Truck thief trapped by tech

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — A truck stolen in Wood County, Wisconsin, about 50 miles west of Green Bay, was discovered at a residence on Laconia Road by Belmont Police on Thursday afternoon after a satellite operated by OnStar services remotely plotted its latitude and longitude, captured it on a live video feed, and locked and disabled it.

02-04 Christopher BensonChristopher A. Benson, 39, a transient with a last known address in Concord, was arrested on charges of receiving stolen property and resisting arrest. He refused bail and was held in Belknap County Jail pending his arraignment in Belknap County Superior Court. Benson is on probation from the New Hampshire Department of Corrections.

The 2016 Red Chevrolet Colorado was taken in course of a burglary at a seasonal home, whose owners discovered the theft and reported it to OnStar and the police after the truck had been driven nearly 1,200 miles to Belmont.

Guided by OnStar, Belmont police were dispatched to 730 Laconia Road, where they found the truck parked in the driveway near the rear of the home. As officers approached Benson ran into the woods behind the house, making for the town forest. Officers from Laconia, Sanbornton, and Gilmanton, as well as a K-9 unit from Franklin, threw a cordon around the forest and mounted a search mounted. The K-9 flushed Benson, who fled toward waiting police stationed on the southern edge of the forest, where a Gilmanton officer ran him to ground. Benson was found in possession of the keys to the stolen truck.

Lt. Richard Mann said that after towing the truck to the police station, Belmont police applied for a warrant to search it for any property that may have been stolen in the course of the burglary of the house in Wisconsin. He said that the department is working closely with the sheriff's office in Wood County to return the truck and any stolen property. He said that if authorities in Wisconsin pursue criminal charges against Benson, he would also be charged as a fugitive from justice.

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This truck, stolen from a home in Wisconsin, was found in Belmont thanks to its OnStar feature.  (Courtesy Belmont Police)

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Pond Hockey Classic - In Meredith this weekend, hockey as you first fell in love with it

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Sled Kid Russell Romeo tries to edge out the Sudbury Bulldog at the goal during Shinny +35 action on the ice Friday morning during the New England Pond Hockey Classic.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

 

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — What happens when you give grown men and women the chance to relive one of their favorite childhood winter pastimes? You create an event that draws more than 2,000 people to Meredith for a weekend, many of them coming from hours away.

Pond Hockey Classic logoThey come for the chance to spend a few days with friends, playing hockey in the fresh air and with the scenery of Lake Winnipesaukee surrounding them. And, for the people operating businesses in Meredith, the New England Pond Hockey Classic, now in its eighth year, provides a welcome explosion of business during a period when hotels, restaurants and bars would otherwise be dreaming of the busy summer season.

"Basically, it's the highlight of the winter, business-wise," said Steve Fields, owner of Flurries Surfside Burger Bar, located a stone's throw from Meredith Bay.

This will be the third winter that Fields has owned and operated the business, originally known as "Flurries." The first winter, he said, the Pond Hockey Tournament weekend was about double his usual weekend business. During last year's event, business spiked even higher, even though poor ice conditions last year pushed the event a mile away, to Lake Waukewan. On Thursday, Fields was preparing a slow-cooked beef stew as a special menu item for hockey players.

"We have some high hopes for the weekend – we have the beer stocked up, and plenty of burger," he said.

On Main Street, Frog Rock Tavern owner Dermot Moynihan said his business is "ridiculous" when the hockey players are in town. "I think it's incredible, every year. If weren't for that, this place would be so dead in February."

Moynihan said he is grateful to Scott Crowder, who conceived the event eight years ago and whose management of the tournament has grown it into an annual phenomenon for Meredith.

"He bolsters this town for a week, a month's worth of business for most people. It's awesome for the community. He does a great job."

The bigger Meredith hospitality businesses also see a boost from the tournament. Mill Falls at the Lake is a company that includes several high-profile lodging establishments, including Mill Falls, the Chase House, Bay Point and Church Landing. Joe Ouellette, director of sales and marketing, said that the event books up all of his company's rooms for the weekend, translating into 300 to 325 room nights over typical February bookings.

"That's a pretty big figure for this time of year," said Ouellette. "Just such a fun demographic as well... They visit our shops, dine in our restaurants and immerse themselves in the Meredith experience. We're happy to welcome them each and every year." 

Crowder, son of former Boston Bruin and collegiate coach Bruce Crowder, started the tournament for the winter of 2010. From the beginning, excitement for such an event was apparent, with 77 teams signed up to play with their friends, in open air and on natural ice, the way most people first fell in love with the sport. Many more teams were left on the waiting list, while Crowder wanted to keep the size manageable for his first tournament. 

Each year, Crowder has carefully expanded the number of teams he will allow to register. He is expecting 270 teams this year, with divisions for both men and women, and various age and ability levels. Those players seem to have a great time, judged both by their expressions on the ice and by the fact that, when he opens registration on Oct. 1 of each year, all spaces are filled by the end of that day, and he said that 95 percent of the registrants are for teams that played the prior year.

Each team plays two games on Friday and two games on Saturday. Those that win their games will advance to the elimination tournament on Sunday. Veterans of the tournament say that the weekend is as much about what happens between their games as during them. Crowder has cultivated a festival-like atmosphere on the ice, with food vendors, fire pits, live music and an on-the-ice bar.

Tom Boucher of Meredith missed the first year of the tournament but has played with his team, "Puck Nuts," every year since.

"It's just fun – everything about it's fun," he said. "The crowds, the people that come, the competition, the levels of competition."

Boucher said his team is in one of the "just for fun" divisions. "It's a whole weekend of hanging out with the buddies. Dinner at each other's houses, we just do a lot together as a team, we'll hang out on the ice all weekend."

As a boy, Chris MacPhee, who currently lives in South Boston, played a lot of pond hockey. He didn't realize how much fun it was, though, until he became an adult and could leave his stresses behind when he laced up his skates. A good friend of Crowder's, his team, "Winnipesaukee Whalers," has competed in every Pond Hockey Tournament since it was founded.

"I think it's one of those things, we all played when we were little. Now we're getting a little older... You just realize how much fun it is to be out there, hitting cracks on the ice, laughing and having a good time, then going inside and having a few beers," said MacPhee.

Lou Shipley of Andover, Massachusetts, will be playing with the "Andover Convalescents."

"We've got triple bypasses, knee replacements, hip replacements, ankle surgeries, you name it, we're all convalescents," he said.

All of the team members played competitively while in school, said Shipley, and continue to play in recreational leagues.

"But you're always indoors," he said. The open air, the possibility for snowflakes, imperfections in the natural ice, lends the tournament a special atmosphere.

"For me, it's like Christmas. It's the best time of year. You're there with friends, playing competitively, socializing in Meredith, it's a lot of fun," said Shipley, who has been part of the tournament since its inaugural season. Shipley works with high-tech startups, and in what Crowder has created, he sees a lot of the hallmarks of a successful entrepreneurship: bold decision-making, taking personal risk, hurdling over roadblocks, ability to do the hard work to bring a novel idea into reality.

"It's not just that he did it, it's how he did it," said Shipley. "(Crowder) created something from nothing. And when you're done, you don't just have a great company, you have a great culture."

By the end of the weekend, more than 600 games of hockey will have been played on Meredith Bay. After a day of action on Friday, games will be played throughout the day on Saturday. Elimination tournaments on Sunday will begin at 9:40, with the championship games scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to spectate.

For details and specific schedules, see http://www.pondhockeyclassic.com/newengland.

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The Irish Flu team from Franklin, MA were 0 for 2 on Friday but that didn’t dull their enthusiasm as they look forward to Saturday’s game against the Fat Pucks in the Twig Division during the New England Pond Hockey Classic on Meredith Bay.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Meredith restaurant taps kindness of customers

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Jen Gray, a seven-year employee of Sunshine & Pa's Restaurant in Meredith, said a donation jar with a "pay it forward" twist has been a hit with customers. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — A Facebook post calling for the public to "pay it forward" has taken on a life of its own at Sunshine & Pa's Restaurant at 11 Main St., where customers can donate to a jar as a way of helping someone down on their luck.

The donations allow a recipient to enjoy a hot coffee or a hot meal, courtesy of an anonymous stranger.

Sunshine & Pa's has unveiled the "suspended coffee" program. A note of explanation is attached, which reads: "How do I buy a suspended coffee? It's simple really. Donate to the jar above. If someone is in need of a hot cup of coffee or maybe even something to eat, the money donated will go to pay for it."

The note goes on to explain that the restaurant will always have $50 on hand in the donation jar to help someone who comes through the door. Anything above that amount will be donated to a local food pantry. "You not only support someone in need, you also support your local business as well as helping to restore a little faith in humanity," the note reads.

Eligibility is open ended. "It can be for the homeless man you pass every day on the street, a stressed student in the middle of exams, or a mom who needs a five-minute break. It is not up to us to judge who is in need. If someone asks, then they are in need. It helps remind us that no matter how alone you may feel, there is always someone somewhere who cares. Being alone is the scariest thing in the world, and our desire is to brighten those dark days of loneliness and fear. Yes, it's just a cup of coffee, but it's about more than the coffee!"

The family-owned restaurant, open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, has been in business since 1999.

The "Suspended Coffee/Meal" program at Sunshine & Pa's was the brainchild of Pat Couturier, a longtime waiter at the restaurant. About a week and a half ago the jar went onto a counter inside the door.

The idea came from a post on Facebook, which indicated that the "tradition" started in Naples, Italy, but spread worldwide.

"I'm really excited about it," Couturier said.

Couturier said he brought the idea to his boss, Shawn England, owner of the restaurant. The response was instant.

"He thought it was a great idea. He's always been about helping out the community in any way he can," Couturier recalled.

The benefit has been deemed a "win-win" because it's an opportunity to help out while also tapping the "generosity of customers."

"I've been there for nine years, and my customers have always taken care of me," Couturier said, so he wasn't surprised when they showed similar kindness toward those in need. He was right. The jar had more than $40 in it by Thursday, Couturier said.

Jen Gray, a seven-year employee of Sunshine & Pa's, said, "I think it's a good effort by the community to try to give back to some people who don't have anything."

Customers have warmed to the idea, she agreed.

"A lot of people have been asking," Gray said. "We have a lot of people coming in this weekend, so I'm sure there will be a lot of money."

Meredith is hosting the eighth annual New England Pond Hockey Classic this weekend.

For more about Sunshine & Pa's, visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Sunshine-and-Pas-Restaurant-388701774174/.

 

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The meme posted on Facebook:

This story will warm you better than a coffee on a cold winter day:

"We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we're approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter:

'Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended'

They pay for their order, take the two and leave. I ask my friend:

'What are those 'suspended' coffees?'

'Wait for it and you will see.'

Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers — three for them and four 'suspended'. While I still wonder what's the deal with those 'suspended' coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks 'Do you have a suspended coffee?'

It's simple — people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm beverage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal.

 

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