Voices of the Bay: Bristol’s Dick Devault

A military retiree continues to serve in leadership roles on the Fourth of July Committee and Elks Lodge


When Dick Devault retired after 32 years of active military service, he discovered he had free time on his hands. It wasn’t long before he was filling his days as a member of the Bristol Fourth of July Committee – for which he served as the 2018 Patriotic Speaker and was a past recipient of the Hattie Brown Award – and the Bristol County Elks Lodge. The longtime resident has worn many hats in both organizations, whether serving on committees or in leadership roles all under the guise of his quiet demeanor and his dedication to service. A native of Maine, Devault received his Bachelor of Arts in Education from Gorham State Teachers College and taught English before enlisting in the United States Navy at the start of the Vietnam War. He and his wife Lydia are the parents of two grown children and grandparents to four.

WORK LIFE: My time was spent managing the Naval Reserves, a program where we have reserves activities and people would come in for a weekend drill. I worked my way from Commanding Reserve Centers to Districts to working for the Head of Naval Reserves before eventually retiring. I really didn’t have the opportunity to be involved as much as I would have liked when my son and daughter were growing up because most of the time I was away. If I could come home for a weekend, it would be a pretty brief visit.

NOW WHAT: After I retired I was looking for something to do and my barber, Burke, now deceased said, “Why don’t you join the Elks?” And so I joined the Elks over 25 years ago. I’ve been blessed by being in a situation at this point for a number of years. I can do exactly what I want to do [with my time] and have a decent lifestyle. I’m not a golfer and I don’t watch much basketball or football, so that gives me a lot of time.

SIGN UP: With the Elks, there are lots of ways you can help others. I have been involved with the scholarship’s program nearly all the time I’ve been there. I like to see the young people feel a sense of success when they receive an Elks scholarship. The Fourth of July celebration is a major part of the community and for those who help make it happen, it’s rewarding. There’s been a lot of change, positive change from my point of view, with the Fourth because you have people with different ideas and skills, aside from a long-time volunteer like myself getting involved.

WORKER BEES: While people want to be part of something, not everybody wants to be the people in charge, so it’s easy to become the General Chairman [Fourth Committee] or the Exalted Ruler [Elks], because not everyone is moving in that direction. I don’t mind doing it, so I’ll take that role on. My experience in working with different groups is to work collectively and in doing so it is always a positive experience.

PERSONAL REWARD: When you move into a community (like we did) and don’t know a lot of people, volunteering allows you to expand your opportunity for friendships and meet a lot of people. We are grateful for the close friends we have made.

PARADE MARCHES ON: I was in uniform marching in the parade when I was the Patriotic Speaker and I realized the sole on one of my shoes had separated and continued flopping throughout the remainder of the parade. That was a march to remember.

The 239th Bristol Fourth of July Parade steps off Thursday, July 4 at 10:30am from Hope and Chestnut Street.



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