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PSU receives gift of more than 200 letters written from WWII sailor to his sister, a student at Plymouth

PLYMOUTH — A collection of more than 200 letters mailed by an Ossipee, N.H. sailor to his sister attending Plymouth Teachers College (PTC) during World War II has been donated to Plymouth State University.

The sailor, Edgar Eldredge, was stationed aboard the USS Rankin; he faithfully mailed letters detailing life in the Pacific Theatre to his sister Fran, an education major at Plymouth. The correspondence was donated to the University by Louis "Skip" Sander, Executive Director of the USS Rankin Association, an organization established to preserve the memory of the Rankin. The letters offer a fascinating glimpse of life aboard a ship during wartime, as well as a New Hampshire college town thousands of miles away.

"This collection is really a treasure, it is a snapshot of what they were doing, what was life was like on campus in the early 1940s," said Plymouth State archivist Alice Staples. "Then there's the larger picture, World War II, and what was going on; we don't often get to understand what life was like in history-making times like that."

Sander collects memorabilia about the Rankin and acquired the letters earlier this year through on online auction. When he started reading the letters, he was fascinated.

"It was like a book you couldn't put down...it's the diary of the life of a simple, country kid from New Hampshire; every two or three days this guy wrote a letter to his sister–that's familial devotion," Sander said. "There was lot in his correspondence about what was going on back home; he was interested in his grandfather's activities, like selling bait at Lake Winnipesaukee, or the arrival of a new puppy. But he was really devoted to his sister, a real tight-knit family communicating with each other."

After researching the names and addresses on the letters, Sander, a Pittsburgh resident, contacted Staples and offered the University the collection.

"All of these letters were addressed to Plymouth Teachers College," Sander noted. "Donating them just seemed like an obvious thing to do, so I contacted Alice Staples and she agreed."

The letters, written in longhand on US Navy stationery, cover the years 1944-46. Eldredge was a deck seaman aboard the Rankin. His letters detail his activities as the ship went through training in amphibious operations, passed through the Panama Canal, and moved to the Pacific Theatre. Ultimately, the Rankin participated in the latter stages of the Battle of Okinawa. Edgar was in the Pacific when the U.S. used the atom bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In writing home in August, 1945, he optimistically hoped for hostilities to cease.

Sander said Eldredge was discharged in mid-1946, and in his last letter he expressed hope that he would be home in time for his sister's graduation from PTC in May, 1946. Sander believes he made it in time.

"After he returned home, Eldredge went to trade school, learning about heating and plumbing systems, and he worked for a Moultonborough hardware store for many years," Sander said. "Edgar eventually married one of Fran's classmates, Norma Moulton, and their daughter, Susan, graduated from Plymouth State in 1974."

Both Eldredge and his sister Fran are deceased. Plymouth State University is transcribing the letters and will make them available to the public when that project is completed.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 November 2014 12:31

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Campaign to preserve Mount Major reaches goal

CONCORD — Nearly 2,000 fans of Mount Major donated to a fundraising campaign to buy land on and near the popular hiking destination, lifting the campaign to its $1.8 million goal.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition have successfully raised the money needed to purchase and protect four key properties — 980 acres — on Mont Major and other parts of the Belknap Range,  southwest of Lake Winnipesaukee. The Everybody Hikes Mount Major campaign has resulted in the purchase of three separate properties on Mount Major, East Quarry and Piper mountains, all in Alton and Gilford. The acquisition of a fourth tract, near the Mount Major trailhead, is in the final stages.

The campaign received more than 1,900 gifts ranging from $2 to $340,000. Gifts came in from 31 states, from as far away as Hawaii, Arizona and Oregon. More than 25 volunteers rolled up their sleeves to provide campaign information to hikers and to collect contributions at the Mt. Major trailhead.

"People have been telling us throughout this campaign how much they love hiking in the Belknaps, especially to the top of Mt. Major, and seeing the spectacular view of Lake Winnipesaukee," said Jane Difley, Forest Society president and forester. "We are grateful to all of the donors and volunteers who made it possible for us and our partners to help to preserve access for hikers as well as to conserve the forests, wetlands and streams on these properties -- for people and for wildlife."

"The Belknap Range, and particularly Mt. Major, has long been a treasured natural, recreational, and scenic resource enjoyed year-round by Lakes Region residents and visitors alike," said Don Berry, LRCT president. "We greatly appreciate the hard work and generosity of everyone involved in this project, which have made possible the protection of these key parcels and their important trails and natural resources, and which lay the foundation for future conservation successes in the Belknap Range."

Many foundations and government agencies supported the campaign. The Steinwachs Family Foundation provided a leadership gift, and a new trailhead on the Quarry Mountain parcel will be named in the family's honor. Other funders include the N.H. Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), the towns of Alton and Gilford, the Open Space Institute Land Trust Inc.'s Resilient Landscapes Initiative, made possible by a lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Bafflin Foundation, the S.L. Gimbel Foundation, Paul and Sandra Montrone, three anonymous family foundations, the N.H. State Conservation Committee's "Moose Plate" Program, the N.H. Electric Co-op Foundation, NHCF Wolfeboro Fund, Samuel P. Pardoe Foundation, the William Wharton Trust, and Bank of New Hampshire.

"Mt. Major and the Belknaps make up a beloved landscape – the backdrop of Lake Winnipesaukee -- and we are excited to be working in partnership with the Lakes Region conservation community to protect it," Difley said.

"The Belknaps, along with the Ossipee Mountains and Red Hill, form the natural setting for Lake Winnipesaukee. Protecting these uplands has been an important priority for many years," Berry said.

The popularity of Mount Major's trails has left them degraded by overuse, so the Forest Society has formed a stewardship fund to repair and maintain them. Anyone wishing to help can find more information at www.forestsocety.org.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 November 2014 12:17

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Boys & Girls Club craft fair is on Nov. 15

LACONIA — The 2nd annual Craft Fair and Bake Sale to be held by the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region will take place on Saturday, November 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The fair will feature several local artists and crafters from the Lakes Region and beyond, as well as items crafted and baked by local Club Members. The fair also acts as a fundraiser to support Club programming, as staff work to build new opportunities for youth and provide affordable memberships to families in need of after-school activities.

The Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region moved to their permanent home in the former St. James Episcopal Church building on North Main Street in June 2013, where they serve school-aged youth in Kindergarten through Twelfth grade. As a leading advocate for youth, they are committed to ensuring that every child has access to a safe place after school and during the summer where they can build the knowledge, skills and behaviors to put them on the right path. This will be the first year that the craft fair will be held in their new home following last year's vandalism, which caused major structural damage to the facility, relocation of the craft fair, and displaced programming for several weeks.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 November 2014 10:52

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Greater Meredith Program installs new board members

MEREDITH — The Greater Meredith Program recently elected Bob Manley and Steve Durand to its Board of Directors.

A graduate of the California Institute of Arts, Bob Manley, worked in human services as the residential director at Lakes Region Community Services. From 2000 to 2010 he pursued new directions in antiques, photography and advertising. Since 2010 he has worked with his partners to grow Hermit Woods Winery from a small winery located in his home to the thriving business it is today located on 72 Main St. in Meredith. Manley and his wife reside in Meredith

Steve Durand, a Lakes Region native, attended Inter-Lakes High School and graduated from Laconia Academy in 1981. After attending NH Community Technical College, he worked in construction spending the last 16 years as a construction sales specialist at Waste Management. Active in the community, he has coached Meredith Youth Sports, served on the Meredith Zoning Board of Adjustment and is a member of the Meredith Fire Department. He is a member of the Wicwas Lake Grange and is also an active member of Meredith's 250th Celebration Committee. Durand and his wife, Dawn, live in Meredith.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 November 2014 10:48

Hits: 390

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