On Tuesday, June 16, 2020, Gregory John Shesko passed away at home with his wife and daughter present, exactly one month shy of his 77th birthday. He was very grateful to Mass General Hospital for matching him with a lung cancer treatment that allowed him to continue living a normal life for four years. Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Alexandria (Maskewich) and John Shesko, he lived most of his life in Needham, Massachusetts. He is survived by his wife Marilyn (Markovich); his daughter Liz (Adam Wallace) and two grandchildren, Rebecca and Grant of Beverly Hills, Michigan; his sister Valerie of Wyoming, Ohio, and his niece Alexandra (Jake Merk) of Charleston, South Carolina.
After attending Brooklyn Technical High School in 1961, Greg received a B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1965 and a M.A. in History from Harvard in 1966. He conducted doctoral research in Moscow during 1970-1971 on monasterial landholding in Muscovite Russia. Although he never taught, he devoted his professional life to academia. Greg worked at Brandeis University for almost thirty years, serving as Associate Dean for Arts and Sciences and then Assistant Provost for Academic Finance and Administration.
A lifelong member of the Orthodox Church, Greg served in the altar from a young age. He and his wife supported each other in their faith throughout their fifty-two-year marriage, and his faith sustained him through his long illness. Greg was parish council president for the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Church in Chelsea from 1977 until its closure in 2014. He and Marilyn then joined the community at Holy Annunciation in Maynard. The Orthodox Church in America presented Greg with its highest award, the Order of St. Innocent, for his service, which included terms on The Metropolitan Council, the Pension Board, work on the Archives Advisory Committee, numerous terms on the New England Diocesan Council, and active participation in every All-American Council meeting from 1977 to 2012.
Greg devoted a significant portion of his life to libraries. He held leadership roles in the Friends of the Needham Public Library since 1991, vastly expanding the booksale for which he lovingly sorted donations almost every day. He was elected nine times to the Board of Library Trustees. One of his proudest accomplishments was co-chairing the campaign for a successful override to fund a major renovation of the Needham Library and his membership on the town committee that oversaw the project, which was completed in 2006. Appointed by the governor to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners from 2009-2019, Greg helped libraries around the state, serving terms as secretary and then president.
Greg leaves behind several hundred thousand photographs that he took over the years, which brought him and many others great joy. He shared his love of the theater with many and always had a book that he “thought that you might like.” In addition to books, he built an extensive collection of old portrait prints. He loved Needham and served as an elected town meeting member from 1987 to 2020. In meeting someone new, Greg always found a way to connect through place, books, politics, or the arts. He was aware of and heartened by the Supreme Court decision released the day before his death. Greg’s many close friends and family will miss him dearly.
Friends will be received in a socially distant manner from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, June 19, at Eaton Funeral Home, 1351 Highland Ave, Needham. He will be laid to rest at a service conducted at the Needham Cemetery, 128 Nehoiden Street in Needham at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 20. To protect his family and friends, we ask that you bring a mask if you plan to attend either event. A memorial service and gathering will be held at a later date when we can safely be together to celebrate his life more fully.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in his memory to Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church, P.O. Box 604, Maynard, MA, 01754; Mass General Cancer Center, https://giving.massgeneral.org/cancer/donate/; or Friends of the Needham Public Library, http://friendsneedhamlibrary.org/org/donations.php. Greg was a political junkie and an advocate for voting rights. Please vote this November in his honor.