LACONIA — Esther Peters, the local broadcasting pioneer who died last Sunday at the Belknap County Nursing Home at the age of 98, is remembered by her friends and family as an incredibly positive woman who always had a kind word for everyone and was deeply engaged in her local community.
In 2005 the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce recognized her achievements by naming her the recipient of the prestigious James R. Irwin Award for community service.
''My mother really found herself after she moved here in the early 1950s. She loved Laconia and Gilford and all of the Lakes Region and in the end the people here loved her back,'' says her daughter Anne Oehlschlaeger.
Peters arrived in the Lakes Region in the summer of 1953 as a the divorced mother of two children and thrived on being in the public's eye once she arrived. It didn't take her long to attract attention and she was discovered by Art ''Roxie'' Rothafel of radio station WLNH at a party where he heard her voice and he told her she could do well on radio.
The only available job was bookkeeping, but, after the station's regular woman's show hostess fell ill, Esther filled in and soon took over the show.
Broadcasting "Around Town" from the curved front window of Woolworth's store on Main Street, Peters played records, talked with passerby's and interviewed people. Her studio interviews in the WLNH studio in the Masonic Temple building included Dwight Eisenhower, Rose Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Over the years she interviewed many of the stars who appeared at the Gilford Playhouse, including Paul Newman and Tallulah Bankhead.
She scooped other reporters by interviewing Newman in the car which picked him up at the Laconia Airport and said that her favorite interview was Tallulah Bankhead, who talked for a half hour without stopping.
Oehlschlaeger said that her mother would frequently have to drive in snowstorms from Cotton Hill Road in Gilford to the WLNH studio in downtown Laconia and was proud of the fact that she could put on tire chains in eight minutes. ''It was quite a trick getting down Cotton Hill Road during the winter'' her daughter recalls.
Dorothy Duffy, who worked Peters for about 10 years producing the "Now and Then' show for Lakes Region Public Access television, said that she still recalls Peters' distinctive voice from the early 1950s radio show and always held her in high esteem.
''She was non-abrasive and was famous for driving her convertible around town. She kept doing the the LRPA show until she was 95, which is really a remarkable achievement,'' says Duffy.
Peters worked for WLNH from 1973 to 1978 and was a member of numerous community organizations, including The Belknap Mill Society of Laconia and Lakes Region Clean Waters Association, both of which she helped form, as well as the Laconia Historical Society, Laconia Chamber of Commerce, Laconia B.P.W. and Altrusa Clubs, Laconia and Lakeport Women's Clubs, Opechee Garden Club, Salvation Army, Genesis ( Lakes Region Mental Health), Thompson Ames Historical Society, Gilford Library, Gilford School Board P.T.A., Gilford Conservation Commission, Laconia Conservation Commission, volunteered for Lakes Region Conservation Trust, Lakes Region United Way, preservation of the Rowe House, V.F.W. Post 1670 Ladies Auxiliary, Boy Scouts of America and the Gilmanton Garden Club.
She was a member of the St. James Episcopal Church of Laconia served as a lay reader, vestry member, Sr. Warden and Sunday school teacher.
A Memorial Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 11 a.m. at the St. James Episcopal Church in the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church location at 2238 Parade Rd. Laconia, The Pastor Rev. Tobias Nyatsambo will officiate.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial donations be made to the Lakes Region Scholarship Foundation PO Box 7312 Gilford, NH 03247-7312.
CAPTION: Esther at Taylor Home (Adam Drapcho photo)