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Belmont widow receives husband's Korean War medals

BELMONT — When Betty's Brown uncle passed away in September, she thought a cedar shadow box commemorating his military service would help ease the pain felt by her grieving aunt Grace Brooks.

With his burial flag in hand, Brown called her aunt and asked for her uncle's service medals, but her aunt didn't know where they were. She said all she could find was one old medal.

Undeterred, Brown said she called the one person she knew could help her get Robert J. Brooks Sr.'s medals — Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

"She's the best person," said Brown of Ossipee. "She knows how to get things done."

Brown's thoughtful gift and her efforts lead to a special visit yesterday from Shea-Porter, who came to Belmont Town Hall to present Grace Brooks with the three medals earned by Robert J. Brooks Sr. while serving with the U.S. Army in the Korean War.

During his service, Brooks earned the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, and the United Nations Medal. He also earned three battle stars during his year of active duty.

Brooks returned from Korea and went to work at the Laconia Shoe Company — where he met Grace — his bride for 56 years.

"We dated for five years," said Grace Brooks, who said her favorite memory of her husband was his fishing trips when he went in search of "Walter" — the big fish who always managed to get away.

She said her late husband was a quiet but funny man who was a licensed CB operator who especially loved being outdoors.

Shea Porter, who serves on the Armed Services Committee and is the daughter of a WWII veteran, said she was in Belmont to thank Grace, her husband and all of the veterans who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

She said South Korea's prosperity today can in part be credited to the sacrifices and military service of people like Grace's late husband.

In return, Grace made Shea-Porter a loaf of her home-made banana bread — one of her late husband's favorite things to eat.


CAPTION (Carol Shea Porter) Services medals were presented yesterday to the widow of Robert J. Brooks Sr. in conference room of the Belmont Town Hall yesterday. Form left to right are Susan Cutler (Brooks's daughter), Grace Brooks, Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter, and Congressional Aid Olga Clough. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 03:25

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Woman accused of cutting man & smashing his car window

LACONIA — City police arrested a Court Street woman yesterday morning for allegedly cutting a man with a steak knife and using a rock to smash his car window.

Police said Myranda Clifton, 29, of 240 Court St. was charged with one count of second-degree assault and one count of criminal mischief.

Clifton was held on initially held on $2,000 cash bail and was able to post it yesterday afternoon.

Police said the male victim sustained a minor cut on one of his arms and his car window was smashed.





Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 03:14

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Football players hope Belmont will have co-op team by time they get to high school

BELMONT — The Friends of Belmont Football, a group of parents who joined together two years ago in an effort to find a way for their sons to be able to play football at the high school level, are stepping up to the plate in an effort to make that happen.
Boys from Belmont are able to play in the Gilford Youth Football league, as well as Laconia Youth Football, but are without a team when they reach high school.
''We're concentrating on it. We're out raising money so that we can fund our portion of the program in a cooperative football team,'' says Eric Shirley, who is the president of the non-profit organization which has been formed to support that effort.
He said that the group is in ''a full fundraising mode'' and is planning to sell Christmas trees at the Gates Farm on Rte. 106 and will hold 50-50 raffles and sell calendars. It has applied for a non-profit status with the IRS, a status which it hopes it will soon achieve.
Shirley said that donations are being sought from businesses and individuals and that one fundraiser is already underway at the Belmont Village Store, where proceeds from the sale of 99 cent breakfast sandwiches are being donated to the drive.
''There are a lot of young people already active in youth football programs in other communities and we feel an obligation to get them a place to play,'' says Shirley.
The group has met with the Shaker School Board, which has undertaken discussions with the Gilford School Board about a joint effort, and Shirley says that in order for that to be considered the Friends group will have to demonstrate that it is financially viable.

Shirley, who grew up in Lynn, Mass. and played football in college, credits the sport and his coaches for helping shape his character. Now, as a father and state trooper, he sees football as a positive outlet for boys, a way for them to expend the energy and aggression that marks teenage years. "That needs to be channeled in productive ways."
His son, Nate, 11, plays in the Gilford Youth Football League, one of about a half dozen Belmont students playing for Gilford's Snowbelt League team.
Shirley said his son loves football and wants to play able to play it alt the high school level. But that's years away and there's a more urgent matter for the group, finding a high school that will form a cooperative team with Belmont High School which will allow a number of talented eighth graders currently playing for the Gilford Silver Hawks to continue to play football.
''We want to find a way to make it happen by next year,'' says Mark Forgione, whose son Mark Jr. plays for the Silver Hawks.
Forgione says that for years the Gilford and Shaker school districts have fielded a cooperative Belmont-Gilford ice hockey team that plays out of the Laconia Ice Arena.
''That's our model and we'll work with any school district that will work with us to make it happen,'' says Forgione. ''We're pretty passionate about it and at this point we want to make more people aware of what we're hoping to achieve.''
Forgione's son, Mark, an eighth grader who is in his first year of playing football, says ''It's nothing like I've ever done before. It's a whole new experience and I don't want to see all the talent we have on this team to go to waste.''
Another who could find himself without a place to play next year is 14-year-old Brandon Scheffer, who last year played on Gilford's undefeated team which won the championship by a 48-0 score and which this year has a 7-1 record and will host Kearsarge Saturday morning at 9 in championship semifinal game.
Scheffer, a defensive end and an offensive tackle, says ''I don't really care where we go. I just really enjoy playing football and want to continue.''
Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith and Moultonborough Academy currently have the only cooperative high school football team in the Lakes Region.



Dillon Gansert, Tanner Wood, Nate Shirley, Brandon Scheffer and Mark Forgione, football players from Belmont, have been playing football in the Gilford but have no have no high school program to move into next year. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 03:09

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Brenda Baer says this next term on council will be her last

LACONIA — City Councilor Brenda Baer, who is running without an opponent for her fifth consecutive term in Ward 4, confirmed yesterday that her next term will be her last. "Absolutely, positively," she said, "unless they find a cure for old age. You can't go on forever." She had made an offhand remark to the same effect the night before at the Belknap Mill where she was among the handful at the mayoral debate.

Baer, who is 87, said that she has undergone four surgeries in the last three years and insists while "everything is fine" concedes "it take something out of you."

Baer's tenure on the City Council has taken her full circle, turning on her relationship with the School Board and its supporters as the city invested some $40 million in building a new middle school and making major improvements to the Huot Technical Center and Laconia High School.

After losing her first bid for City Council to incumbent Jim Cowan by just 22 votes in 2003, two years later Baer was among the six candidates running in opposition to the proposed property tax cap and in support of the public schools. The slate of candidates was endorsed by "Laconians for Sensible Government," which mounted a well financed advertising campaign on their behalf. With Cowan eliminated in the primary, Baer carried Ward 4 by 14 votes over conservative Mike Verhoeks.

Baer backed construction of the new middle school in 2006, but soon displayed her independence by casting the lone vote against the budget in 2007 when she failed to persuade her colleagues to provide adequate funding for public transportation for seniors. At the same time, in a show of solidarity, she was among the five councilors seeking re-election to file together before the cameras at City Hall.

Although all were re-elected, in 2008, when the School Board sought funding to rebuild the Huot Regional Technical Educaiton Center, the council split, with Baer joining the block of four who withheld funding for the project. When she ran for re-election in 2009 she met with opposition from the same forces that carried her to office four years before. Mike Seymour and Marge Kerns, both of whom had chaired the School Board, ran for mayor and city council in Ward 1 respectively while Mayor Matt Lahey stepped down to run for the council seat in Ward 2 and Jack Terrill challenged Baer in Ward 4.

Shortly after the incumbent councilors again filed for re-election en masse, Baer, in a letter to the local newspapers, warned against the move by the School Board to take over city government. "Once they get in," she wrote, "you will never balance the budget and the school's spending will continue to skyrocket and you will have a new high school whether you can afford it or not." She said that she retired her debt to her former allies with the construction of the middle school. On the eve of the election Baer hosted a "Celebration of Solidarity," excluding Kerns and Terrill from those invited. Lahey called her rally "an exclusionary and divisive sideshow" and endorsed Terrill.

Baer edged Terrill by six votes to win a third term and was the lone dissenter when the council ultimately authorized funding for the renovation and expansion of the Huot Center. When Terrill challenged her again in 2011, Baer stretched her margin of victory to 110 votes.

Last year, as the council wrapped the $16.8 million financing package for the high school project by approving a borrowing of $1 million, Mayor Seymour recognized Baer, who remarked "Scrooge is up." She recalled that the budget for the project had swelled from $10 million when the council first approved it to more than $16 million and said that she initially opposed it. However, when the district was offered an interest-free loan of $6.5 million, she voted to accept it on the understanding that the funds would be spent on the Huot Center and high school. But, she said that since some $3 million was being spent on the football field, she would vote against any further borrowing.

And last week, when the School District sought the council's approval to accept a second interest-free loan, this time of $1.28 million to install a sprinkler system and air handlers at the high school, Baer again balked. She said that there was enough money to address these and other life-safety issues, but the School Board and City Council chose to spend on the playing fields.

"I've evolved," Baer acknowledged, describing her time on the council as "a learning curve." Initially opposed to the tax cap, she declared "thank God it's been in place. It has kept us from spending beyond our means."

"I've always been for the schools and I'm still for the schools," she insisted. "But, basically it's the money thing that gets to me."
The next to oldest of 14 children, Baer was raised in the midst of the Great Depression in Springfield, Massachusetts, where she said her father practiced law and her mother "ran back and forth to the hospital." She recalled that her father bartered his legal services, representing clients in return for necessities. "You didn't have anything," she said. "But there was always plenty and what you didn't have, you didn't miss."

After graduating from high school at 16, Baer went through a succession of jobs before becoming a secretary at the Indian Motorcycle factory, where she worked for Fritzie Baer in sales and marketing. She married his son, Bob, whom she met after he returned from racing motorcycles in Florida. In the 1950s, Fritzie became the manager of what was then the Belknap Mountain Recreation Area and is now Gunstock.

"Bob went to work with his father and we moved to Laconia," Baer said. "I arrived on New Year's Eve, 1956, right on the stroke of midnight." All three of the Baers worked at Gunstock until they were let go when the resort underwent a major reorganization and restructuring in the 1960s. The Baers remained in Laconia, sending their four children through the public schools. Brenda spent 10 years at Lakes Region General Hospital and also worked at the Laconia Clinic and Franklin Regional Hospital before retiring. A three sport athlete in high school, Baer has been an avid golfer well into her 80s.

Baer said that "maybe with two years to think about it, somebody will step out and run for seat."

Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 02:57

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