John Breed Newhall


John Breed Newhall, 88, of Bedford, Mass. and longtime resident of Manchester died June 23.  A distinguished Boston lawyer, accomplished sailor and international yacht racing judge, a fine storyteller, John described himself as a “swamp yankee.”  He was born in Salem on November 26, 1932 to Mary Moore (Nason) Newhall and Charles Boardman Newhall, and raised in Marblehead.

John was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy (’50), Harvard College (A.B. cum laude, ’54), and Harvard Law School, (LL.B. ’58).  At Exeter he won the English prize, which two of his granddaughters also won.  He served in the U.S. Air Force in Presque Isle, Maine (1955-57).  Admitted to the Bars of the U.S. District Court, U.S. Court of Appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court, John practiced law in Boston at Nutter, McClennen & Fish, 1959-1989, 20 years as senior partner.  His specialties included probate and business law, overseeing the Trust Department and serving on the Investment Committee. 

John served as Trustee of numerous trusts, and was a director and officer of Shawmut Corporation.  From 1989, he practiced solo in Boston and then Manchester.  Active in charitable corporations, John was a trusted advisor.  He was the lead attorney creating the Killam Trusts which promoted U.S.-Canadian friendship and granted scholarships.  He was instrumental in establishing the Clipper Ship Foundation, and served as an officer and trustee of the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia, Unitarian Universalist Society for Ministerial Relief, New England Home for the Deaf, Esther Hawks Scholarships, and Thomas Odell Trust. John received an honorary degree from the University of Liberia.

Sailing was a passion from a young age, sparked at the Pleon Yacht Club.  At Harvard, John earned his varsity letter on the national champion sailing team.  As a longtime active member of the Eastern then Manchester Yacht Clubs, he moved from small boat racing to the Bermuda and Halifax races (often as navigator).  He later applied his keen analytical mind as a sailing judge at the Kiel Worlds, America’s Cup, and Olympic Trials.  However, John was most in his element cruising with family on his sailboats Triad and Samoset, preferring downeast Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. 

Convivial and friendly, to inquiries about his well-being, John responded with a wry smile that he was “…reasonably well, considering.”  He loved Velveeta cheese, Miracle Whip, rare (“just walk it through the kitchen”) roast beef, and iceberg lettuce.  John stewarded his aunt’s farm in Sunapee, NH serving as trustee and life tenant for decades and making it available to extended family.  He was wise and generous when asked for advice by anyone.

John loved classical music, attending the Boston Symphony every season beginning in college; he was tickled when his family-renowned Swedish pancake recipe was published in the BSO Cookbook.  He loved books and reading and had a passion for history: English, North American, Arctic, and Essex County.  He enjoyed participating in the Club of Odd Volumes, Essex County Club, Manchester Yacht Club, Society of Colonial Wars, Harvard Traveller’s Club, Society of the Cincinnati (CT), and Colonial Society of Massachusetts.  John was elected to the Manchester Planning Board, serving two years as chair. 

Predeceased by his younger brothers, David and Bill (a/k/a Stephen), John leaves his wife of nearly 50 years, Katharine (Copeland), his four children and their families, Mary N. Higgins (and John), Charles L. Newhall (and Anne Nichols Hill), Hannah N. Sanger (and Matthew), Rebecca C. Newhall (and Travis Reese), and his five grandchildren: Elizabeth Higgins, John B. Newhall, Bridget Higgins, Skye (a/k/a Sarah) Newhall, and Benjamin Reese.  And his daughter-in-law Jazz (a/k/a Trish) Newhall. 

The family will host a gathering at the Manchester Yacht Club on August 2 at 4 pm.  In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Greenbelt ( or Salem Sound Coastwatch (