Cook On Concord: Remembering two ‘distinguished ladies’

Former Manchester Mayor Robert A. Baines was named Citizen of the Year by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce last month at an annual dinner that celebrated the diversity of residents in the state’s largest city.

Citizens of the Year are recognized for things they do outside of their jobs, and Baines, longtime high school principal and mayor, was recognized for going the extra mile in helping to establish the Arthur Mirabile Scholarship at the University of New Hampshire in honor of his music teacher at Manchester Memorial High School — who inspired Baines to go to college — helping to save the Palace Theater, being the guiding force behind improvements to Manchester schools, being a friend to refugees and other new city residents, and raising vital funds to keep both the New Horizons Food Soup Kitchen and Angie’s Shelter open.

Baines accepted the award in the presence of his extended family at the time that his sister, Shirley Brulotte, lay in the Elliot Hospital in the final stages of a courageous battle with cancer. Brulotte, one of the Baines siblings — who are close, loyal and devoted — was a key player in Baines’ mayoral campaigns. Also a local businesswoman, she ran a flower shop and was in other businesses for many years.

Those who know the Baines family know how important each member is and how Shirley was the “enforcer” of family loyalty.

Both the family and Manchester will miss her after her death on Feb. 21.


Also in the “distinguished lady” category, a recent UNH Alumni magazine noted the death of former President John McConnell’s widow, Harriet, who died last year at her retirement home in Trumansburg, New York. Well into her 90s, Harriet McConnell was a leader, vital force and great supporter of her husband and the university during his presidency from 1963 to 1971, a turbulent period of time.

Although she hated it, she was remembered by many for her effort to raise the American flag in front of Thompson Hall when a group of students took it down in a war protest in the late ‘60s. Taking the flag that had been on her father’s casket, she crossed the street from the president’s house and raised the flag. None of the students dared interfere. She did it because she thought it was the right thing to do, even though those who knew her believed she was more sympathetic with the protestors’ views than with the war.

The Manchester Union Leader editorialized about the event with great praise for “Barbara Fritchie McConnell,” quoting the words from the poem of the same name, “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag, she said.”

This praise from that newspaper and the memory of it in so many people’s minds was not one of Harriet McConnell’s favorite circumstances.

A great lady, her death was a great loss to her adopted UNH Class of 1971, the university community and all who knew her. She came a long way to Durham from her birth in China. The daughter of a missionary, she was a student at American University in Cairo when she met a young instructor named John W. McConnell and supported him as his partner for the rest of their lives, inspiring and supporting generations of students at Cornell and UNH in the process.

Those who knew her never doubted that the welcome mat was out at her home if they came by.


Speaking of UNH, recent news of cuts in sports teams to save a half a million dollars have raised questions in a lot of peoples’ minds.

As the father of a student on a Nordic ski team at another college that competes with UNH, I have witnessed firsthand the UNH team and its enthusiasm, support and participation. To cut that sport deeply, as well as men’s swimming, women’s crew and other athletic activities that give such meaning to close to 100 students, seems curious. One of the best experiences for students is to be in a close, vigorous, competitive team environment where there is focus, especially for those students in a large institution.

To cut these sports seems to be counter-intuitive for an educational institution that seeks to provide meaningful experiences to as many students as possible. Frankly, to many alumni like me, spending less on football, if that sport is necessary or cost-effective at all, in order to preserve a meaningful team sports experience for more students would be a better choice. Maybe this decision can be rethought. nhbr

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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