John Charles Losch, Clockmaker of Holliston, MA, 91 years old
This was sent to us by Mary Greendale, submitted by John’s daughter.
“There are no easy jobs” our Dad used to say – and it is certainly not an easy job to announce that our father, John Charles Losch, of Holliston, Massachusetts, died on January 10, 2024. He was 91 years old. Dad passed away at Milford Regional Medical Center with his children and former wife by his side; peacefully and painlessly as he drifted off to rest from complications of myositis. He told his children that he had lived a good life and, for once, neither of them argued.
Dad was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 23, 1932, to Dr. Paul Kenneth Losch and Helen Rorex Losch. He was raised in the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton and graduated from Newton High School in 1950.
It was in Auburndale that he began his 70+ year career as a clockmaker repairing and restoring antique clocks and scientific instruments. He began washing windows and running errands for the neighborhood jeweler. It was there that he took an interest in watch repair. He was 12 years old.
Dad attended Hamilton College in New York where he majored in History; writing many papers focused on the history of scientific instruments. He struggled as a student and liked to tell us the story of how his German professor once told him, “Herr Losch, trying to teach you German is like trying to slam a revolving door”. The college sent his father at least one letter hoping to encourage Dad to study harder. Instead, Dad embarked on a journey of self-education and turned his hobby of clockmaking into an illustrious career; acknowledging that the faculty of Hamilton, “were unduly modest in appraising their ability to teach me” but that they did give him the “tools to study on my own” and that he ironically enjoyed, “a humble reputation as a scholar on a variety of subjects, languages not being among them.” With a single semester remaining, he dropped out of school to accept a full-time position working for a clockmaker in New York City – telling his father that he would complete his degree at night. He never did and often joked that his father, “is still waiting”.
Dad had fond memories of his “beatnik days” people-watching in Greenwich Village; but it wasn’t long after that he returned to Massachusetts to work at the E. Howard Clock Factory in Waltham. There he impressed many who insisted that he meet Hjalmar Olsen, known to many as the “Dean of Clockmakers” in Watertown. Olsen hired him on the spot. It was “Old Man Olsen” who encouraged Dad to purchase his first lathe and set up shop; which he did, opening his first clockmaking shop in Wellesley, MA in the 1950s.
In the early 1960s, Dad decided to purchase his own property in Holliston where he worked and resided for the rest of his life. Doing business as “John C. Losch & Co., Clockmakers”, Dad refined his skill to become a master artisan. While he had made some original “Losch” clocks, in Holliston he concentrated on becoming an authority on the repair and restoration of clocks and other scientific instruments. He enjoyed steady work restoring the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at Harvard University, including the daunting task of restoring the collection’s 1763 Joseph Pope Orrery. Dad restored many important and valuable instruments
and approached each job with a goal, “to restore it so that no one would ever know that I’d been there” – save for his signature which he left discreetly hidden inside each piece.
As Dad’s reputation for precision and historical accuracy grew, he was invited to lecture about clocks and restorative machining. He had the opportunity to travel around the country and to Europe to share his knowledge with other horologists and to study historical timepieces around the world. He wrote many articles on the subject of clock restoration and contributed regularly to both print and online publications of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC); of which Dad was proud to be the longest standing member.
Dad even accepted a position with the NAWCC, teaching classes at their School of Horology in Columbia, PA for a few years in the mid-90s. He returned home and officially retired a few short years later – but never gave up the bench. He enjoyed working in his machine shop repairing clocks and teaching others the fine art of precision machining until a few short weeks ago.
Dad also joined the Board of Trustees of the Willard House & Clock Museum in Grafton, MA where he lectured regularly and enjoyed the company of others who shared his value of preserving history through timepieces. He continues to be recognized as a Trustee Emeritus of the Museum. It was here that Dad found a collaborator and publisher for his knowledge of Willard Lighthouse Clocks. The writing of the book, Simon Willard Patent Alarm Time Pieces: An Exhibition of Willard Lighthouse Clocks by Paul J. Foley and John C. Losch was a proud accomplishment of Dad’s and he would be happy to learn that it is “back in stock” in the Museum shop.
Dad’s morality, integrity and hard work moved him out of the workshop and into a life of service to his family, friends, and surrounding community. He served as a Selectman for the Town of Holliston in both the 60s and the 80s. He also served two terms as a Massachusetts State Representative in the late 60s and early 70s. As an ex-legislator, he had earned the prefix “The Honorable John C. Losch” but never used it – perhaps proving how much he really deserved the title.
Recognized for his service and commitment to his community, he was recently featured as a guest on the local cable show Heartbeat of Holliston. His wit and charm can still be enjoyed via the recording of that interview which is here:
Dad was fortunate to have many good friends and neighbors. He had many lifelong friendships and made new friends easily. All kinds of people would stop by the house to enjoy his artful telling of tales of his youth, lessons from history, his interpretations of classical piano music, and so much more – especially at 5 o’clock when the scotch hit the rocks. Dad’s riches are found in those who came to watch him raise his finger to continue with, “One more story…”.
Many of Dad’s friends shared his interest in clocks or politics; but many others joined him to discuss other interests. For a while Dad got into photography and took many photos of his clock repair to add dynamism and explanation to his lectures. He spent many winters tapping the sugar maples on his property and bottling his own syrup. For years Dad kept a chicken coop; in part to teach his children how to be resourceful and to run a small, neighborhood business of their own. He was an avid reader who read everything from the great epic novels of his time to the back of the cereal box. In addition to reading about timepieces, he had broad tastes in historical literature and read deeply about other topics that fascinated him; enabling him to comprehensively discuss these subjects with experts.
As part of his interest in history and mechanical things, Dad used to collect antique gas engines. He spent several summer weekends displaying them at antique gas engine shows across New England. He employed his largest engine to split wood for his antique wood stoves – stoves he used to heat his home for many years (his children shiver at this, despite their warm memories of Dad). His judicious use of heat was just one of the many ways in which he won at the solitary game of penny pinching. He reduced, reused, and recycled far before it was fashionable and saved much money (and many bread ties) as a result.
Dad’s latest passion was for his “Capone-mobile”. Dad bought his dream car about 7 years ago when he purchased a fully restored 1930 Chrysler 77. He loved to show it off in area parades and was especially proud when it won several awards at Classic Car Shows. The car reminded many of old gangster movies and Dad humorously kept an empty violin case in the backseat to perpetuate perceptions and to subtly warn trespassers to keep away.
Dad was once married to our mother, Lydia. When they divorced, Dad was forced to learn to cook for his family. Initial attempts proved that he had much to learn about combining flavors, textures, and other elements of taste. One night, when his hungry teens asked, “What’s for dinner”, he told them “Ugros soup”. “What’s that?”, they asked; to which he replied, “It’s the soup that, whenever I serve it to you, you say, OOoo GROSS!”. He persisted and eventually became a fair and decent cook; even making all of his pasta and bread by hand for several years running. His favorite meal, however, was his “Saturday Night Steak” consisting usually of a cheap piece of London Broil, tenderized, salted, peppered and cooked to perfection over the flames in his antique cast iron Crawford Cooking Range – and always served with a loosely capped shaker of salt. He and his daughter had the pleasure of enjoying this as his last meal before they left his home for the hospital 10 days before he died.
A good friend recently commented that Dad was the sort of man who could be found covered in grease beneath a car or delivering an intellectual lecture before a crowd. In many ways, Dad was an independent anomaly. He was an amazing artisan and mechanic, an incredible historian and a fantastic writer. He was certainly a great father. Most importantly, John C. Losch was a good man. We wish there were more like him in the world.
John is survived by his son, Paul Stephen Losch and his wife, Joelma; his daughter, Elizabeth “Lala” Helen (Losch) Aurilio and her husband, Alberto; his grandchildren Marrek Panzarino, William Losch, Giuseppe Aurilio, Lydia Aurilio, and Giancarlo Aurilio; his brother, Richard Rorex Losch; and his 16 year old stray “Silly Cat”. He is also survived by a long list of quotable quotes, such as the aforementioned “There are no easy jobs” along with other gems like, “Close the ice box”, “In or Out”, “Pull my finger” and “What did you expect, chimes?”, all of which have been burnished in the minds of his children and grandchildren (and probably the cat too). The family will hold a private celebration of life at a later date.