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Thursday, November 26, 2009

RIP Hilary Rockett

J. Hilary Rockett passed away today.  Hilary was an icon in Marblehead, and changed the landscape of the town with his real estate development.  He was a hard nosed, stubborn Irish businessman who got things done through brute determination.  I had the opportunity to work with him and his son Michael on a gymnasium project for Tufts University, his alma mater.
Hilary said he could get the gym built tor $870,000 - a ridiculously low figure for the time in the early 90's.  He set Mike and I to build the project, and would never take no for an answer.   And when some detractors at the College tried to put up some roadblocks, Hilary mowed them down in a meeting with brute force of personality in a manner that I hadn't witnessed before or since.  Needless to say, the Gym came in on budget.
As an entrepreneur who maintained a small family business, he posted solid accomplishments in Salem, Lynn, Marblehead and Naples, Fl.  He was tough and unyielding, and didn't care what anybody thought, but underneath this facade, he was a good man.  When his oldest son, Hilary, Jr. came down with brain cancer, Hilary told me that he wished it was him, and I truly believed him.
It will be weird for me to get over the fact that he no longer is with us in Marblehead.

J. Hilary Rockett Sr.

E-mail Visit Guest Book
ROCKETT,J.Hilary,Sr., Esquire Age 74, of Marblehead, MA, passed away on November 26, 2009 following a brief battle with melanoma. He was at home surrounded by family. A third generation Marblehead resident, Rockett was born on January 16, 1935, the son of late Richard H. and Irene Rockett. He graduated from Marblehead High School, Tufts University and New England School of Law. Rockett's professional career began working for Sylvania Lighting, and then he began a sales career at Blue Cross/Blue Shield. After serving in the United States Army from 1957-1959, Rockett embarked on a career in politics in 1960 and was elected to the Marblehead Board of Selectmen at the age of 25 (youngest member at the time ever elected). He was elected to the State Representatives of Massachusetts in 1963. Rockett served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1963-1972, while simultaneously on the Marblehead Board of Selectmen for four of those years. As a member of the House Ways and Means and Conference Committees, Rockett was successful in introducing and passing significant legislation, including the Massachusetts Disability Act. Dedicated to his constituents, Rockett was successful in procuring funding for Salem State College's Arena, Student Union and nursing program. In 1984, Salem State College dedicated its Sports Complex to Rockett's father, Richard H. Rockett, who was a professor at Salem State College. In Marblehead, some of the projects he secured 100% financing for included Dredging and Waterfront improvements for the Village Street, State Street and Commercial Street Piers. He also received Grants for Farrell Court and Roads school projects. As a legislator, he was instrumental and very active for the causes in his district. As his term on the Marblehead Board of Selectmen was coming to a close, he entered law school mid-career and graduated from Portia Law School (now known as New England School of Law) in 1967. In May of 2004, Rockett's accomplishments in the Massachusetts Legislature earned him the Massachusetts Legislative Associations Distinguished Service Award. In 1983, he was bestowed with an award from the Swampscott Board of Selectmen, "Honorary Citizen of Swampscott," for his work in transitioning the community from the Metropolitan District Commission. Rockett established his family business, Rockett Management & Realty Company, and also Rockett Law Firm in 1968. Over the span of 27 years, he accomplished an admirable legal career, managed legislative duties and built successful real estate developments on the north shore. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, who enjoyed family gatherings at his Marblehead home, spending time at the ocean, walking and golfing. He was an active member of Tedesco Country Club, Corinthian Yacht Club of Marblehead and Bay Colony Golf Course in Naples, FL. He sat on the Tufts Board of Overseers, as well as the European Board of Overseers. He coached the infamous Yankees for many years in Marblehead Little League. He also coached Marblehead Midget Football, Marblehead Youth Hockey and was a member of the Marblehead Boosters. J. Hilary leaves behind his loving wife of 47 years, M. Denise (Hanlon) Rockett. He also leaves his four children, J. Hilary Rockett, Jr., and his wife, Paige, T. Michael Rockett and his wife, Patricia, Richard P. Rockett and his wife, Tonya, and Pamela Castner and her husband, Christopher, all of Marblehead. He is also survived by ten loving grandchildren, Mary, Tucker J. and Samuel H. Rockett, Margaret M. and Thomas M. Rockett, Jackson P. and Lilly E. Rockett and Haley P, Marley Y and Lea Castner, all of Marblehead. He leaves siblings, Edward Rockett, William Rockett, Mary Jane Alexander and Irene Wightman. He is also survived by many nieces, nephews and beloved friends. He was preceded in death by his brother, Richard H. Rockett, Jr., and his granddaughter, Allie Castner. Visiting hours will be held on Wednesday December 2, 2009 from 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, 80 Atlantic Ave, Marblehead, MA. His Funeral Mass will be held Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, 80 Atlantic Ave, Marblehead, MA. For On-Line Guest Book or additional information, please contact Murphy Funeral Home 85 Federal Street, Salem, MA (781) 631-8885 or visit ( In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the J. Hilary Rockett Sr., Esquire Scholarship fund at National Grand Bank, 190 Pleasant Street, Marblehead, MA.

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