Published DateBRISTOL — Nearly 300 people gathered at the high school here Saturday to honor the life and career of Dr. Marie Ross, an award-winning educator whose trademark signature was her "Be Kind" license plate, which, for most of those assembled to pay tribute to her, summed up what kind of person she was, what her true character was and what her goals were in life.
Ross, 58, had served as superintendent of schools in the Newfound Area School District since the fall of 2005 until she suffered what was an apparent stroke in late September while visiting with family members in Maryland. She appeared to be recovering when it was found that she had terminal cancer and she died on January 12.
Awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and the N.H. Elementary Science Teacher of the Year, Ross raised four children and was a stay-at-home-mom before before beginning her teaching career in the late 1980s at Grace Christian School in Merrimack as an elementary school math and science teacher. She would later teach in public schools in Merrimack and Nashua before becoming a school administrator and was assistant superintendent of schools in Laconia from 2002-2005 before becoming superintendent in the seven-town Newfound District.
Her tenure there came during tumultuous times in the school district, which culminated last year with a $2 million, 10 percentcut in the district's operating budget and the district becoming the first in the state to adopt a property tax cap. She had been interviewed for the superintendency of the neighboring Inter-Lakes School District in April of last year and was one of two finalists for that position.
Pastor Scott Mitchell of the New Hampton Community Church, which Ross attended, said that she had had ''a profound impact on our lives and this community'' and accomplished that through ''a fantastic display of love and caring.''
Newfound High School Assistant Principal Paul Hoiriis, said that she had profoundly touched his life through the confidence she had shown in him and read from a letter he had sent to her on Nov. 25 last year, which she had requested that he read at her memorial service and in which he had written ''you are one of my heroes.''
"Not many people can say they had 1,500 students and she knows all of them by their first name," said Hoiriis.
Eric Chase, principal at Newfound Memorial Middle School, likened Ross to ''the big sister I had never had'' and joked that she had smacked him on the top of his bald head when he had tried to tell her that but had mistakenly said ''mother'' instead of ''sister.''
Chase also said that she was ''the caretaker of everyone that she ever met and passionate about a life that makes a difference.''
He said that the superintendent's role often puts that person in the forefront of controversies, making them targets for people who viewed them ''much like a dog regards a fire hydrant'' and that had happened in the school district in recent years.
He said there was ''lingering resentment over the way she was treated. But if she could forgive the dart throwers, as she would, then we should follow her example.''
Chase said that he had at first been skeptical when he saw Ross's ''Be Kind'' license plate but grew to realize that was who she truly was.
"That phrase preceded her by seven feet everywhere she went. For Marie, 'Be Kind' was core, not artifice,'' said Chase.
Tears flowed freely throughout the ceremony and boxes of facial tissues were distributed throughout the audience.
Family members spoke at the ceremony, including her daughter Erin Watson who said her mother ''wanted there to be lots of hugs and lots and lots of food at the remembrance ceremony."
Another daughter Marina MacDonald, said that family members, after discovering that her illness was terminal, asked is there was one special wish that she had and Ross said she wanted to buy three pianos for her grandchildren.
''She said she wanted to watch them play from heaven,'' said MacDonald.
Nearly 300 people attended a ceremony at Newfound Regional High School Saturday honoring former School Superintendent Dr. Marie Ross. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Newfound High School Assistant Principal Paul Hoiriis, right, fights back tears at a ceremony at Newfound Regional High School Saturday honoring former School Superintendent Dr. Marie Ross. With him are Eric Chase, Newfound Memorial Middle School principal, and Andrea Chase. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)