The Foley family’s inspirational dignity

As a beacon of faith in a time of horror, they indeed made New Hampshire proud


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Sometimes we sit here in New Hampshire and do not think we are too connected to the world at large or the problems of the times. Then the world hits us in the face with a two-by-four.

Late August was such a time. What could be further from our consciousness than the ethnic and sectarian idiocy in the Middle East?

Then, the news of the criminal and senseless beheading of James W. Foley, the journalist who had been held in Syria for two years and fell into the hands of the ISIS group, flashed across the TV screen. Slowly, for most of us in the Granite State, the connection to us became apparent.

He was the son of two distinguished residents of Rochester, Diane and John Foley – a son of New Hampshire. Active in their community, and especially in their Roman Catholic parish, Dr. and Mrs. Foley reacted with class and dignity, against unspeakable and unimaginable pain.

Additional connections began to be made, as e-mails and messages informed that the parents both were members of the UNH Class of 1970. Those of us in that class – including the class president, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner – felt a special connection to a son of our class we never met.

The Foleys were joined by their parish community, the Catholic Church in New Hampshire, represented by Bishop Peter Libasci, whose eloquent words of support were a comfort to the entire state. And Pope Francis called the parents to express sympathy and solidarity.

The example of the Foley family as a beacon of faith in a time of horror was indeed inspiring.

In memory of James Foley, the family has established two funds for memorial contributions, which can be viewed at freejamesfoley.org. The family intends to form the James W. Foley Legacy Fund, which will include support for the protection of journalists, providing educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth and support aspiring and current journalists in their quest to promote freedom and truth.

Also, the James Foley scholarship at Marquette University, his alma mater, is being established and will provide financial assistance to communications students who otherwise would be unable to attend the university. A mentoring program also will be established to help others to learn the skills James Foley demonstrated in trying to tell the stories of people whose lives would not be described otherwise.

No parent can imagine the pain the Foleys experienced during the time of James’s captivity and then murder — and who among us could demonstrate such courage and class as they did in the aftermath? They made New Hampshire proud.

*****

The profession that took James Foley to the Middle East is threatened in a different way here at home. Much news has been made lately about the departure from the State House newsroom of Norma Love, the Associated Press reporter who retired, and Kevin Landrigan, the Nashua Telegraph reporter whose job was eliminated.

Commentators noted the shrinking news staff covering statewide events, and the lack of institutional memory that results. Luckily, Landrigan was hired by Binnie Media’s new news effort, and will be a presence in the news coverage of New Hampshire, and veteran Union Leader reporter Garry Rayno remains at his post in the first floor of the State House, however lonely the Donn Tibbetts Room may be.

Everyone has a stake in the vitality and diversity of coverage of our political representatives.

*****

A significant New Hampshire attorney from a distinguished family of New Hampshire leaders died. Charles F. Leahy, known to all as “Chuck,” was 79.

A native of Claremont, he was the son of Albert D. Leahy, a community leader and judge, and brother of Albert, who also practiced law in his hometown of Claremont. Their uncle, John Leahy, was chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Chuck graduated from Claremont High School, Yale University and the Harvard Law School. He served in the U.S. Army. Chuck practiced law in Concord with Orr & Reno, one of the oldest New Hampshire law firms, and completed his career with the McLane Law Firm, specializing in estate planning and probate law.

Active in civic affairs, Leahy served on the Concord School Board and as a director of many charitable organizations, including New Hampshire Public Television. He served his profession as a founder and supporter of the New Hampshire Supreme Court Society, as his wife, attorney Susan Leahy, continues to do.

New Hampshire should be proud of James Foley and Chuck Leahy; inspired by the way the Foley family faced adversity and was supported by its community of faith and proud of the contributions of the Leahy family, as well. Thanks to them all.

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups.

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