John B. Hench, 81, of Shrewsbury


John B. HenchShrewsbury – John B. Hench died peacefully at home on April 10, 2024, surrounded by his family, after a long journey with Alzheimer’s disease.

John was born on February 21, 1943, to Dr. Philip S. Hench and Mary K. Hench, in Colorado Springs, CO, where his father was stationed as a medical doctor for the U.S. Army during World War II. After his birth, his mother quickly returned to their family home in Rochester, MN, where John always said he had an idyllic childhood. No one loved his hometown more than John.

John was a member of the class of 1965 at Lafayette College, in Easton, PA, where he was a history major and editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. Lafayette is also where he met the true love of his life – Lea, his wife of 57 years.

While John considered journalism as a career, books and history won out and he found himself in Worcester, MA, in a graduate program at Clark University while also working part time as a book page at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS). John spent most of his career at AAS, retiring as Vice President for Collections and Programs. Throughout his career, he worked with scholars from around the world and mentored young academics. His colleagues enriched his professional and personal life and were one of the things he treasured most about his years at AAS.

While working and raising his young family, John completed his Ph.D. in Early American History. At the time, Ph.D. candidates were required to be proficient in two languages, so John brushed up on his French and his German by listening to opera, which was a life-long interest.

After retirement, John tackled his most personal project — researching and writing his book, “Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II,” which was published in 2010 by Cornell University Press.

John loved Worcester almost as much as Rochester. John believed strongly in the importance of community and volunteering, and he contributed countless hours to organizations and causes that he believed in, including Friends of the Worcester Public Library, Music Worcester, Preservation Worcester, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester. He was also a member of numerous professional organizations, as well as the Grolier Club, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the St. Wolfston Society.

At the end of his life, what John’s family and friends will celebrate is a man who lived every day with curiosity, integrity, wit and kindness, and whose love and dedication to his family knew no bounds.

John leaves behind his beloved wife, Lea Hench, of Shrewsbury, MA; his children, Melissa Adams and her husband, Jeffrey Adams of Holliston, MA, and Juliann Hench of Lake Como, NJ; and his grandchildren, India Adams, Charlotte Cerami, Henry Cerami, and John “Jack” Cerami.

Calling hours for John will be held on Friday, April 19, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Chiampa Funeral Home, 5 Church Rd., Shrewsbury, MA. A memorial service for John will be held on Saturday, April 20, at 1:30 pm at the American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury St, Worcester, MA.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the John B. Hench Post-Dissertation Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society,

John loved a good obituary; we hope he enjoyed his.

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