March 4, 2019 | last updated March 5, 2019 12:20 pm

The WBJ Hall of Famer who never was

Over the past three years, the WBJ Hall of Fame has grown to 10 members. It is supposed to be 11.

In 2017, after WBJ decided to create a hall of fame, we anguished over the inaugural class. Since WBJ was throwing its journalistic credibility behind such an endeavor, we wanted those original inductees to leap off the pages as the clear cut leaders of the Central Mass. economy over the past generation. We ended up choosing four heavy hitters who would set the tone for WBJ Hall of Fame classes for years to come.

Getting those honorees to sign on for the recognition was almost as difficult as deciding who they would be. Since we just started the WBJ Hall of Fame, and most didn't know they were nominated, when I reached out on a Friday in January 2017, the collective reaction was more befuddlement than jubilation. After multiple phone calls and emails, Michael Angelini, Frances Anthes and Frank Carroll understood the magnitude of what we were trying to do, and the happy reactions came.

The fourth would-be honoree was far more hesitant. Although he listened to my voicemails and read my emails, he never responded to me directly. Finally, after multiple attempts to reach him through those closest to him, he send a message through an intermediary. David "Duddie" Massad – who passed away in December at the age of 90 – was honored to have been selected, but he respectfully declined.

Few other Worcester natives had the long-term success in building a business empire. An entrepreneur who didn't need much sleep, Duddie owned multiple car dealerships and assembled a large portfolio of real estate holdings before buying Commerce Bank in 1993. He turned the struggling financial institution into a $2-billion power player, which he sold to Berkshire Bank in 2018. Inviting Duddie into the inaugural Hall of Fame class was a no brainer, but the process of being photographed, interviewed, and then honored in front of a crowd didn't suit his style.

We've never had another chosen member of the WBJ Hall of Fame decline induction, and the list of people under consideration each year numbers in the dozens. We've never revealed this backstory, but with Duddie no longer with us, we wanted to give one last tip of the cap for his drive and determination, and the success that brought him, his organization and the Greater Worcester community over a long career.

-Brad Kane, editor


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