Meet Our Honorees


L to R: Jim Beauchesne, Joe Bella, Linda and Jurg Siegenthaler



Jim Beauchesne was born in Lawrence and grew up in a triple decker on Margin Street that his French Canadian parents, Henry and Annette (Dubois) Beauchesne, owned. Jim attended St. Anne’s parochial school, Central Catholic High School, and Merrimack College where he graduated valedictorian in 1974 with a degree in political science. He spent 10 years as a paralegal in asbestos litigation with plans to become a lawyer. While in Los Angeles in 1984, he recalls reading headlines about the riots on Oxford Street back home in Lawrence. This, reading the book “Bread and Roses: The Struggle of American Labor,” by Milton Meltzer and meeting Ralph Fasanella at the Bread and Roses Labor Day Festival in 1989 all sparked his interest in public history. At the Festival, James bought a poster of one of Fasanella’s paintings and asked him to sign it. Fasanella looked him in the eye and said, “Lawrence needs you.” This call had an enormous impact on Jim, as did the closing of the French Canadian St. Anne’s Parish in 1991 and a family history of working in the local mills. His great grandfather was killed in a mill accident in NH in 1890 and his grandfather, Napoleon Beauchesne, labored as a machinist in the Pacific Mills in Lawrence.

Jim soon began graduate study at Northeastern University, where he earned an M.A. in Public History, focusing on Lawrence's French Canadian community. For his thesis, he conducted a dozen oral history interviews that are now preserved in the Lawrence History Center archival collection. Jim went on to work at the Lowell National Park and, since 1998, has served as the Visitor Services Supervisor at Lawrence Heritage State Park across the North Canal from where Jim’s grandfather once worked. There he is responsible for historical and other programming.

Over the years, Jim has chaired the Bread and Roses Heritage Committee, served as a board member of the Lawrence History Center, and was active on the 1912 Bread and Roses Centennial helping the city commemorate the anniversary across 2012, and played a key role in organizing the exhibit “Fasanella’s Lawrence” in 2013.

James is married to Bei Mei Long, an immigrant from China, and they have a son. Although Jim now lives in Arlington, he is often seen biking the streets of Lawrence in support of his many activities in the city.


Joseph G. Bella, aka “The man who can’t say, No!,” grew up hearing stories of his ancestors who emigrated from Sicily circa 1900 through Ellis Island and the Port of Boston. One such story was how the Italian Consulate had detained his grandfather and conscripted him to fight in WWI, sending him back to Sicily to fight because he was not yet an American citizen. Fond memories of his childhood include growing up in a historic house on Newbury Street in Prospect Hill, Lawrence, sledding on Dead Man’s Curve, O’Toole Grammar School, and graduating from the Rollins School. He is intrigued by what life was like for earlier generations.

Joe retired from Commonwealth of Massachusetts ValleyWorks Career Center, as Veterans Employment Representative/Jobs Counselor after 31 years. As a Vietnam War veteran and avid collector of archival materials from Lawrence and Methuen, Joe has been quietly entrenched in leadership roles at many area organizations, e.g., St. Alfio’s Society, Friends of the Lawrence Heritage State Park, Methuen Historical Commission, Methuen Historical Society, Commissioner Designee of MASS150 Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, the Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard, and as board member of the Lawrence History Center.

Most recently, during Italian Heritage month in 2016, Joe organized an exhibit of the work of John R. Petralia, an acclaimed Lawrence born artist. The exhibit hung in the 3rd floor Gallery of the Lawrence Heritage State Park and included renderings done at Salisbury Beach, as well as a portrait of Lawrence native and beautiful Hollywood starlet Thelma Todd.


Linda and Jurg Siegenthaler

Linda (Rosman) Siegenthaler grew up in a low-income Jewish family in a triple decker in the Tower Hill neighborhood of Lawrence. The view of the Ayer Mill Clock from her bedroom window on Hudson Avenue left a lasting impression. Her mother, Frances Goldberg, was born in Lawrence to a family that emigrated from Russia in 1896 coming through Ellis Island to Lawrence. Her father, Nathan, was born in Lublin, Poland. Linda has childhood memories of books and going to the Lawrence Public Library with her mother. She and her brother, Bernard, were educated in public schools and graduated from Lawrence High School. At age 17, Linda received a Greater Lawrence-Haverhill Central Labor Council AFL-CIO Scholarship, went on to Northeastern University and then to Cornell University where she was a graduate assistant and where she met Jurg.

Jurg Siegenthaler emigrated from Switzerland in 1967 to conduct post-doctoral work on a one-year stipend at Cornell University. After the year passed, he was awarded a one year contract to teach history at UCLA. Linda got a full fellowship to UCLA and earned a master’s degree in economics.

Both went on to Rutgers University before landing in the Washington, DC area for some 25 years. Jurg worked as a professor at the American University; Linda began work with the Public Health Service as a researcher. She was also involved with local libraries. Between 1999 and 2015, she was instrumental in getting a new 90,000 square foot library built in Silver Spring, MD.

Linda and Jurg returned to Lawrence frequently over the years to visit her parents. While caring for her mother, Linda recalls finding sanctuary at the Essex Art Center. Jurg saw Lawrence as an excellent example of 19th century industrialization. His social research focused on urban communities.

In 2000, the couple returned more regularly to Lawrence getting involved with a variety of non-profit and civic organizations – Ansha Sholum, Essex Art Center, Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence Heritage State Park, Lawrence History Center to name but a few. In 2000, Jurg helped Family Service, founded as the city mission, celebrate its 150th year by conducting research to document their history. In 2006, Linda worked on the preservation of a WWI and WWII Roll of Honor Memorial that bears the names of 380 Jewish men who fought in these wars. In 2004, both assisted in planning the “Lawrence Presents – an Arts and Culture Exhibit” with the Lawrence History Center. Since 2005, much of their time and heart has gone into planning the annual Bread and Roses Labor Day Festival and activities focusing on labor and social justice. In 2008, they established the “Lawrence History Live” speakers' tent at the Festival. In 2012 they were instrumental in bringing the Maine Mural Project to Lawrence as a part of the commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the 1912 Lawrence textile strike. In 2013, they were the drivers behind the very successful, “Fasanella’s Lawrence,” art exhibit at the Lawrence Heritage State Park.

Their first local philanthropic gift supported a regatta at the Greater Lawrence Community Boating program. Later, in 2003, Linda and Jurg established the Rosman Family Fund after a conversation with David Tory from the ECCF-Essex County Community Foundation. Their alliance with ECCF would help them to leverage their donations in support of local organizations and causes.

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Lawrence, MA 01840
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Mission

Founded in 1978 as the Immigrant City Archives, the mission of the Lawrence History Center is to collect, preserve, share, and animate the history and heritage of Lawrence and its people.