Reflecting on a “Noble” legacy
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Marlborough – Throughout his life, Marlborough resident John Noble has been many things – a World War II hero, successful businessman, devoted husband and father and a dedicated volunteer in the city he loves. He has also served nearly four decades as chair of the Marlborough Savings Bank Board of Directors.
After helping to oversee the bank grow from $56 million to $465 in assets in that time, Noble is now stepping down. Taking over that post will be another Marlborough resident with strong ties to the bank, Sem Aykanian.
Although he will no longer be chairing the board, Noble's legacy at the bank will continue on as he will officially be known as chairman emeritus.
Noble did not attend college after graduating from Marlborough High School, but instead, inspired by Pearl Harbor, joined the U.S. Army.
“To me, it was a must,” he said. “I knew I had to do it.”
After enlisting, he first trained at Fort Riley in Kansas and then at Camp Ibis in the Mojave Desert. In the winter of 1942 he was assigned to Company A, 19th Tank Battalion, in the 9th Armored Division. After stints in Scotland, England and Normandy, he eventually was sent to Luxembourg, where the Battle of the Bulge was being fought.
The young man from Marlborough soon found himself facing an enemy that, he said, appeared to be made up of German men the same age as he was.
On Dec. 29, 1944, Noble's tank was attacked by enemy fire. Although he was shot and suffered numerous injuries, he recalled, he was one of the lucky ones. Many in his unit did not survive the sustained gunfire. After a period of extended hospitalization, he was able to return home. For his injuries, valor and service to his country, he was awarded the Purple Heart and three Battle Stars on his European Theatre ribbon.
Back in Marlborough, he worked first as a toy salesperson for the Harold Hahn Company before becoming the manager and then the owner of the popular variety/stationery store, Concannon's, while raising his family with wife, Claire.
“Best decision I ever made,” he said of wedding his wife, who passed away several years ago.
Community service was a big part of Noble's life until recently, as well. As an active member of the Marlborough Rotary Club, he performed in and directed shows that helped raise funds for local organizations. His dedication to his city earned him many accolades, including Business Person of the Year, Marlborough Heritage Hero Award and Senior of the Year.
Although he closed Concannon's when he retired about 14 years ago, it still remains a big part of his heart, he said.
“I still meet people who say, “I really miss that store,”” he said. “And I tell them, “so do I.””
“I had wonderful people who worked with me,” he added. “I had the right people who would help me take care of what needed to be done.”
It was that same sense of teamwork and camaraderie that made, and continues to this day, to make Marlborough Savings Bank so successful as well, he noted.
As first a corporator and then chair of the Board of Directors, Noble knew that the bank “made a lot of the right decisions,” he said. Nevertheless, he said was still surprised when he was elected to the position of chair.
“They just asked me, so I did it,” he laughed.
Although Noble makes light of that decision, his leadership continues to inspire, Aykanian said. He speaks from personal as well as professional experience, he added. Noble was his father Joe's best friend – the two were also corporators at the bank.
“John has not only been a friend, but a mentor,” Aykanian said. “He means a lot to me.”
A lifelong resident of Marlborough, Aykanian has been a practicing attorney since 1984. He too has been active in the Marlborough Rotary Club, serving as board member as well as past president.
Rick Bennett, the president and CEO of Marlborough Savings Bank, recently commented on the bank's changing of the guard at the board level.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors and all the employees at Marlborough Savings Bank, I want to thank John for his numerous contributions and leadership in positioning the bank for the success it has enjoyed over the past four decades,” he said.
“And on a personal note, having been good friends since 1978, I will truly miss seeing John on a regular basis when we would discuss not only the bank's strategic initiatives but share stories surrounding our families, politics, history and local events.
“Although difficult to replace a person of John's stature, our newly elected chairman, Sem Aykanian, has very similar leadership skills and I's thrilled the board chose him to carry on John's legacy,” he said.
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