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Gilford students reaching out to Veterans Home residents

GILFORD — Students in all four grades at Gilford Middle School spent more than an hour Wednesday morning working on a community project designed to brighten the holiday season for residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton.

''We're looking to establish authentic connections with veterans,'' says Beth Zimmer, the fifth- and sixth-grade guidance teacher at the school, who said that the goal for the school is to reach out to the veterans in the months ahead.
Yesterday students created table decorations for 30 tables at the Veterans Home for Thanksgiving, and for 30 tables for the Christmas season. Among the decorations created yesterday were pumpkins, placemats, Christmas trees and origami gift boxes which will be placed under the trees.

In another form of outreach, 20 to 25 students each month will visit with veterans over the next four months.

Zimmer said that the focus on veterans began with a Veterans Day assembly organized by the school's social studies teachers, who presented a video slide show about the veterans and how they are cared for.

''Many students have grandparents and relatives who may need long-term care and this planted the seeds for a closer look at what that means. It will be a good experience for the students to interact with veterans,'' said Zimmer.

Jo-Ann Belanger, an eighth-grade French and Spanish teacher, spent the morning working with students from all four grades in the middle school cafeteria, where the students were making Christmas trees from construction paper and decorating them.

She dressed for the Christmas holiday and even brought along some of her Christmas album songs to highlight the joyful holiday mood the project was creating.

''Some 37 eighth-grade students, more than half of the class, have volunteered to go the Veterans Home. That shows how much interest there is on the part of the students in this project,'' said Belanger.

Steven MacDonald, 14, who is the eighth grade, said that he is hoping to be one of those selected to visit the veterans.
''This is really fun, and it's for a good cause,'' said MacDonald as he worked on making the Christmas trees.
He said that his dad, Eric, is a veteran and is still in the military after having served for 18 months in Iraq.

Another student working on the Christmas trees, Teka-Marie Phillips, a 12-year-old sixth-grader, said that her dad, Paul, is a also a veteran and is a big supporter of veterans and of the school's project.

''We're a bunch of kids working together to create something special for veterans, and I think it's a great community project,'' said Phillips.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 November 2014 12:23

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Correction: Josh Rowson was LHS graduate who spoke at school board

In a story about the performing arts department at the Laconia High School that ran in the Nov. 19 edition, the incorrect spelling was used for the name of a 2013 LHS graduate who spoke in favor of the program. His name is Josh Rowson.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 November 2014 01:11

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50 years ago, a math teacher bought a Mustang

LACONIA — Walter Ayre Jr. says that when he first purchased a Ford Mustang 50 years ago he thought of it as something of a ''chick magnet'' and spent a lot of time cruising around with it so that girls could see him at the wheel.

Now 75, Ayre drove his yellow 1964½ 289 V-8 Mustang from his home in Eliot, Maine, on Tuesday to Irwin Motors in Laconia, where he purchased it Aug. 30, 1964, and met up with Dave Clark, who was Irwin's sales manager at that time.
''I remember him calling down the hall when we were talking about the price and saying that the difference between us on the price only amounted to 62 cents a month," says Ayre, who was 25 years old at the time and was working as a math teacher and ski coach at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro.

A 1956 graduate of Laconia High School, Ayre had graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1960 and joined the Navy, hoping to become a pilot, but turned to teaching after receiving a medical discharge.

He owned a 1961 MGA sports car convertible before buying the Mustang as his first-ever new car and recalls that he followed his dad's advice about negotiating and then walking away from the salesman. "I followed dad's advice, and, after walking out the dealership's door, the exasperated salesman followed saying: ''If I give you $10 from may wallet, will you buy the car?''

Ayre said that sealed the deal and he purchased the car for $3,329.35, which was reduced by $800 for his down payment and $1,400 for the trade-in, and left him with monthly payments of $67.05 for 24 months.

Clark said that the Mustang, which was first introduced at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964, and was the pace car at the Indy 500 in May, become an overnight sensation and within the first three months recorded 100,000 in sales.

''It was unbelievable. There was so much demand it was just about impossible to locate a car for our customers. We found two in Maine and sent two guys up to Fort Kent to bring them back here,'' recalls Clark.

Another 318,000 -- a record -- were sold in the model year, and within 18 months Mustang sales had topped 1 million, helped along in no small part by the car's appearance in the James Bond ''Goldfinger'' movie which was released in September 1964.

Ayre said that he took the car with him when he moved to Southington, Conn., in 1965 to help launch a new ski area and that it was there that he met and married his wife, Pat, that same year.

He then started in a new career in the textbook business on northern New England and used the Mustang as a family car for many years before relocating to Half Moon Bay on the California coast where he worked out of the company's headquarters in Menlo Park. He moved back to New England three years later, driving the family home in a station wagon while the Mustang was brought back in a moving van.

In 1981 he moved again to the Atlanta area, and stored the by now-well-rusted Mustang at a barn in Madbury, finally restoring it in 2005 and taking part in Mustang shows featuring cars from all over New England which were held for many years at Funspot in Laconia.

Ayre says he has turned down offers for his car and wants to keep it in his family by passing it along to his son, Steve, who is the owner of a 1996 black-on-black Mustang fastback.

Irwin Motors vice president, Chris Irwin, the third generation to head the local auto dealership, said he was pleased with the large turnout for Tuesday's event, which also featured the all-new 2015 Mustang. ''It was a lot of fun to see so many people here who are Mustang lovers,'' said Irwin.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 November 2014 12:10

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Plan for weight room in drama space put on hold

LACONIA — Any plans the school district had to renovate the storage and classroom spaces around the high school auditorium and re-purpose a portion of them for a weight room have been put on hold until the district can complete a space-needs assessment of the building said School Board Chair Joe Cormier.

Cormier made his statements last night before a group of about 10 people who came to the School Board meeting to show their support for the performing arts programing at the high school.

Public statements supporting the performing arts were led by Josh Ross – a 2013 graduate of Laconia High School and former member of the Drama Club who continues to be active in theater.

"A community space like the theater is as valuable as any sport space you have," Ross said, noting that the performing arts is as important to the students who participate in them as sports are to the athletes who participate in them.

Ross noted a number of deficiencies in the stage area – all of which Superintendent Terri Forsten agreed with – and said that the school has spent enough money on sports and now it needs to focus more on the arts.

Public participation at last night's meeting was largely spurred by suspicions – that were apparently true - that the school was planning to convert the two rooms currently used by the drama program to a weight room and an aerobics studio. The issue gained momentum when the lights failed at a Laconia Street Car Company performance of A Few Good Men and company director Jessica Alward contacted School Board member Barbara Luther about the condition of the auditorium.

A posting later made on Facebook fueled the controversy about the drama program. School Administrators told the Daily Sun last week they were unable to comment about the rumors because the concerns had already be brought to the attention of the School Board.

Anticipating a contentious meeting, the School Board asked for a police officer to be present.

Sharon and Mike Pond – self-described empty-nesters whose children were very active in the performing arts – both said they would volunteer to raise money for some much-needed auditorium repairs. The Ponds spearheaded the fundraising to replace the sound board in the auditorium after it failed 18 months ago.

They both told the board that, in their opinion, the arts had been forgotten during the renovations and additions over the past three years and hoped the school district would now focus some money and attention to the auditorium and the areas surrounding it.

School Board member Mike Persson said he was happy to see such positive support for the arts programs but said he wished the people who were posting on social media had come to the meeting.

Forsten said the space needs study would be performed in the spring of 2015.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 02:36

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