Henry W. Diggs, 96, Was Devoted to Civic Work

Henry W. Diggs, 96, a lifelong resident of Norwood who loved spending time on Martha's Vineyard, died unexpectedly on Jan. 15 at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital.

The third son of the late Charles T. and Sara E. Grandison Diggs, he was married to the late Irma U. Thompson Diggs.

A devoted, long-term and avid participant in town government, Mr. Diggs served as the eldest locally elected black official in the commonwealth when he was a member and chairman of the Norwood school committee. After serving in Norwood, he was elected to the Blue Hill Regional High School Committee, helping with the design of the school. He also served on the building committees of several elementary schools in Norwood.

Mr. Diggs was a longstanding member of the United Church of Norwood, the Norwood Fair Housing Committee, the HESCO elder services board, the Rotary Club and Elks Lodge #1124. He was the longest-running member of the Norwood town meeting, serving since its inception. He also served as a library trustee and on the Norwood High School Educational Foundation board. He was a member of the Neponset Valley Tufts Club and served as a radio repairman for the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II.

Mr. Diggs was a faithful visitor to Norwood nursing homes and a lusty tenor voice when the Elks and Rotarians sang to the residents. He enjoyed traveling, especially to visit his daughter in Washington, D.C., and his grandchildren in California. He was a Sea Scout leader, an avid ham radio operator and, in his retirement, an accomplished cabinetmaker and woodworker. His wry sense of humor and quiet dignity endeared him to everyone he met.

A proud printing pressman by trade, he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Upon graduation from Norwood High in 1924, he was employed by the Norwood Press. In subsequent years he worked at the Wellesley Press and Codex Book Co. He also attended Wentworth Institute. Mr. Diggs was honored for mentoring technology education students by his induction into the Fitchburg State College Chapter of Epsilon Pi Tau, the national academic honor society for industrial technology.

Growing up with three siblings and four first cousins of the Alfred Tanneyhill family of Norwood, Mr. Diggs and his relatives were the first African-Americans to settle in Norwood. He spent his entire life in the family home, the last few years in part due to the kind caregiving efforts of his friends, John Travers and Terry Chase.

He is survived by two daughters, Judith E. Potter of Brookline and Washington, D.C., and Dr. Jacqueline C. Diggs of Framingham and Oak Bluffs; two granddaughter, Wende Potter Williams and Kimberly Potter Moore of Los Angeles, Calif.; four great-grandsons; a brother, Charles; a brother in law, Philip Thompson, and several nieces and nephews.

A celebration of his life was held at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the United Church in Norwood.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557, to the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, P.O. Box 1477, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557, or to the Norwood High School Scholarship Foundation, c/o Norwood High School, Nichols street, Norwood, MA 02062.

Arrangements are by the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs.