklyn and the Clan Wallace Pipe Band on the North Shore in the 1970s. He rekindled his love of music in the early 2000s, as a member of the folk trio John, Josh and Caroline, performing at local venues and festivals. His political parody “The Poor Have Too Much Money” has been performed live by singer Tom Rush; Josh continued writing and playing music until the end of his life, delighting friends, fans, children and grandchildren.
He leaves his wife of 49 years, Babette Amberger Brackett; his daughter Anna, her husband William Meyer, and their daughters Abby, 14, and Sadie, 11, of Brooklyn, New York; his son Nathan, his wife Kate, and their children Minna, 11 and Leo, 8, also of Brooklyn. He is pre-deceased by his parents and his brother, Anthony Hicks Brackett, Jr.
ARRANGEMENTS: A memorial service will be held at the Shalin Liu Performing Arts Center on 10am on Monday, May 21st.; a reception will be held immediately afterward at the Center. Food will be served; to quote Josh: “Take the muffins when they’re passed.”
At Josh’s request, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made on his behalf to the Open Door Food Pantry, 28 Emerson Ave., Gloucester, MA 01930.
Arrangements by the Burgess & Mackey Funeral Home, 201 Main Street, Rockport. For online condolences, please visit greelyfuneralhome.com.