by Jamie Lasorsa
When you go through Princeton center and see that stately clock adorning the tower façade of the
Princeton Public library, you may take for granted what happens behind the scenes to keep that clock
going each week, but for James Mellor, it has been a labor of love.
James and his wife Beth officially settled in Princeton 34 years ago when they moved into Beth’s
childhood home. Beth’s father, Herbert (Herb) Maynard had been assisting his neighbor Ken Hagberg,
the previous clock keeper of almost 50 years, with winding the clock occasionally when Ken would go
on vacation. James took over Herb’s role as a fill-in/apprentice and started learning from Ken,
assisting with maintenance, and occasionally stepping in for the task of winding when Ken was away.
When Ken retired in 2009, James officially took over as the “Keeper of the Clock”.
James grew up in Holden, where he and his brothers helped their dad at his machine shop. After his

time in the military as an MP dog handler, James continued being a “jack-of-all trades,” assisting
friends and others in the community with various handyman projects. Regarding his learning the fine
details of winding the Howard Tower Clock, James says, “I learned from the best [Ken Hagberg]. I had
a background in machine building and repair, so I looked at it as a simple machine with late 1800s
The winding of the clock, which was made by the E. Howard Clock Co. of Boston around 1884, is a
physically strenuous job, one that requires the pulling of 800-900lb weights up from the basement to
keep it ticking. It’s also a “2-wind” production, with one wind being for the clock side and another wind
for the bell chime. James would wind the clock once per week, but not necessarily always on the
same day. Losing a minute or two here and there due to the clock’s age, a windstorm, or ice build-up,
would be cause for James to make manual adjustments during winding sessions, and of course a big
adjustment was made for the start and end of daylight savings time.
Typically, the weekly winding process would take 10-15 minutes to complete, however James recalls
one instance when he was able to do it in 6-1/2 minutes, as he was running late for a golf league
game! Another memory for James is when he had to climb the 120-year-old wooden ladder up into the
belfry to service the bell. When he opened the hatch, he disturbed several roosting brown bats, which
he described as “interesting to say the least.” This gave him an up close and personal rendition of
“bats in the belfry!”
Five and a half years ago, James was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, causing him to need surgery
to remove his larynx, and undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Unfortunately, the cancer
returned. Another treatment with immunotherapy was attempted, however it once again returned.
James then turned to Dana Farber where a treatment of neck stabilization with dual immunotherapy
and more targeted treatment has proven to be quite successful. James received the good news a few
months ago that he was in remission! His wife Beth, who assisted him with his clock winding duties
during his treatments, says he is currently doing well, better day-by-day. Beth states, “I always said
winding the clock (whether him or me) was keeping James ticking too. It gave us focus through some
pretty difficult times. We did have quite a few instances when things were dire that we missed winding
and the clock would stop. I'd love to thank the town for their understanding and support when we fell
Although James says he would have liked to continue for many years being the “Keeper of the
Clock” for the town, his health issues have prevented that from becoming a reality. James has decided
after nearly 30 years of service to retire and pass the reigns along to Nathaniel Gove, who has
assisted him in clock duties in the past.
Library Trustee Chair, Jane Weisman shares, “When Ken [Hagberg] retired in 2009, James took
over and has been caring for the clock through thick and thin. The Trustees are so very grateful to
James for his dedication and expertise that he selflessly gave to the running of our Town’s ‘heartbeat’
at the top of The Common. We will be putting a small plaque at the base of the spiral staircase leading
to the clock tower recognizing his service.”
Beth shares, “The keeper of the clock tends to always think of the clock, driving through the center
checking the time. Working outside listening for the chime. It's such a wonderful part of the towns
history and we were very lucky to be a part of it.”
When asked about his favorite part of the job, James says “The people I have met from my weekly
trips to the library. From the staff to the inquisitive patrons, most people don’t know that someone has
to climb those stairs and wind the clock and that it’s manual labor. It has been a pleasure to serve the
library and town in this capacity as Keeper of the Clock.”