Henry Miranda Remembered for Town Meeting Oratory – and Much More

February 29, 2024
Henry Miranda Jr. Courtesy Image

Henry Miranda Jr. was a scientist, a composer, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, and a man of deep faith. While he never held an elected or appointed position in Bedford government, he was strongly involved through Town Meeting speeches, letter writing, advocacy and commentary.

Those who heard the comments remembered the power of his words. And the many people who met him recognized the decency of the speaker.

“I almost always disagreed with what he was saying, but personally, he was always very affable and well-spoken and cordial,” said Brown Pulliam, who served on the Bedford School Committee in the 1960s and has missed only a handful of Town Meeting since. “In his heart, he was doing the best thing, maybe at some personal cost. He demonstrated a strong conscience and a high degree of civic responsibility.”

Miranda died Sunday at the age of 99. A wake for Henry will be held at Bedford Funeral Home, 167 Great Road, Bedford from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, March 1. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Michael Parish, 90 Concord Road at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 2.

“Listening to people who don’t agree with you, but are good at expressing themselves makes you think,” said longtime resident Jerry Pfeffer. “When I was on the Finance Committee, he made me think.”

Maryjane McInnis, a teacher of voice who described Miranda as “a friend and a mentor,” observed, “Most people think of him as going to Town Meeting. Most of what he was about has nothing to do with that.”

After earning a doctorate in physics from Fordham University, Miranda worked for an area technology firm before starting independent laboratories, first with some colleagues and eventually solo. He undertook research contracts for federal projects, and embarked on some of his own technologies, including a device with which impoverished people in Third World countries could purify their own water.

Miranda was among the regulars at Bedford Town Meeting, beginning in the late 1960s. “He was definitely conservative, but in favor of good government,” recalled former Finance Committee member Manny Wachsler.

“Henry and I may not have shared lots of views on town business, but it was always a pleasure to stop and talk with him,” said former Selectman Don Corey, who was co-grand marshal of the 2018 Memorial Day parade with Miranda.

“I didn’t always agree with him, but I respected him and his willingness to take a stand,” said Thomas Larkin, a former member of the School Committee. “Basically, he wanted to know where the money was going. We could use more people like that.”

“His questions were very fair and very reasonable, and then he acted appropriately when I gave him the answers,” agreed Peter Manning, who also served on the committee.

At Town Meeting and elsewhere, “He was very powerful in expressing himself,” said Pfeffer. “Even though I disagreed so much with his positions, he was a very agreeable person – he was very likable.”

Miranda’s politics were diametrical with those of his neighbor Ron Green, who recounted, “We would literally meet in the middle of the street. We talked about the trees and the flowers and stuff like that.”

Miranda explained in a newspaper interview 20 years ago that his philosophy has a spiritual foundation. “We have an intellect and we are expected to use it, not to waste our resources,” he said. “It’s not simply we don’t want to spend money. We don’t want to waste money.”

This is a 2006 CD of music composed by Henry Miranda Jr and sung at the St. Michael Parish in Bedford. Courtesy photo

He became involved at the local and state levels with Citizens for Limited Taxation, the grass-roots group that drove the campaign for the 1980 law known as Proposition 2½, limiting the size of annual local property tax increases and removing fiscal autonomy from local school budgets.

Miranda had a command of words and delivery. His Town Meeting oratory was the gold standard for succeeding generations. In the 1994 newspaper interview, he explained, “As a physicist, I had to learn how to think straight. When you have to convince your peers about something different than what their mindset is, it forces you to organize your presentational skills.”

In the early 1990s, Miranda had to make a choice. The Bedford Choral Society rehearsals conflicted with Town Meeting sessions. He chose music, explaining, “When I sang at Town Meeting, nobody paid attention. When I sang with the Bedford Choral Society, people listened.”

His family described Miranda as “a man of music. As a young boy, he learned to play classical music on the piano, and his musical talent served as a grand outlet for his poetic expressions. As life’s more poignant moments moved him, he would write a song. Complicated, beautiful melody matched with deep thoughts exquisitely articulated. Hundreds of them throughout the years.

Here is the sheet music of one of the many songs composed by Henry Miranda Jr. Courtesy photo

At St. Michael Parish, Miranda and his wife Cecilia “would sing every Sunday and then some” in the choir, said Maureen Reyling. “He was a tenor, a person of faith who would learn and grow and share.”

McInnis said, “I have performed his songs at Longy School of Music,” where Miranda matriculated in his late 60s. “He had a brilliant mind and was easily instructive in so many topics, not just in his field of science, but also of history, theology, philosophy. “

“Henry was an important citizen and I admired him for his persistence and his willingness to repeat himself many times,” Pulliam said, adding with a chuckle, “He added a degree of continuity. We didn’t need some of it, but he had it anyway.”

Read Henry Miranda Jr.’s obituary at https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2024/02/an-obituary-dr-henry-miranda-jr.

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