William D. Weeks, a former Massachusetts state senator and town moderator admired by colleagues and friends for his sociability and common sense, died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Cohasset on August 17, 2023 surrounded by family. He was 97.
Mr. Weeks, a lifelong Republican, also had a half-century career as a lawyer in Boston, specializing in business law, trusts and estates. He retired from Holland and Knight in 2005.
He came from a distinguished line of New England Republican politicians. His grandfather, John Wingate Weeks, served as a Congressman and United States Senator and as secretary of war in the Harding and Coolidge administrations. His father, Sinclair Weeks, was also a U.S. Senator and served as secretary of commerce under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
As a young man, Mr. Weeks was strongly encouraged by his father to try his hand at politics. A naturally outgoing man who rarely forgot a name or a face, Mr. Weeks took little persuading. He got his start in Cohasset town affairs and in 1964 entered what he later described as a “rough and tumble” Republican primary for state Senate. He took on a former Senate president whom he viewed as “sort of resting on his laurels,” crisscrossed the district knocking on doors and won by a 3-to-1 margin.
He represented the district, which included 19 communities, for two more terms, taking great pleasure in making the rounds of his diverse constituents, including fishermen and cranberry farmers. He served on the Judiciary Committee, Legal Affairs Committee and Pensions Committee. A Republican in a Democratic state, Mr. Weeks later remarked on how state legislators in those years often worked for bipartisan compromise and largely avoided the bitter polarization and partisanship of later eras. When he sponsored legislation that designated cranberry juice as the state beverage, a local newspaper cartoonist hailed him tongue-in-cheek as “Cranberry Willie,” a designation that became a long-running family joke.
He ran for U.S. Congress from Massachusetts in 1970 and again in 1972, when he lost the general election by less than half a percent of the vote, the closest race in the nation that year. He subsequently served in several posts in Cohasset, including for 12 years as town moderator, from 1981 to 1993. He rarely passed up other opportunities to stay involved, whether it was as Norwegian Consul for Massachusetts, president of the state’s Republican Club or as an active member of the Society of the Cincinnati of New Hampshire. He reflected in a Harvard alumni publication on his years in public service: “I enjoyed the personal associations, relished being in the thick of the action, and above all felt a deep sense of personal fulfillment.”
William Dowse Weeks was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1926. He graduated from Milton Academy in 1944 and joined the U.S. Army Air Forces shortly after graduation, beginning training in Biloxi, Mississippi to serve on a B-17 Flying Fortress. But World War II ended, and Mr. Weeks was discharged before he could be dispatched overseas. He entered Harvard University, where he majored in government, served as student council president, sang in the glee club and played intramural sports. He later spent a year as an assistant Harvard dean advising freshmen.
After graduating from Harvard in 1949, Mr. Weeks spent a year traveling around the world, hitching rides on a cargo ship and an Army jeep and visiting many countries in Asia and the Middle East. He saw occupied Japan, where he recalled seeing Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bombing, spent several months in India in the turbulent wake of partition and crossed the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. He took hundreds of photos and in later years often recounted his adventures on that trip to family and friends.
After returning from his travels, Mr. Weeks reconnected with a recent graduate of Smith College, Frances Menefee, whom he had dated during their student years. The two were married in 1953 in Charleston, S.C., where his wife’s family had deep roots. They celebrated their 70th anniversary last June.
After graduating from the University of Virginia law school in 1955, he co-founded the firm of Boyd, MacCrellish and Weeks. In 1981, he joined Sherburne, Powers and Needham, a Boston firm that in 1998 merged with Holland and Knight.
Mr. Weeks had lived in Cohasset since 1957, for many years on Border Street and in recent years in the Wheelwright Farm neighborhood. He spent many vacations at a family cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and traveled to Europe, the Southwest and Alaska. A dedicated Red Sox fan and avid reader of American history, he played tennis into his 80s and for many years was a dedicated member of Cohasset’s Old Goats retired men’s lunch club.
He is survived by his wife Frances, their four children, Margaret D. Weeks of Waltham, Mass.; Frances P. Weeks of Baltimore, Md., married to Scott Shane; William D. Weeks, Jr., of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., married to Yee Ling Cheah; and Charles S. Weeks of Fort Washington, Pa., married to Susan Weeks; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Oct. 28 at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Cohasset, and contributions in his memory may be made to the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests in Concord, N.H.