Mayor Ed Engler speaks to the Karagianis family and others gathered at the Belknap Mill for the dedication ceremony of Peter S. Karagianis Way on Thursday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Long a monument to the city's rich industrial legacy, the Belknap Mill yesterday became a lasting memorial to the man in the vanguard of the effort to spare it from the wrecking ball and breathe fresh life into its brick walls.
Several dozen gathered in Mill Plaza, where a sign designating the walkway leading past the mill to the footbridge crossing the Winnipesaukee River as Peter Karagianis Way was unveiled to honor the man whose tireless efforts, limitless vision and boundless generosity left the city what Allison Ambrose, president of the Belknap Mill Society, said "is his legacy and it is ours."
"He would want us to follow his footsteps and walk this path," said his son Peter Karagianis Jr., who led the way by announcing that the Karagianis family was making two donations to the Belknap Mill Society. The first, $10,000 to expand the history and arts programs, particularly the Fourth Grade Program originated by his father, and the second, $25,000, which he challenged to community to match, toward replacing the roof.
To build a community, Karagianis said that his father believed "it is not enough to just give, but to act and act he did. And his work continues."
Rod Dyer, who served as mayor when demolition cast its shadow over the mill, recalled that the struggle to save it raged for four years, during which he dealt with Karagianis constantly. "He would be somewhat surprised to know I am speaking here," he remarked to a peal of laughter. Then he read a tribute to Karagianis written in 1994 by architect Paul Mirski, who noted that he not only saved the mill from being replaced with 14 parking spaces but also played a part in the Lakes Region Clean Water Association, which contributed to ridding the lakes and rivers in the city of pollution. Karagianis, Mirski wrote was "someone to ride the river with."
The president of the Laconia Kiwanis Club, John Walker, noted that for Karagianis, whose membership stretched over nearly seven decades, the club was "almost like a religion." In particular, he took a keen interest in the Key Club at Laconia High School, inspiring youth to share his commitment and enthusiasm for community service. Walked presented the Belknap Mill Society with the bronze plaque to official signal marking the place the building has held on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971.
The first person he met on coming to Laconia, said Mayor Ed Engler, was Karagianis at the Soda Shoppe. He described him as "one of the giants of 20th century Laconia," who sensed "a responsibility to more than family, faith and business, to his community. "Mr. Laconia," he remarked, "is an example for others to follow."
Both the mayor and Gov. Maggie Hassan proclaimed June 23 "Peter S. Karagianis Day," knowing full well that his legacy and example will endure for years afterward.
Peter S. Karagianis Way at the Belknap Mill in Laconia. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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