Cook On Concord: 2006 closes with the passing of four good men

During the closing weeks of 2006, four good men, drawn from very diverse backgrounds, passed away. Their level of fame varied, but the things they had in common struck me as I thought about their lives.

First and most famous, former President Gerald Ford died the day after Christmas at 93. Ford, the only president never elected to that office or the vice presidency, nevertheless served his country well in a time of crisis following the resignation of Richard Nixon after Watergate consumed him.

Ford was eulogized by many when he passed away and the big parts of his career and his major contributions were noted widely. Especially interesting were comments by Jimmy Carter, who defeated him in 1976, and others who saw the wisdom, 30 years later, of Ford’s pardon of Nixon. Those who were not around at the time have no idea the level of tension and trepidation in the first nine months of 1974, or the relief that accompanied Ford’s assuming the presidency.

Ford had many connections to New Hampshire. After he left office, he was the guest speaker at what was then the largest political fund-raiser in New Hampshire history as candidate Warren Rudman challenged incumbent U.S. Sen. John Durkin. Filling the old New Hampshire Highway Hotel with 1,500 people, the momentum generated by the Ford visit helped Rudman win and endeared President Ford to many New Hampshirites in a memorable political year.

Gerald Ford lately has decried the overly partisan nature of Washington politics and questioned some of the recent policy decisions.

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Another prominent person, Manchester attorney Joseph Millimet, has been eulogized in the press. An architect in building the law firm of Devine & Millimet, Millimet came to New Hampshire from New Jersey to attend Dartmouth College and returned after law school to stay. A leading litigator who later became a business lawyer, Millimet also was prominent in the Democratic Party, involved in many prominent legal cases and became one of the leading attorneys in the state.

At his funeral, his family noted many of the humorous and touching stories about his enthusiasm, love for education, love for automobiles and other anecdotes. When I was a young lawyer, Joe Millimet was always nice to me, as he was to many, and his passing was poignant for the state and profession.

Another fine man, he also was in his nineties when he died.

Saul Greenspan came to New Hampshire from New York City to found Waumbec Mills, which he ran for many years before selling it to a major industrial corporation. However, he did not leave Manchester, as many present-day business leaders might. He became part of it. Also in his nineties, Saul was still inquisitive, friendly, open and engaging. He and his lovely wife Ethel raised their family in Manchester, set up a foundation and contributed to virtually every charity in town, being honored by many but certainly not making their contributions in search of honor.

Finally, George Blushiy died, also the day after Christmas. George was not a president or a prominent lawyer or a philanthropist. He was a hard-working native of Manchester who died at 72 at the Elliot Hospital after a long battle with cancer.

George served in the Korean War and returned to Manchester, where he worked for local businesses and the government. Notably, he was one of the school custodians who lost his job in the 1990s, when cleaning the Manchester schools was contracted out to save money, depriving students the opportunity many of us remember of getting to know the custodian who really “ran the place” and often could relate to those pupils many others could not.

However, he moved on. In his retirement, he manned the car wash at the local Mercury dealership, where he was on duty only ten days before his death with a bright smile, engaging conversation and many questions about what was going on.

His wife Lorraine served as secretary/receptionist in the office of Mayor Robert Baines after a long career in a similar position at Memorial High School. Both George and Lorraine were known far and wide in town.

George’s ready smile and kind manner, enthusiasm, sense of justice and right and wrong struck me often when I would be having conversations with him. He was educated on current affairs, opinionated on politics and personalities, and had a native optimism that was contagious.

Reflecting on the various people who have passed from the scene, the similarities among good men are more important than the position from which they get to express them in life.

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

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