Weather watcher - Meredith man honored for life’s work keeping records


MEREDITH — When Hurricane Hazel swept through White Plains, New York, in 1954, Dave Connor's father told his children to stay far from the windows. "I watched the storm through the mail slot in the front door," Connor, who was then seven recalled, "but it was exciting enough that it got me interested."

Connor began observing and keeping records of the weather as a teenager in Poughkeepsie, New York, and for the past 22 years has served as a Cooperative Weather Observer for the National Weather Service at Gray, Maine, which this week rewarded the faithfulness, accuracy and quality of his observations with a John Campanius Holm Award. The award is named for a Lutheran minister whose recorded weather observations taken at New Sweden, near Wilmington, Delaware, in 1644 and 1645 were the first taken in the North American colonies, and places Connor in select company. The honor is bestowed on not more than 25 of the nearly 9,000 Cooperative Weather Observers across the country each year.

Connor recalled taking his first records in 1961, a year of extreme in Poughkeepsie, when a blizzard dropped 31 inches of snow in January and the mercury touched 100 degrees in July. While serving in the United States Navy aboard the U.S.S. W.S. Sims, a destroyer escort based at Mayport Naval Base in Jacksonville, Florida, Connor was often consulted about weather conditions by the captain and once helped steer the ship to port past a tropical storm off the Florida coast. Meanwhile, he provided the crew with daily weather reports on closed-circuit television.

After leaving the Navy, Connor spent the next 20 years at Jacksonville Beach, where he began keeping records for the National Weather Service in 1976.

"It started as a hobby, but it grew into something that was useful to other people," he said.

As he followed Matthew, the most recent hurricane to strike the Florida coastline, he said that had he remained in Jacksonville, "The water would have come through my front door and left only the slab."

In 1990 Connor moved to New Hampshire, working with the United States Postal Service in Laconia and Lakeport and continuing to watch, record and report on the weather. Every day, he reports the high and low temperatures, along with the temperature at 11:30 p.m., the wind speed and highest gust, amount and rate of precipitation, whether rain or snow, and "anything out of the ordinary."

"He's always looking for the dramatic," said his sister, Diane Beaman of Laconia. "And I never get it," Connor added.

He explained that his home lies "in a hole," about 100 feet below the top of Coe Hill, shadowed by the Ossipee Mountains and Red Hill. "I get about 40 percent less snowfall," he continued, saying "if there is 15 inches in Laconia, there is 11 inches here, and if Tamworth and Moultonborough get 16 or 17 inches, I get 10 inches." He did say that two old field pines stood on his property before Hurricane Floyd in 1999, "but now there's only one."

In reporting weather conditions, Connor said that "I strive to be accurate rather than spectacular."

Nikki Becker, observing program leader with the National Weather Service at Gray, Maine, stressed the quality of Connor's observations was a significant factor in earning him the award. The citation reads: "For extraordinary service in reporting detailed observations of temperature, precipitation, and snow depth, for over 22 years from Meredith, New Hampshire. The National Weather Service Services regards your observations as a vital resource for wearer supply forecasts of the Merrimack River Basins."

Connor said that the past year has been overshadowed by the drought. He said he has measured 27.88 inches of rainfall since Jan. 1, 11 inches below the normal amount, while the 33 inches of snowfall last winter was half the average of 65 inches. But, he was cautiously optimistic that conditions would change. He said that La Nina conditions , the opposite of El Nino conditions, are forming in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, which generally lead the northern storm track to carry lower temperatures and heavier snowfall to the Northeast. "It could be a good year for snow," he remarked.

10-19 NOAA award

Hendricus J. Lulofs, Meterologist in Charge, of the National Weather Service at Gray, Maine, presents David Connor of Meredith with the John Campanius Holm Award in recognition of his 22 years of exemplary service as Cooperative Weather Observer. Connor was one of not more than 25 nearly 9,000 observers across the country to receive the award. (courtesy photo)

Center Harbor man rejects plea deal in case of defrauding his own father of $1M


LACONIA — A Center Harbor man charged with looting the investment accounts of his terminally ill father rejected a plea deal on Wednesday, and is now scheduled to stand trial in March.

Keith Fitzgerald, 51, of 166 Follett Road, was indicted in December 2015 on five counts of theft by unauthorized taking and one count of receiving stolen property in connection with his alleged abuse of a power of attorney granted by his father Clifford Fitzgerald Jr., who died of liver cancer at age 79 on Sept. 15, 2010.

Last fall, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office charged that Fitzgerald had shuffled money from accounts jointly titled to himself and his father, into accounts he exclusively controlled.

Fitzgerald; his attorney, Robert Hunt; and the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Jesse O'Neill, appeared in Belknap County Superior Court Wednesday morning for what was scheduled as a plea and sentencing hearing. But after the trio met in chambers with Judge Peter H. Fauver, Hunt confirmed that his client had declined the prosecutor's
offer, and is prepared to take the case to a jury.

Each of the felony charges are potentially punishable by a maximum sentence of 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison and up to a $4,000 fine upon conviction.

O'Neill, who is assigned to the Consumer Protection and Anti-Trust Bureau declined to disclose the terms of the rejected settlement, but confirmed the defendant is readying for trial.

During a July hearing, O'Neill estimated the trial would last 10 to 12 days as the case involves a series of financial transactions that took place over a three to four-month period, requiring testimony from multiple witnesses.

Fitzgerald has remained free on $10,000 personal recognizance bail on the condition he not have any contact with siblings Clifford Fitzgerald III, Hope Fitzgerald, Heather Fitzgerald or Alexandra Dodwell.

According to an affidavit filed last fall, an investigator with the New Hampshire Department of Justice alleged Fitzgerald was allegedly already accessing his father's $1.4 million in assets in May 2010, transferred $1 million to a Wells Fargo account, and then set up multiple accounts and had the portfolio summaries sent to his Center
Harbor address.

The state charges that Fitzgerald listed his father's address as 89 Tuttle Road, a vacant lot owned by Fitzgerald Investments LLC. Keith Fitzgerald is listed as a managing member of that limited liability company which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, listing $570,000 in creditor debt.

The elder Fitzgerald, who had a distinguished career in investment banking, had most recently resided in Sanibel, FL., before his death in New York, where he was undergoing treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

The curator of the estate previously won a $767,000 civil judgment against Keith Fitzgerald, after 4th Circuit Probate Court Judge Christina O'Neill ruled that the defendant breached his fiduciary duties to his father and had acted in bad faith. He was also ordered to pay $51,583.33 in attorney fees and costs.

International leaf peepers

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Phyllis, Jerusha and Jonah Kramer, residents of Costa Rica, are enjoying their second vacation in New Hampshire during the fall foliage season and are staying at Cottage Place on Squam Lake in Holderness. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Overseas tourists find NH foliage a must-see attraction


HOLDERNESS — Tourists from overseas are showing up during New Hampshire's fall foliage season in ever-increasing numbers, much to the delight of businesses like Cottage Place on Squam Lake, where owner Susan Smith says she has hosted visitors from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Russia in recent months.
Currently she's hosting a family from Costa Rica, which is making a return visit to the area. She said the foliage season is a big draw for tourists from afar, drawing as many or more than the summer does.
She's seen an upward trend in overseas tourism ever since she and her mother, Beverly Smith, purchased the 1950s era cottage colony in 2002 and refurbished the heritage property while maintaining its rustic interiors.
Phyllis Kramer of Nosara, Costa Rica, is staying at the Cottage Place with her daughter, Jerusha, and grandson, Jonah, who is 7.
Kramer, who grew up in Brooklyn, moved to Costa Rica in 2000 and said her husband, Howard, operates a coffee growing and adventure tourism business there and stayed behind in Costa Rica because he's not a fan of cold weather. "But I like the seasons I grew up with and like to come here for the fall season. This is the best place in the world for great foliage," says Kramer.
She said Jerusha, 28, and Jonah, both hold dual Costa Rican and American citizenships. While staying in Holderness, they have enjoyed visits to the Squam Lakes Science Center, hiking trails around Squam Lake, as well as dining out at the Corner House Inn in Center Sandwich and Walter's Basin Restaurant. They're also looking forward to visits to Funspot, the world's largest arcade, and attending this Saturday's New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in downtown Laconia.
Smith's experience with increased foreign tourism isn't unique.
Joe Ouellette, director of sales and marketing at Mill Falls in Meredith said, "We've had a great 2016 thus far. We've met or surpassed most of our benchmarks for the summer season. Mother Nature was very good to us here in the Lakes Region and that beautiful weather brought a steady stream of guests, both from our transient as well as our group markets. That trend is continuing into the fall. We've had tour groups from Italy, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Mexico, to name a few."
Amy Landers of the Lakes Region Tourism Association said that many member businesses are also reporting increases in foreign visitors which are booked through late October, including many people from Asia and South America,
Lorrie Harnois of Discover New England, which is based in Portsmouth, said New England had 1.25 million overseas visitors in 2005, which grew to 2.18 million by 2015. The total economic impact of those visits was estimated at $2.1 billion in 2015. She points out that those numbers do not include visitors from Canada and Mexico.
Harnois said that visitors cite shopping, sightseeing, art galleries and museums, small towns and countryside, national parks and monuments, history and culture, camping and hiking, as well as snow sports, as reasons why they visit New England.
She says that Discover New England will host a major event with international tourism groups at the Mount Washington Resort next April. She expects that 75 international tour operators and approximately 300 New England tourism industry members will attend the annual Tourism Summit and International Marketplace in April.
"We are planning to have people from the USA, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries." said Harnois. She said Discover New England will have representatives at similar events in Europe, Asia and South America next year.

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Susan Smith of Cottage Place on Squam Lake says that she is seeing more overseas visitors in recent years and in recent months has hosted tourists from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Russia. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)