Looking back: 2020, the year that felt like a decade

Dec 31, 2020

It has certainly been quite a year for Dartmouth.

Aside from the global pandemic, we also had earthquakes, fire, and even a Black Widow spider.

But it wasn’t all bad. The community pulled together to make masks, donate food, and help out however they could in the time of Covid — while celebrating small victories along the way.

Here’s a look at Dartmouth Week’s top stories of 2020. 

Coronavirus pandemic

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic touched everyone’s lives this year. 

One family opened up early on about their struggle with the illness, and schools, activities, events, offices and businesses of all kinds shut down in March as the Select Board declared a state of emergency.

Dartmouth’s Board of Health started releasing regular updates on the number of cases in town as a spring outbreak at the Brandon Woods nursing home ultimately left over twenty dead.

But at the same time, the community came together to make equipment like masks and face shields and provide food and other services for those in need.

Organizations and groups all over town held drive-thru events to give out food, flu shots, and even Christmas cheer.

And Covid-safe car parades celebrated everything from a 100-year-old’s birthday to a six-year-old’s last chemotherapy treatment  along with Dartmouth High School’s Class of 2020 graduation, too.

Finally, the vaccine came to town, with one Dartmouth neurosurgeon among the first in the region to receive the shot.

Earthquakes, arson and spiders

This year saw plenty of scares, as a magnitude 3.6 earthquake on the coast shook people as far away as southern New Hampshire in November, followed by a second, smaller quake just a few weeks later.

An unknown arsonist set a series of fires along the highway on the day of the presidential election, a young man was shot to death on Horseneck Road, and the infamous Lincoln Park killer was granted parole, with a release date in 2021.

And in case that wasn’t enough, residents of Old Fall River Road found a Black Widow spider in a mulch pile in their yard this past July.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has also come under fire from state Attorney General Maura Healey as well as a state senate committee for his actions surrounding a May 1 altercation at the Sheriff’s Office ICE detention facility that left three detainees hospitalized.

Finally, just this week, a Tucker Road resident was taken to hospital  and her dog died  after her house caught fire

New plans and notable names

Several properties of note may soon undergo some changes, as “The Codfather” Carlos Rafael — who was released from prison this year — is getting into real estate around town.

Rafael hopes to revamp the derelict Hawthorne Country Club for use as a function hall, and his developers have already outlined plans to build a 149-unit 55+ apartment complex on Hathaway Road.

More recently, Davoll’s General Store owner Kim Arruda confirmed that Ben Shattuck, curator of Westport’s Dedee Shattuck Gallery, is buying the historic Russells Mills Village property with an intent to turn it into a cafe-style gathering spot.

Meanwhile John George’s ice cream and farm stand reopened this summer after the eponymous owner, a former Select Board member, was released from prison in 2019. He had served a nearly six-year sentence for embezzlement.

Personnel changes at Town Hall, Dartmouth Schools

Several longtime town and school employees retired this year: Town Clerk Lynn Medeiros, Director of Public Works Dave Hickox, Environmental Affairs Coordinator Mike O’ReillyDevelopment Director Deborah Melino-Wender, Dartmouth High School Music Director Bill Kingsland, and Potter School Principal Heidi Brooks, among other officials.

Earlier this month, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Michelle Roy also announced plans to retire.

Meanwhile the town hired a new Youth Advocate after the position sat vacant for nearly two years, and Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes had his contract renewed following a mostly positive performance review. The new contract grants him a $25,000 raise, giving him a $185,000 salary in the first fiscal year.


An investigation into the Southcoast Behavioral Health psychiatric facility on Faunce Corner Road revealed a high number of complaints, while in happier news, the new North Dartmouth library branch opened and a chicken escape artist made headlines after several bids for freedom.

Plus a UMass Dartmouth pitcher signed with his dream team: the Boston Red Sox.

And finally, as in cities and towns all over the US, Black Lives Matter protests and marches came to Dartmouth to demonstrate peacefully against police killings of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, and others.

Here’s to a year that was a little too exciting. Now on to 2021!