Remembering the unique Robert Jolicoeur
Robert B. Jolicoeur, who died May 11 at the age of 83, was a longtime Manchester businessman — a unique individual who built a business, led a family and did it his own way.
A veteran of World War II, he served in the Navy and, returning to his native Manchester, married his wife, Lucille with whom he celebrated his 62nd wedding anniversary last month.
Jolicoeur grew up working on the family farm near the Manchester Airport. In 1956, he purchased Lafayette Beverages, a local bottling company that he expanded to include Pepsi-Cola, Seven-Up, Dr. Pepper and other brands of soft drinks, with locations throughout New Hampshire.
Fiercely loyal to his brand, Jolicoeur scorned those individuals and entities that served products from Coca-Cola in his presence.
Jolicoeur was hard-driving, hard-talking and lived life to the fullest. In our office, he was known as a client of the late William L. Phinney, also an individual with a hard-driving lifestyle. Indeed, “Phinney clients,” as they were known, all were people whose molds were thrown away after they were created, including Jolicoeur, Fred Sicotte of Auclair Transportation, jeweler Joe Jason and others.
Jolicoeur sold his business back to Pepsi-Cola in 1986 for a handsome profit. However, his accomplishments did not end with the sale. His charitable contributions were significant. An early supporter of what was then known as the Easter Seal Society of New Hampshire (now Easter Seals New Hampshire), he began working with it in 1962 and chaired campaigns in 1963, 1975, 1980 and 1991, when his lead gift and encouragement led to the successful completion of the new Easter Seal Lodge at the Hidden Valley Boy Scout Reservation in Gilmanton.
He was elected to the national Easter Seals Board as New Hampshire’s first representative. The Robert B. Jolicoeur School bears his name and continues to serve Easter Seals New Hampshire clients in two locations in Manchester.
Jolicoeur was named Philanthropist of the Year by national Easter Seals in 1992 and, typically, hosted a wonderful dinner at the best steakhouse in Tampa, paying for the event and inviting his friends from New Hampshire, Florida and national Easter Seals to enjoy great steaks and fine wine with him.
Locally, he chaired a major capital campaign for Catholic Medical Center along with sons Dennis and Marc and was generous to many other causes, including the YMCA, Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Boys and Girls Club. He received an honorary degree from Notre Dame College and was named Distinguished Citizen by the Daniel Webster Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
At his death, he lived in Bentley Village, a community in Naples, Florida that is also the home to other retired New Hampshirites.
He was one of a kind and we will not see his like again as he was from an era of distinguished, hard-driving and blunt entrepreneurs who were individualists.
On a lighter note, it has been graduation time in New Hampshire and across the country. New Hampshire institutions are graduating 15,000 professional, graduate and undergraduate students, which is a mixed blessing, for with each diploma an institution of higher learning loses a customer!
Commencement speakers include former Gov. Walter Peterson at Chester College of New England (he also was the first graduation speaker at the first Chester College, then White Pines College, commencement 40 years ago), author Louise Erdrich at Dartmouth, UNH President Mark Huddleston at Great Bay Community College, Michael Blastos, former Keene mayor, and Lew Feldstein, president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, at Keene State College, Sister Carol Descouteaux, former president of Notre Dame College at Manchester Community College, Delfeayo Marsalis, the jazz trombonist and producer, at New England College, Plymouth State University graduate Fritz Wetherbee at Plymouth State University and at Rivier College, Hypertherm Inc. Vice President Barbara Couch at River Valley Community College, Lawrence Cunningham, Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame at St. Anselm College, Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christiansen at Southern New Hampshire University, Stonyfield Farms President Gary Hirshberg at UNH and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at White Mountains Community College.
These speakers promise to be interesting but it is the graduates receiving the degrees who are the stars of the show and deserve our congratulations and encouragement in this time of economic uncertainty and a sour job market.
On a personal note, Thomas B. Cook, our last undergraduate, was graduated from Bowdoin College on May 23, to the immense pride of his family.
Brad Cook is a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.