Arthur Katz of Lexington was born on May 5, 1925 into one of the only two Jewish families in Glastonbury, Conn., a small town outside Hartford. His home was also the site of the family store. Arthur worked in the store from a young age, which gave him a life-long ethos of hard work, perseverance and a flair for marketing. He also learned about compassion as the family ran the store through the Great Depression and regularly provided sandwiches to some of the hobos that came and went on the nearby railroad.
Arthur was a very good student, or so he told his kids as he urged them to study. Finding a couple of his high school report cards in recent years somewhat tarnished his self-made reputation. Arthur went off to a boarding school, Mount Herman, which gave him his first view of life beyond Glastonbury. Afterwards, he enrolled at Trinity College in Hartford. When Trinity converted to training Army officers during World War II, Arthur transferred to Yale, which, like Mount Herman, he came to love. And he also found a different love there, meeting Gladys Wollison, then at Smith College.
Too young to enlist in the Army when World War II began, he graduated from college, married Gladys and then enlisted in the Army, all within a few months. He served in the Occupation force in Japan, where he was a member of the military police chasing blackmarketeers and other ne’er-do-well soldiers.
The married couple moved to the Boston area, which was sufficiently far from both of their families to give them independence but sufficiently close to allow visits. With that move, Arthur began a long professional journey in retail and manufacturing related to shoes, clothing and fabrics. His last job became his most fulfilling—directing the marketing department at Velcro. He led Velcro’s development of products for orthopedic surgeons and makers of medical devices. And then, to the pleasure of millions of parents, he brought Velcro to Huggies.
In 1952, Arthur and Gladys moved to the community of Five Fields in Lexington. They were among the first to move into that new, modern community that differed dramatically from most of the residential communities in town. Over the years, Arthur supported Five Fields and his neighbors in many ways—helping to build a pool, serving on community boards and chairing two big community reunions.
He also spent enormous efforts on behalf of the town of Lexington. He served on Town Meeting for more than 20 years, participated on a number of town boards, worked for multiple Lexington non-profits and wrote for the Lexington Minuteman paper after he retired from his business career. He was a guide on the Lexington Green and became remarkably knowledgeable about the beginning of the Revolutionary War—he was among a small group of people who know anything about the not-so-famous Battle of Penobscot Bay in 1779 (in case anyone is interested, it was the worst American naval defeat until Pearl Harbor in 1941). Arthur’s considerable efforts for the town resulted in his receipt in 2007 of a prestigious award, the Minuteman Cane, given annually to a Lexington citizen over the age of 80 who has contributed substantially to the town.
Beyond his work and volunteer life, Arthur had other passions. He became an avid sailor and, with a close friend and neighbor, Bob Bicknell, as his co-captain and co-owner, he sailed all over Buzzards Bay. He sailed as he lived—always moving directly ahead, into and through the waves no matter how wet the passengers got, never shortening the sails or taking the quieter, drier route. As a result, a number of his female passengers, including his wife and Peggy Bicknell, Bob’s wife, sailed with him once and never again.
Arthur regularly played tennis with a group of friends, skied, wrote articles and blogs, and read poetry and books voraciously. He loved singing and music of many kinds—particular favorites included folk music (“Goodnight Irene,” his all-time greatest hit) and The Pirates of Penzance.
Gladys became ill with cancer in 1998, and Arthur switched roles. Gladys had taken care of him for decades, but with her illness Arthur became her caretaker, cook and chauffeur. He also became a devoted staff assistant to his grandchildren—baby-sitting them, driving them around, tutoring them, attending horse shows and watching approximately 5,734 of their soccer games.
In 2001, Gladys died, and, for a period, Arthur lost a lot of his zest for life. In time, he developed a strong and loving relationship with Carol Miller, a neighbor, and they were active and engaged with travel, friends and family for a number of years. Carol cared for him and stood by him through his serious medical conditions that began at the outset of the pandemic. Arthur survived a serious bout of COVID but ultimately could not withstand the ravages of cancer.
Arthur built a remarkable life because of his ability to do many things very well, including building superb relationships with his family, his friends, his work colleagues and the many people he engaged with in his volunteer efforts. He persisted through times of difficulty, and time and again he found ways to contribute to those around him.
Arthur leaves behind his companion, Carol Miller, along with his four children—Jamie Katz and his wife Cynthia Piltch, Mara-Gai Katz, Jo Hannah Katz, and Harry Katz; grandchildren Stanzie, Dawit, Yordanos, Hebrom, Dev, Lee, and Semhal; a great-grandchild, Micah; and a brother, Richard Katz.
A memorial service will be held for Arthur in the spring. Contributions in his honor can go to the Gladys and Arthur Katz Scholarship Fund for Lexington High School students. Donations should be designated for that fund when donating either at www.lexscholarship.org or by check to: Lexington Scholarship Fund, 105 Spring St., Lexington, MA 02421.