On Wednesday, the current mayor of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, praised the late mayor, Susan Menard, as a “strong leader” who was “particularly good to the city’s senior population.” On Monday, Menard’s body was discovered at her home. The state’s Office of the Medical Investigator announced Wednesday morning that one of the bodies was Menard’s. The causes of death for both are still being investigated, and the identity of the second victim, a man in his 70s, has yet to be determined.
In a phone interview, Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt stated, “She obviously had her own style, but the people of Woonsocket certainly liked and valued her leadership, electing her to seven terms.” Woonsocket police went to 2 Marian Lane on Monday after receiving a report from a concerned neighbor that he hadn’t seen Menard or the man who shared the house with him in “a couple of weeks.”
Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas F. Oates III said Tuesday that officers forced their way in through a back window and discovered two deaths in separate rooms, but that the bodies were degraded and that the medical examiner would have to identify the remains. According to Oates, no evidence of criminal activity was discovered. Baldelli-Hunt issued a statement in which she expressed her sadness at Menard’s death and offered condolences to her family and friends.
Menard was mayor from 1995 until her resignation in 2009. The Democrat served on the City Council for ten years, eventually becoming its president. In 1981, she was elected to the School Committee for the first time. Menard was not only the first woman elected mayor of the city, but also the first female City Council president; she is currently the mayor with the longest tenure.
Menard, a former colleague of Baldelli-in Hunt’s in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, was described by her former boss as “forceful” and having “a strong personality.” “Her tongue has the potential to be quite sharp. She had no problem expressing herself. She was self-assured enough to confront anyone, even a man.” Baldeli-Hunt threw in for good measure.
When the current mayor’s uncle, former mayor Charles C. Baldelli, left office in 1989, he did a lot of volunteer work for the elderly. Menard, a former political opponent, allegedly supported Baldelli’s efforts to establish a senior softball league and a bocce league. Baldelli praised her for offering both financial and emotional assistance. Menard, he said, was “rough yet fair.” Former mayor Leo Fontaine described Menard as a “tenacious crusader for the city.”
Fontaine claims that Menard worked hard to keep municipal costs low. Menard was particularly pleased with the completion of the city’s new middle school complex, he said, because education was a “huge priority” for her. Fontaine was a member of the City Council and Menard’s colleague before becoming mayor from 2009 to 2013. “Over the years, I learned a lot from her,” he reflected.
According to Baldelli-Hunt, even after leaving office, Menard did not leave the family home she had lived in for decades. In response to a question about whether Menard had health issues in her later years, Baldelli-Hunt said, “She really kept that to herself.” According to Fontaine, Menard was a devoted and proud grandmother and mother. Menard’s father died unexpectedly in April of 2009. His daughter was a resident of Newton, Massachusetts. Carrie Pilavin, 31, had a husband and two young sons, ages 2 and 4. Baldelli-Hunt added that she struggled with this. Menard, according to Baldelli-Hunt, has a son who lives in another country.