Published Date Written by Adam DrapchoLACONIA — Jim and Pat Chase came to Laconia as newlyweds from Massachusetts who were attracted by the opportunity to employ their recently-acquired teaching degrees. They ended up with more than just the jobs they signed up for, though. In addition to spending their career years in the Laconia School District, the Chases found a city in which they chose to raise their children and a community into which their lives became inextricably entwined.
Pat has been retired since 2011, having worked for 33 years in city schools.
Jim, who has served as the athletic director and dean of students at Laconia High School for the past decade, has announced his intention to retire at the end of this school year, concluding 35 years of service in Laconia schools.
Though they'll both be officially retired, the Chases will still be seen on campus. Pat has been contracted by the school district as a mentor to first-year teachers, while Jim plans to continue officiating basketball games.
Between the two of them, Jim and Pat have provided 68 years of service to Laconia's schools, touching the lives of thousands of students along the way. In the summer of 1978, though, they were just a couple of recent graduates from Westfield State College (now Westfield State University), and even more recent newlyweds, looking for a job.
Both of the Chases are Massachusetts natives — Jim is from Winchester, while Pat grew up in Wareham — but the job market for teachers was stronger in New Hampshire at the time, so, as Jim recalled, they "papered the state" with resumes. Laconia was their pick for the simple reason that it was the first place to offer them a position.
"A job brought us here, we created a great place to raise our kids," said Pat.
"Once we got here, we realized the great things in the area," added Jim.
Said Pat, "We never wanted to leave."
The two were both initially hired to be elementary teachers. Over her career of three-plus decades, Pat taught first through fourth grades, spending years in all three of the city's elementary schools, and also worked as a special education teacher. She also served as the advisor of the high school color guard and volunteered for the marching band.
Jim's teaching career saw him in first, second, fourth and fifth grade classrooms. He was at Elm Street School for his first year and for the next 22 he was at Pleasant Street School. He filled in as interim principal of Elm Street during the 2001-2002 school year, and since then he's filled his administrative role at the high school. Like Pat, though, he wasn't content to quit with the dismissal bell each day. He volunteered his time with local Little League and youth soccer organizations, spending about a dozen years coaching and 28 and counting as an official.
Although Jim and Pat had initially moved to Belmont, by the time their children Jeff and Kathryn were nearing school age, the family moved to a home in Lakeport so that their children would be able to attend school with them. Said Pat, "That was a priority at the time, we knew the teachers and everyone here, it was a good community."
Pat and Jim made an effort to give young Jeff and Kathryn their space during their school years. For example, Kathryn was in high school when Jim was offered the athletic director/dean of students position. He asked his daughter's permission before accepting. "I said, as long as you don't go to my prom," she recalled. He obliged, though he's been to every Laconia High School prom since.
Kathryn went to the University of Connecticut after graduating from Laconia High School in 2004. Recently married to Matt Zadrowski, she resides in Tolland, Conn. and is studying to become a guidance counselor.
Owing to the small-town nature of the community, Jeff said he couldn't go anywhere without everyone knowing he was Pat and Jim's boy. "We couldn't get away with anything," he said. Jeff jaywalked across a city street one day on his way home, where he arrived to find that his mother had already been informed of his rare transgression. Jeff graduated from LHS in 2000, matriculated to the University of Maryland and then the University of Connecticut School of Law. He and his wife Jess live in Hartford, Conn., where he practices law.
While Jeff and Jess were still at home, the Chases took advantage of their coinciding vacations, towing a pop-up camper all over the country. Traveling is something Jim and Pat look forward to during their mutual retirement, they're thinking about upgrading their camper. However, Pat promised that she and Jim would remain active in the community and the schools.
"It's tough to get rid of the Chases," she said.
CAPTION for Chase Family in AA:
Jim Chase, athletic director and dean of students at Laconia High School, announced that he would be joining his wife Pat in retirement at the end of this school year. Between the two of them, they have provided 68 years of service to the Laconia School District. From left, Matt and Kathryn Zadrowski, Jim and Pat, and Jess and Jeff Chase. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)