More losses as 2011 closes
This column is not supposed to be the obituary page for New Hampshire Business Review! However, when significant losses occur in the political or business world in New Hampshire, as part of the documenting of history, I like to note them. There have been too many in 2011.On Dec. 8, Harold Eckman died suddenly near his winter residence in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 65 years old. The loss of this business leader is especially poignant for me, since my interactions with Hal Eckman in a sense precede his birth and mine in the late 1940s.In the late 1930s, George and Gwen Eckman and Richard and Miriam Cook all attended the University of New Hampshire. They knew each other there and both husbands met their wives and wives met their husbands there.After World War II, Hal Eckman was born in Manchester. George Eckman started Reeds Ferry Lumber Corp., a lumber business located in Merrimack to this day. George and Gwen raised their family on Walnut Hill Avenue in the north end of Manchester and were prominent in the community. They currently reside in Bedford.The Cooks moved out of state. When Hal Eckman was ready for college, he went to UNH and majored in business. Two years later, I went to UNH and we knew each other there. Hal graduated in 1968; I graduated in 1970.In 1973, after law school, I was assigned to the Reeds Ferry Lumber Corp. file in my law firm. One day, in 1974, George Eckman asked if I would speak to his son, then working for IBM, since he wanted to start his own construction business. Hal Eckman came in, and we incorporated the business and started working on contracts for the construction of houses.What followed was an interesting experience for a new business owner and young lawyer, with such notable adventures as settling a construction contract dispute at a ping-pong table, with each point resolving one of the many issues one way or the other. Eckman Construction Company grew from residential construction to commercial construction, building many of the best school and college buildings, hospital wings and other important New Hampshire buildings, including some of the newer churches of the Diocese of Manchester. A major event was when Amy Eckman and Hal met when their parents introduced them in Florida.Amy came to New Hampshire as a lawyer and later served as president of Eckman Construction and is an important business leader herself.In 1992, Hal Eckman called and asked if I would help him run for the U.S. Senate. We located Richard Morris, who had consulted with Warren Rudman, the retiring senator, and the campaign that followed was intense and carefully planned, as were all the other efforts Hal and Amy Eckman enjoyed during their lives. In a remarkable showing, Eckman lost the Republican nomination to the incumbent governor, Judd Gregg, by fewer than 10 points.The Eckmans restored the Burroughs mansion on North Union Street in Manchester and moved back to Manchester from Bedford, and their two sons, Daniel and Jeffrey, attended Central High School.Hal Eckman built a major business, was a significant part of New Hampshire and left a construction company known for its quality and care. While it is true that the quality of a life is more important than the length of it, Hal Eckman left us too soon.*****On the other end of the longevity scale, Elsie Brown of Deerfield passed away in mid-December. She was 97. At her funeral at the Deerfield Community Church on Dec. 17, a crowd of friends of all ages joined the Brown family in a testimonial to a gracious lady who was involved in her community right up to the end, participating in the book club, the library and other notable activities, especially her church.Speakers spoke about the warmth, grace and charm that Elsie brought to Deerfield when she and her late husband, Joe Brown, retired to the Brown Family Farm at Deerfield Parade in the 1970s. Joe Brown was a 4-H agent in Massachusetts and Elsie was a home economics teacher. At the University of New Hampshire, Joe Brown was involved in alumni activities, and there is where he and I became acquainted. He was a dear friend and client for the rest of his life. My wife, a former 4-H agent and trained as a home economics teacher and daughter of a home economics teacher, enjoyed the association, as well.It was the real end of an era in Deerfield when the community said goodbye to Elsie Brown, but the family remains in town, the farm survives and Elsie and Joe Brown will be remembered fondly. Elsie enjoyed both a long and a well-lived life.Happy new year to all!Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.