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Large crowd gathers at Veterans Square for Laconia's observance of Memorial Day

LACONIA — Memorial Day is more than a just a three-day weekend of ''beaches, picnics and auto races'' Wilkins-Smith Post #1 American Legion commander Ray Peavey told an audience gathered Monday at Veterans Square for a Memorial Day ceremony.
After noting that over a million Americans have sacrificed their lives for their country since the American Revolution, Peavey said ''Our fallen heroes are not just statistics. They were real people from real families who lived in real communities. We must honor their families for lives that were lost too early. We need to be there for those families, to give them a shoulder to cry on and let them know that their loved ones' sacrifices will not be forgotten.''
Peavey said that the observance in honor of those who died in war was known as Decoration Day until World War II ended and traces its roots to the Civil War and its aftermath, noting that one of the fist observances was held in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1. 1865 and saw free slaves and union soldiers marching together and placing flowers on the graves of union soldiers who had died in a prisoner of war camp.
He said that an empty seat at the dinner table serves as a daily reminder to those who have lost a loved one win of the sacrifice the family has made as said that the American Legion has always shown its unwavering support ''to preserve the memories and incidents of our associates in the Great Wars.''
Valerie Johnstone of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #1670 Women's Auxiliary said that the day has always held a special significance for her.
''My dad fought in World War II and I had two uncles who fought in Korea. One was held as POW and the other lost his life there. That opened my eyes to the meaning of this day.'' said Johnstone.
She said that he sacrifice her uncle made can never be repaid and that celebrating Memorial Day is ''a promise we must keep, a promise to our fallen.''
Mayor Ed Engler thanked both veterans organizations for keeping the tradition of a Memorial Day parade and ceremonies alive and noted that a memorial near the flagpole at the library contains the names of 600 from Laconia who served in ''The War to End All Wars".
He said that during World War I some 4 million Americans, 2.5 million of whom were drafted, took part in the conflict with 53,400 killed in combat and 43,000 claimed by disease.
Among the war dead were 17 from Laconia, including brothers Guy H. Blackstone and Herbert W. Blackstone, both of whom were still in heir teens.
The new traffic circle at Weirs Beach was dedicated to their memory a year ago.
VFW Post Commander Bill North, who served as master of ceremonies at the observance, told of the history of the "Buddy Poppy" and its significance as a symbol of the blood shed by Ameican troops.
He thanked all of those who turned out for the parade and ceremony for their support of veterans and keeping alive the memory of their sacrifices.

Captions for pix slugged 15memorialday
American Legion Post #1 Commander Ray Peavey and VFW Post 1670 Commander Bill North lead marchers in Laconia's Memorial Day parade. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Two year-old Noah Durgin of Laconia waves an American flag during Laconia's Memorial Day parade.
(Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

American Legion Post #1 Commander Ray Peavey speaks at Memorial Day ceremonies at Veterans Square in Laconia. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Honor guard members fire a rifle volley during Memorial Day ceremonies at Veterans Square in Laconia. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:36

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Bob Valpey's 1931 Studebaker briefly led the Indy 500

CENTER HARBOR — Bob Valpey owns a bit of Indy 500 history in the form of a 1931 Studebaker, originally known as the Hunt-Jenkins Special, which was briefly in first place in the 1931 race and would later go on to set a record that same year in the Pike's Peak Hill Climb
It is one of many rare vintage cars owned by Valpey and occupies a special place in his collection, as he says one the first cars he ever owned was a 1955 Studebaker.
He recalls that when he was 14 years old his grandmother sent him a picture of the car which had appeared in a Popular Mechanic magazine and wrote him a note which said that he would look great in that car.
''I never had any idea I'd own it. But in the late 1960s, I saw it a Studebaker Meet in South Bend, Indiana, and asked the owner to put me on the list of people interested in buying it.''
It took about 15 years before the owner, who had completely restored the historic #37 Studebaker Indy racer, decided to sell it and Valpey bought it and added it to his collection in 1983.
''It was a prototype race car built for the 1931 race race by George Hunt and Ab Jenkins. The Indy 500 had changed the rules on engine size which opened it up the race to production engines so that manufacturers could enter cars,'' says Valpey.
The eight-cylinder engine with dual carburetors measured 336 cubic inches an produced 205 horsepower, enabling it to qualify with an average speed of better than 111 miles per hour.
Valpey said the chassis was constructed by the Herman Rigling shop in Indianapolis, and the body was made by "Pops" Dreyer for the Rigling shop. Hunt was an engineer at Studebaker and Jenkins was a race driver who set many speed records in long distance races with Studebaker cars, though he never drove at Indianapolis.
Car #37 was driven in the 1931 Indy 500 race by Tony Gulotta, who on the 120th lap was given the signal to run flat out. Gulotta passed 18 cars in the next 46 laps and was running in first place when the car hit a patch of oil from Billy Arnold's crash and went into the wall.
''It lead for about three-quarters of a lap,'' says Valpey, who says the car was repaired and entered the 1931 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. It was the last car to run that day on a badly chewed up race course. The car, driven by Chuck Myers, won the hill climb and set a new overall record for the mountain.
He says that in 1932 Studebaker entered five cars in the Indianapolis 500 and #37 finished in 6th place. The same team was entered in the 1933 race. All five cars finished and were among the first 12 cars to finish, with #37 finishing 12th. Valpey says that no other automobile manufacturer ever enjoyed the same success at the Indy 500 as Studebaker, whose race cars were built from engines, chassis and drive trains taken from the production line with very little modification.
Since he has owned the car, Valpey has driven it in Vintage Car events at N.H. Motor Speedway in Loudon and driven it the top of Mt. Washington several times since the Climb to the Clouds was revived in 1990.
''The event hadn't been run for 29 years and when they revived it I was contacted and asked to take part. I wanted to see what he car could do So I drove up with my wife Alice in the passenger seat and we actually made two trips up the mountain that day,'' says Valpey.
He says that owning the historic race car has given him a lot of pleasure and that he's had the opportunity to meet a lot of nice people because of it.''
He owns other Studebakers, including a 1936 Studebaker truck which he uses to haul another of his cars, a vintage Stutz Bearcat, to vintage auto shows throughout New England.

CAPTION: pix slugged Valpey
Bob Valpey of Center Harbor stands next to his 1931 Studebaker, which raced in the Indy 500 in 1931 and was leading when it crashed into the wall on the 167th lap. (Roger Amsden/ for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Caption pix slugged Valpey 2.
The eight-cylinder engine of Bob Valpey's 1931 Studebaker Indy 500 racer produced 205 horsepower, (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 May 2015 12:44

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Thursday debris fire spread to home in Franklin

FRANKLIN — A duplex home was damaged enough by fire on Thursday afternoon to be declared uninhabitable until repairs are completed.

Fire Department Captain Steve Fecteau said a fire started in a pile of debris located between houses at 66 and 68 Bow Street and spread to the home identified by the former number. The fire burned through the electrical service to the house and the wire came down, electrifying a metal fence and complicating the fire-fighting effort.

It took firefighters approximately 35 minutes to get the fire under control, from the time the alarm was sounded. The house at 69 Bow Street suffered minor charring. There were injuries at either location.

Tilton-Northfield and Belmont Fire Departments responded to the scene as part of Mutual Aid.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 May 2015 12:31

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Police end search for missing Laconia woman

GILFORD — Gilford police have called off the search for a Laconia woman, last seen at a Gilford hotel, who had been missing since Saturday night. Officials would not confirm on Friday afternoon that her body had been found in Alton.

Around mid-day on Thursday, a post appeared on Gilford Police Department's Facebook page seeking information on the whereabouts of Jeanne Pochily of Laconia, who had last been seen on Saturday night, leaving the TownPlace Suites hotel. The Facebook page provided a photo and description of the 44-year-old woman, and later in the day, a description of the vehicle she was believed to be driving.

The information was not released to traditional state or local media outlets.

Gilford Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee said yesterday that Pochily's vehicle was located in Alton on Thursday night, and that Alton Police located Pochily on Friday morning. Bean Burpee said his department is no longer requesting the public's help in the matter.

Alton Police Chief Ryan Heath declined to discuss the issue yesterday, saying only, "We have no comment at this point, our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends."

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 May 2015 12:27

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