In the early 1970s, as a standout athlete in Williamstown who let his actions speak for themselves, Chuck Hunt was already the person the state would come to know 30 years later when he took a place in Massachusetts history.
“He was the guy we looked up to,” said Mike Diodati, a friend from Little League through high school football and baseball. “He was our friend, but he was also who we aspired to be.”
Mr. Hunt, who was 67 when he died Tuesday at home in Williamstown of complications from a kidney disease, “was a very quiet guy, but probably one of the toughest guys I knew,” Diodati said. “He was someone you really wanted to be around.”
Given his health challenges, it took resolve to become the best athlete in his Mount Greylock Regional High School class. Mr. Hunt drew on a different kind of fortitude when his wife, Jane Swift, was elected lieutenant governor in 1998 and became acting governor less than three years later.
Private since childhood, he was suddenly a public figure as not only the first “first husband” in Massachusetts history, but also one who hadn’t hesitated to set aside his construction business to become a full-time father.
When then-acting Governor Paul Cellucci asked Swift to be his running mate in 1998, she and Mr. Hunt were awaiting test results to find out for sure that they were expecting their first child.
“We looked at each other,” Mr. Hunt told the Globe in 2001. “I knew it was a great opportunity for Jane. And how many times does something like this come along? I knew I was willing to do what I could.”
That meant staying on the Williamstown farm that had been in his family for more than a century — the place where he had grown up — while she worked at the State House in Boston.
“If I can be home on the farm and raise children, I’ll be happy,” he said in the 2001 interview, days after she became acting governor.
Thus began a chapter in the family’s life that stretched for more than two decades until rejection episodes last year from his 2018 kidney transplant caused his health to slip away.
“He loved family,” Swift said.
Mr. Hunt’s devotion to their daughters — Elizabeth and the twins, Lauren and Sarah — didn’t slacken when they finished high school.
“He was the most dedicated father you probably have ever met,” Lauren said. “I spent every day with him pretty much my entire life until going to college.”
Even then they spoke by phone nearly daily, and before Mr. Hunt and his daughters headed off to sleep, Lauren added, “he texted us good night.”
Born in Adams on March, 2, 1954, Charles Thomas Hunt was the third of four siblings and the only son born to Ruth Godfrey Hunt, who raised the children and worked on the family farm, and Charles Hunt, a heavy equipment operator and farmer.
Though Mr. Hunt grew up on the Williamstown farm that had long been in his mother’s family, “he did not have an idyllic childhood,” said Swift, who then deferred to her husband’s lifelong preference for privacy.
“It was always his choice whether or not to tell that story and put his life in context, but he chose not to tell it,” she said. “Despite that — or maybe because of it — he was the most upstanding, polite, kind person you’d ever meet. It’s funny, he would tell you very quickly that he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, but his manners were impeccable.”
A tailback on the football field and a catcher on the baseball diamond, Mr. Hunt was captain of both teams his senior year and received Mount Greylock’s award for the best athlete in his class. Muscular and determined, he occasionally cut an unusual figure when he traveled in from the farm.
“He’s the only guy I ever met who rode a horse down into town to play pickup football,” Diodati recalled. “He could ride a horse with the best of them. And he could herd cows.”
After graduating, Mr. Hunt played semi-pro baseball and then lived in California for much of his 20s into his 30s. His three marriages prior to meeting Swift ended in divorce, and he and his first wife had a son, Brian, who died in 2014.
While in California, Mr. Hunt graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a minor in exercise science. Because of his inherited kidney disorder, he was keenly attentive to health.
“He’s been a vegetarian for about 45 years, before it was cool,” Swift said, “and he competed in triathlons.”
In 1989, he returned east to coach at Mount Greylock, only to see the job evaporate in budget cuts the following year.
Around that time he was driving in Pittsfield and noticed Swift at the roadside, holding a political sign and smiling and waving.
“I said, ‘Wow,’ " he recalled in the 2001 interview.
A few months later, he visited her office as a constituent when she was a state senator to talk about teacher hiring. He left a card explaining that he had seen her holding the sign, and asking to have brunch.
“I knew on the second date,” he said in 2001. “It took her longer. But she said she fell in love one day when she came in the barn and I was covered with crud and had my hat on backwards.”
They married in 1994.
Along with having run a small construction business, Mr. Hunt previously had a riding program and boarded horses. He was known for being attentive to animals other people shunned, including his rescue dog.
“He just had a kindness toward the least powerful, whether it was animals or people,” Swift said. “That was something many people noticed, and that he passed on to my girls.”
In a home that could fill with relatives and became boisterous on holidays, “Chuck was very quiet, but in a way that his presence always brought a sense of peace around the house,” said Swift’s brother, John, of Arlington.
That said, Mr. Hunt “had a great sense of humor,” John added. “He’d throw one-liners in once in a while and you’d get that wry smile, but he picked his spots.”
In addition to his wife, three daughters, and John, Mr. Hunt leaves two sisters, Sharon Wetteland and Diane Hunt, both of Georgia. His other sister, Dolores Kornn, died earlier this year.
Calling hours will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday in Flynn & Dagnoli Funeral home in North Adams. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Monday in Sts. Patrick and Raphael Church in Williamstown.
“He has told us on numerous occasions that we are the best thing that ever happened to him,” Lauren said. “My dad never made it a question of whether we knew how much he loved us and it wasn’t just in his words, but also in his actions.”
She and her father shared a lifetime of experiences, from when she helped him feed farm animals as a kindergartner to riding on the back of his motorcycle as a youth.
“I have a million of those memories,” Lauren said. “It feels horrible and awful that I’m 20 years old and lost my dad, but I also know that he dedicated more time to us in my lifetime than a lot of people’s parents do when they’re there most of their lives. I know that I’m lucky, even if that’s hard to feel right now.”
Bryan Marquard can be reached at email@example.com.