Everyone associated with Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity knows the name “Emerson.”  For the past two decades, Emerson served as the affiliate’s Building Director and go-to person for all things Habitat.  His retirement comes after a remarkable career, during which the majority of the affiliate’s affordable homes were built.  He led the charge to recover from the Market Common fire in 2008, coordinated the Builders Blitz on three occasions, the St. Patrick’s Convent condominium conversion at 100 Parker Street, and, most recently, two multi-unit builds simultaneously in Andover and Salisbury. Emerson’s commitment to affordable housing, his dedication to the affiliate, his far-reaching knowledge of construction, and his unmatched ability to shepherd thousands of volunteers over his tenure will all be sorely missed, very much appreciated.

If you would like to make a donation in honor of Emerson, recognizing his two decades building homes for local families in need, please go here >>


Hear what some of the volunteers who have worked alongside Emerson over the years has to say about his hard work and dedication to our mission.

“Over my past +4 years volunteering for Habitat, Emerson has been terrific supervisor to work with. He has a wealth of information on how to building a house and is always willing to answer any questions I’ve had. He has amazing patience in working with the volunteers. I’d like to wish him all the best in his retirement.” Mike Feeney

“Emerson is fantastic on many levels; as a plain good person, his commitment to Habitat, his limitless patience, his vast knowledge, and experience. I could go on. A while back I was asked why I continue to regularly volunteer at Habitat. I can’t remember my exact answer but it was probably a pretty standard reply. A day or so later I realized I missed a chance to give the real answer: I return to Habitat because of Emerson, his leadership and endless patience with volunteers. Thank you, Emerson. I wish you good fortune and happy times in the future. He will be missed by all of us.” Bob Genier

“He is always happy to see you. He ensured we did things right. He is an excellent and patient teacher. He allowed and encouraged one’s ideas. He maintained a positive worksite attitude. Everyone who has worked with him is just a little bit better because of the experience. He is a big reason as to why I’m still volunteering after 16 years.” Bruce Letwin

“ You were a tremendous mentor and leader for us, volunteers.  I have always marveled at how you could constantly be under so much pressure from so many sides and always keep you cool.  I learned much from you along the way. Our trips together to the Dominican Republic and Romania are wonderful memories for me.  Best of luck to you in this new chapter in your life.  I am happy for you as you enter retirement, but I will miss you, and I know others will as well.”  Bill O’Halloran

“Congratulations on your retirement, Emerson. Yes, you’ve impacted many families by providing many homes, but you should know that you’ve had an extraordinary impact on many of your volunteers with your guidance, encouragement, patience and engaging personality. You’ve created quite a loyal following and we’ll never forget the times we enjoyed with you. Personally, you’ve empowered my love of building Habitat homes that I continue today with the Lowcountry Habitat here in Beaufort, SC. While our roofs are only one story high and we don’t have basements full of plumbing and insulation, I’ve put the skills you’ve taught me to good use. Thanks for all your mentoring and enjoy your next phase. With fond appreciation,” Tim Holt

“Emerson, I really appreciated your approach to your job at Habitat.   You created an environment that kept us learning, contributing and feeling appreciated.   I know you’re going to enjoy your much deserved retirement and your new puppy.  Have fun!” Tim Higgins

“I have enjoyed working with Emerson since 2014.  I have been so impressed with his leadership, his knowledge and the great rapport he has had with all the volunteers. Emerson will be missed. ” Tom Abbott

“Emerson – Thanks for the Memories!  It’s been wonderful and enjoyable to volunteer for Habitat with you as the Building Director.  Your patience and good humor with us volunteers have never ceased to amaze me, and your expertise in leading us to building good buildings has been a tremendous asset to Habitat and the community.  Best wishes for your retirement.” George Koehler

“Congratulations on your retirement.  The world of Portuguese Water Dog training’s gain is surely our loss.  Your even-keeled approach to directing a mixed group of volunteer builders is just what rookie volunteers need to grow into the multitalented volunteer’s Habitat needs.  It’s been a pleasure to work with you.  I’m still wondering, however, where you’re gonna get enough Portuguese water to train your dogs!” Lloyd Walkauskas

“It has been a pleasure for me to work for Emerson as a volunteer over the last nine years.  I have always been impressed with his knowledge of the building codes and practices and more importantly his ability to coordinate with the volunteers, Habitat families, architects, engineers, and trade professionals.  There have been so many construction obstacles thrown at Emerson and he resolved them all with minimal delays including a settling wall, a leaking in-ground oil tank, rotted wood, and a porous roof and brick walls during the renovation of the Parker Street building. He dealt with two house fires (Market Street and Railroad Street) and security and safety issues at Parker Street and Margin Street.  In addition to home construction, Emerson has led or played a major role in the buildouts of the ReStore and the warehouses at Methuen Street and 1 Broadway in Lawrence.  One of his greatest achievements was his leadership in the effective expansion of the work area to Andover and 25 miles down the valley to Salisbury.  It is a testament to Emerson’s leadership that the Habitat building projects are continuing at a good pace despite the recent COVID Pandemic that forced severe reductions in volunteer hours. Emerson’s leadership skills and great sense of humor will be sorely missed by me and hundreds of Habitat volunteers.  We’ll also miss his advice on how to properly tie a sailor’s knot and the sharing of his interest in bird watching and dog caring.  It’s been a fun 9 years for me! Emerson, best wishes on your retirement, and have safe travels on the many trips that you and your wife are planning.” Kevin Merli

“Hi Emerson, just a note to thank you for your patient, enthusiastic support and calm problem solving for the last 5 years I’ve been working with you. I’ve learned a lot about construction and safety on the job and am proud of what we’ve accomplished together with all the great volunteers you’ve attracted to the job sites. You deserve a long happy, healthy retirement and I wish you all the best! Your friend” Al Greene

“It has been a pleasure working with you, with lots of great memories.  It is amazing what you have accomplished.  You must be very proud of the legacy that you are leaving. It is sad that a truly appropriate sendoff is not possible at this time. Hoping that your retirement is the happiest and healthful period of your life.  No one deserves it more than you. Bon Voyage” Bob Rousseau

“Emerson – Working with you these past six years has been the cultivation of a good friendship.  You have been a wonderful guide, steady in all situations no matter how demanding or stressful they may have been on your daily duties; always calm and unflappable.  I enjoyed working with you, Emerson, and looked forward to seeing you when you came by the work sites because I knew we volunteers were in good hands for direction or simply just for chatting about boats, carpentry, or dogs during lunch breaks. Good luck and good fortune as you head into retirement.” David Lee

“Congratulations Emerson on your well-deserved retirement!  I haven’t been around as long as many of the crew but did want to thank you for your support & guidance over the past year.  Your leadership style really makes us want to do well & do good – the world is a better place because of individuals like you!  Enjoy!” Mark Bannon

“Emerson, Few have done as much as you to advance the cause of decent housing in the Merrimack Valley. From Habitat Home 10 to Habitat Home 100+, you have worked with and led countless volunteers in paths of hope and determination, with courage, conviction, positive attitudes, and good cheer, to accomplish needed goals with evermore opportunity and need in front of you. I count myself in the group of the privileged who have had the opportunity to work with you and have felt your guidance and gentle insistence to move the Merrimack Valley Habitat organization and its laudable goals forward. Thank you for leading us, as volunteers, to be able to accomplish more than most of us thought possible. Your knowledge, attention to detail, and ability to manage multiple projects and tasks at once, while at the same time remaining positive, calm, and confident that we volunteers would, in fact, manage to complete the tasks at hand, gave us all the confidence that we were on the right path and the success in delivering these Habitat homes was assured. Thank you also for supporting the utilization of the special skills of individual volunteers. Again, your confidence in us was gratifying and allowed those volunteers to excel and contribute to the success of Merrimack Valley Habitat. As you now move on to start the next chapter in your life, I, and all of the volunteers, wish you the very best. We hope that you’re able to accomplish all those things that you hold near and dear, now and far into the future. Thank you again for your service and dedication to Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity. Best wishes always” Tom Knight

“When I think about you at Habitat, I think about your calm demeanor, your cheerfulness, enthusiasm, how despite the many times some work has needed to be redone, you never seem to be [at least visibly] upset or angry.  You have a wonderful level of rapport with the volunteers, and we with you.  Despite all your many responsibilities, you almost always seem to have time to answer a question, come up with a solution to a problem, or just to chat. Your taking the time to chat with the volunteers and regularly have lunch with us has allowed you to get to know the volunteers and each of our interests, skills, and experience.  This has resulted in a crew of regular Wednesday/Thursday volunteers where each of us is primarily doing the tasks for which we are most experienced and comfortable. Certainly, the most challenging project of my 12-14 years as a Habitat volunteer has to have been the convent.  While I’m sure you foresaw more of the problems/challenges there than I did; there were certainly many that none of us anticipated.  Yet, you took it in all in stride and we tackled it all: producing 10 very nice affordable units in the hundred-year-old historic building.  For me, my work in preserving the historic character of the building by replacing the rotting portico with an identical new one, and finding a way to modify the main stairwell to meet the current building codes while still keeping it true to its original detail, is a source of satisfaction and pride. Discovering our mutual interest and experience in wooden boats and their building, and sailing has been a wonderful reward for getting to know you.  I know that we have both looked forward each summer to sailing together as part of the Small Reach Regatta on the beautiful waters of Blue Hill Bay and Eggemoggin Reach.  So, as you start a new phase of your life, I wish you and Janet all the best.  Your new puppy will be a source of joy and keep you active.  You’ll have time to do projects on your house that have been put off and travel with Janet.  We will keep in touch, go for walks, and sail some more, whether in Maine or on the waters of Salem and Marblehead.  Of course, we’ll always welcome you as a volunteer with us at Habitat.” Nathan Rome