William Merrill Belden died on February 24, 2019, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, at the age of 85. Bill was born in Cumberland, Maryland, on January 14, 1934, but he and his family were generations’ long residents of Upstate New York. Son of Orma Merrill and Harris J. Belden, he grew up in Watertown, NY, and attended Syracuse University’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, earning a BS in Landscape Architecture and an MS in Land Use and Regional Planning. He began his career as a designer for the National Park Service in Washington, DC, where he designed Bryce Park, among others, and supervised the design and construction of the Rose Garden at the White House during the Kennedy administration, for which he received the National Park Service’s Special Service Act Award. After shifting to a private landscape architecture firm in the DC area, Bill spent the rest of his professional life working in an interdisciplinary role for small and medium-sized cities, doing economic and downtown development, preservation, urban design, affordable and elderly housing. He was executive director of Three Rivers Development Corporation in Corning, New York; executive director of Downtown Albany Development Corporation; president of Downtown Madison, Inc.; deputy director of Downtown and Riverfront Development for the Department of Planning and Economic Development in the City of St. Paul, MN; executive director of Elmira Downtown Development; and the principal for Belden Associates, a consulting practice based in Elmira, NY. In his retirement in Centerville, Massachusetts, he served on the Barnstable Planning Board, the Barnstable Economic Development Commission and the board of the Cape Cod Arts Center. He was also a member of the Osterville Men’s Club. Bill was a highly creative person and a lifelong lover of music and art. While in the Army he sang in a vocal quartet and played banjo with the Fourth Fifths, a group that appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show after winning the vocal group category of the All Army Entertainment Contest. Bill studied painting and drawing while an undergraduate at Syracuse University and he took night classes at the Corcoran School of Art. He maintained a sketchbook throughout his professional life and returned to oil painting when he retired. He was a juried member of the Cape Cod Art Center. He was also a member of the Wednesday Painters. Family was of the utmost importance to Bill. He met his wife, Margaret Norris Belden, at a party in Washington, DC, in 1959. They’ve been married for fifty-eight years and have four children, Lorraine McBride (Frank), of Chapel Hill, NC, Kathryn Belden (Will Holshouser) of Brooklyn, NY, Patricia Belden (Kevin Kelly) of Boston, MA, and Timothy Belden (Sue Fletcher), of Portland, Oregon. He is survived by eight grandchildren, Frank and Olivia McBride; Anna Holshouser-Belden; Ryan, Lauren, Liam, and Martin “Mak” Kelly; and Jackson and Lila Belden; and a sister, Marcia Belden Bradner (Lawrence) of Providence, RI.
We will celebrate his life at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 9 at South Congregational Church in Centerville, Massachusetts. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Cape Cod Art Center, PO Box 85, Barnstable, MA 02630.