Matriarch of Thwaites Market dies at 93 (2024)

METHUEN — Retirement wasn’t Barbara Greenwood’s style.

She last worked at Thwaites Market, the family store that has sold English-style sausages and meat pies for more than 100 years, on New Year’s Eve.

Greenwood also made it clear, before dying at home on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 93, that she wasn’t happy about taking New Year’s Day off.

“She was furious on this past Monday that they closed the store for the holiday,” said Emily Callery, Greenwood’s granddaughter.

Greenwood’s life was inseparable from Thwaites Market, which was founded by her grandmother, Hannah, in the 1920s after her husband lost his eyesight.

But Greenwood was also an accomplished concert pianist and member of the Methuen Community Chorus, as well as the organist at First Methodist Church. She was also captain of the Methuen High School girls basketball team, Callery said, and played on the undefeated team of 1947.

“She had such a legacy in the town,” Callery said.

Greenwood was born in 1929 and started taking piano lessons with her father, Thomas, at age four, well before she learned to make sausage or pies. She started playing organ in high school and studied that instrument with Fred Jones, “a very prominent organist in the era,” Callery said.

Ian Buckley, one of Callery’s cousins, was 13 when he took on that part of the family tradition by starting piano lessons with Greenwood, whom everyone called “Nana.”

“She taught me scales, chords, how to read sheet music,” Buckley said. “Every time I completed a sheet song, since she worked at Thwaites Market, she would bring home a king-sized candy bar for me.”

Greenwood was a good teacher, he said, but the importance of following lessons with plenty of practice was part of what she taught.

“She instilled that,” Buckley said. “There was always an effort to push that on me.”

Buckley has played in bars and cafes in the Merrimack Valley with several bands, with an emphasis on rock music and some jazz, with blues “a good staple for me.”

“It’s more of a hobby at this point,” Buckley said. “I’ll write songs. I’ll play songs in my sheet music that she’s given me. I’ll dabble back in classical.”

But he looks forward to inheriting and playing on Greenwood’s piano, an upright Baldwin that she used to play in the same room where her father died.

“She instilled in me that there has to be an end to a song, because some people have a tendency to continue on, just jamming out,” Buckley said.

Greenwood got engaged to her husband, Kenneth Greenwood, at age 19 on the night of their high school prom. He was drafted shortly thereafter.

“She had a couple of jobs over a three or four year period at the start of her life, and the rest of her life she worked at the store, literally until she died,” Callery said.

Abbey Hoffman, another of Greenwood’s 15 grandchildren, had worked full time with her grandmother at Thwaites Market since 2008.

Hoffman said that whenever someone would fetch pies from the refrigerator to put them in the oven, Greenwood would offer to coat them with egg wash.

“She’d stop any conversation she had,” Hoffman said. “It was knowing that a job wasn’t getting done and someone had to go and do it, and she was the one to take care of that.”

While pies are made in the back of the market, Greenwood also worked during the past two years making sausage out front, in a plexiglass enclosure that family members dubbed “the penalty box.”

But it was watching pies in the oven, to make sure they had baked just right, that Greenwood was in her element.

“You’re a composer and the oven is the orchestra, if you put it in her words, because she was a musician,” Hoffman said. “She taught me to have the patience necessary to run the oven, to take the pies out perfectly. If you saw us watching over them, we hold a long rod in our hand, it is really like a conductor’s baton.”

Hoffman remembers Thomas Thwaite, Barbara’s father, whose picture now hangs in several places around the store.

“I always looked to him for guidance, and a sign I’m doing the right thing,” Hoffman said.

Although it is hard for her to imagine Thwaites Market without Barbara Greenwood, she can seek comfort from her grandmother’s example, just as she has from her Thomas Thwaite.

“I can do that with my grandmother as well, so I have the guidance of my great-grandfather, and I can ask my grandmother if I’m doing things the way they would have wanted,” Hoffman said.

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Matriarch of Thwaites Market dies at 93 (2024)
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