Cook on Concord

In the last couple of weeks, the temporal and immediate crises have taken a back seat to passages of more historic moment.

Two significant state lawmakers and citizens have died. Their effect on New Hampshire and contributions to our state are significant.

William F. Kidder Sr., longtime public servant in New London, passed away last month. He was in his early 90s. Bill Kidder did almost everything you could do in New London, his hometown. A graduate of New London High School, he served his town as town clerk for years, ran the local automobile dealership, developed real estate, lent money to everyone near and far, and, ultimately, founded the New London Trust Company with his friend, the late attorney and Congressman James C. Cleveland (which they later sold for a handsome profit).

There were a lot of great stories about Bill Kidder. He used to maintain the automobiles he sold from his dealership on Main Street while also serving as town clerk. Once he was underneath a car and a man in knickers came along and said, “I understand if I am going to move into this town I need to know you.” Kidder rolled out and looked at the man who said, “Hi, I’m Gene Sarazen.” Sarazen later served as a summer pro at the Lake Sunapee Country Club, bought a house in New London and was a presence in the community for decades.

Kidder and Jim Cleveland developed much of the land between Main Street and Pleasant Lake in New London.

Kidder had a museum located on Pleasant Street in which there were classic automobiles, tools, machines and all sorts of other antiques. He was once asked how much the insurance cost. His answer was a classic: “If I had it insured, it wouldn’t be a hobby.”

Luckily, that collection has been turned over to a foundation, which will preserve it.

Kidder’s contributions to the state were notable. He was chairman of House Appropriations Committee for many years during his 20-plus years in the Legislature. He was recognized at the time as the most powerful person in the state of New Hampshire and would never take any such credit. A moderate Republican, he was more interested in getting the job done than saluting any particular ideology. However, he would have been recognized as an inherently conservative Republican, making sure that every dollar counted for the state.

Kidder’s passing came soon after his son David was elected to his first term in the New Hampshire Legislature. With the same distinctive white hair and clear eye and bright smile, David Kidder promises to continue the seamless contribution of the Kidder family to New Hampshire politics.


Also, and equally notable, was the passing of Susan McLane, well known former state senator from Concord. She recently wrote a book, “The Last Dance,” with her daughter Ann McLane Kuster, chronicling McLane’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. McLane’s passing highlighted that struggle and her many contributions.

Susan McLane was a Republican first and later a Democrat. A constant contributor to New Hampshire politics, she and her husband Malcolm were a team seeking to do good for their state. He ran as an independent for governor in 1972 after Walter Peterson was defeated by Meldrim Thompson in the GOP primary. She contributed as a legislator and ran for Congress.

Switching to the Democratic Party, she was a state senator contributing to all sorts of causes.

Among her legislative victories were her efforts to create durable power of attorney, living will and do-not-resuscitate order legislation as well as hospice laws.

Several interesting incidents come to mind when I remember Susan McLane.

Once, when she headed the House Ways and Means Committee, I, as a young lobbyist, was commenting on a bill proposed by then-Sen. Charles Bass (now Congressman Bass). Since his father lends his name to our law firm as a former partner, I refer to Senator Bass as “Charlie.” After the hearing was over, Representative McLane carefully instructed me on the diplomatic niceties, which never allowed referring to a legislator by his first name, no matter how close a friend.

On another occasion, after Senator McLane had had a hip replacement, I was representing a client on an issue opposed to that taken by the senator. She came into the hearing room on crutches. Seeing that, I offered her my seat. I later returned to my office only to have my client, then-Bishop Leo O’Neil, the bishop of Manchester, call me and say, “You are accused of being polite to Senator McLane.” I said, “Guilty.” He said, “Don’t stop.”

She often brought cookies to sub-committee meetings, charming her members to march in the same direction.

Susan McLane received great accolades at her death from such disparate commentators as the Concord Monitor and the Union Leader.

Both Bill Kidder Sr. and Susan McLane contributed greatly to New Hampshire’s political, cultural and civic life. They will be greatly missed. Their passage is more important than most of the immediate political events occurring in Concord at any particular time.

Maybe their philosophies and friendly demeanor could be instructive to those of today.

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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