Chuck Cummings is descended from a long and storied line of attorneys in his native Fall River, Massachusetts. In the late nineteenth century, his grandfather was the mayor of that town along the Rhode Island border for two separate terms. The Honorable John W. Cummings was held in such esteem that John Singer Sargent did a charcoal portrait of him, a copy of which hangs above the living room fireplace in the Brattleboro home Chuck made for his family more than 40 years ago.
Leaving the family practice was never a question in young Chuck’s mind after graduating from Boston University School of Law, especially for a landlocked state like Vermont. Chuck had developed a passion for sailing at an early age because his family home was located on the Atlantic Ocean. He also loved to ski, however, and during a summer visit to Wilmington, where his college roommate was building Sitzmark Lodge, Chuck met John Kristensen, an attorney in need of an associate to join his burgeoning practice.
“He asked me the first day he met me if I would consider practicing with him and I said no,” Chuck recalls with a chuckle. It was a scene that repeated itself over several lunches that summer. As the weeks passed, Chuck made friends that would last a lifetime. Among those lifetime friends were Steve and Jane Baker, who helped him meet Ann, the woman whom he would marry and start a family with. He returned to Fall River for Christmas with serious thoughts of forging his own path.
“My uncle, a lawyer, God bless him, I thought he would be very upset,” says Chuck. “But not at all. He said you’ve got to do what you want to do, and I was back in Vermont and started in with John Kristensen on the second of January.”
From that time forward, Brattleboro became Chuck’s home and its well-being his cause. Over the years, he helped establish two critical nonprofit services: Rescue Inc. and the Prouty Center, and served as chairman of the board of the Brattleboro school board and on boards for Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and the Thompson House, among others.
Chuck credits his love of working with people for his level of involvement. “For a town to be successful, it has to have people participating. It wasn’t like I was putting myself out to do it, because I enjoyed it,” he explains. “It was also a sense of seeing some achievement. Like a painter, he can be artistic or he can be a housepainter, but he sees what he just did and that makes him proud. And I guess I could see differences being made because I, along with others, worked to get there.”
One of the differences he worked toward during his 11 years on BMH’s Board of Trustees was the renovation to the front entrance, which to his bemusement is being undone to some extent by the new plans to expand the hospital’s Emergency Department. Chuck cites his uncles as his inspiration for service on hospital boards. He remembers their own active service on behalf of two hospitals in Fall River.
“Financially supporting things that otherwise wouldn’t be available is the glue that keeps a town together, and that glue is important,” says Chuck. “Without a good hospital you cannot have a good, growing town. Brattleboro wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is if we didn’t have a hospital like we have. But we have it and we strive to make it even better.”
Chuck Cummings will be honored for his service to BMH and other Brattleboro institutions at the BMH 2012 Giving From The Heart Gala taking place at All Souls UU Church on Saturday, April 21. For more information, click here or call the BMH Office of Development at 802-257-8314.