State Rep. Bob Luther, 72, dies


LACONIA — Robert "Bob" Luther, a longtime city councilor and serving state representative who passed away at the age of 72 in his home on Saturday, once remarked, "You can swing the the pointer to liberal or conservative, but when it comes to me just stop in the middle where it says Laconia."
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in Rockland, Massachusetts, Luther spent the last 44 years of his life in the city, 36 of them as a public servant and elected official. After a tour of duty in the United States Navy and a stint as a mechanic with United Parcel Service, in 1973 he came to Laconia where he fulfilled what he called "my childhood dream" by joining the Police Department.
Six years later, he traded his shield in Laconia for one in Gilford, serving another eight years before leaving law enforcement to become a security supervisor at Lakes Region General Hospital, where he worked until retiring in 2009.
"Ninety percent of my experiences in police work were funny," Luther recalled. But, he was brought to tears when he was called to photograph a 4-year4old girl who was beaten to death by her babysitter. "When I took them to be developed," he said, "I told them not to look." But when he collected the prints "They were crying, and the next morning I sat outside the station and cried. The only time in 16 years of police work I ever cried."
Humor and humanity marked Luther's political career. He served seven consecutive terms on the City Council, representing Ward 2 from 1996 to 2009, when he moved to another ward and resigned his seat.
Mark Fraser, who as a councilor and mayor served with Luther for six terms, remembered him for championing the playgrounds throughout the city.
"It was his pet project," Fraser said, explaining that at Luther's initiative $25,000 was budgeted each year for 10 years to improve the playgrounds. At the same time, Luther sought to trim electricity charges by lopping 2 percent from the annual budget.
Jim Cowan, a contemporary on the City Council, remembered Luther as "not a person of a lot of words who was not in the headlines, but was very important on school votes," indicating that he was often an ally of the School Board. But, during a debate over the school district budget in 2009 Luther remarked "I'm not sure they have a sharp pencil, but I'll lend them one."
Luther could be a hard councilor to pin down. In 2005 , when the council was wrestling with proposals to build new schools on Parade Road and add a tax cap to the city charter he found himself on both sides of both issues. First he supported then opposed a referendum on the issue of schools then cast the deciding ballot to place the tax cap on the ballot. Speaking later at a candidate's forum he said not only that he was personally opposed to the measure but also was lobbying his wife to vote against it.
A man of few words, Luther often spouted them with wit. Fraser recalled recognizing an employee of the Department of Public Works for his 35 years of service at the annual Christmas luncheon and later honoring the same man as the employee of the year. "This is your second date," Luther called from the crowd. "You can give him a kiss now."
When the state of New Hampshire fell behind on the rent for the Laconia District Courthouse, Luther suggesting serving an eviction notice. "I've got a Saturday free to help them move," he added.
Despite his reticence and penchant for one-liners, whenever the council was faced with an ordinance or resolution, which was required to be read aloud in its entirety, Luther readily accepted the task.
In 2009, after leaving the council, Luther announced for mayor, only to find Mike Seymour, the popular chairman of the school board, follow close on his heels.
"My only problem is that now I'm going to have to buy signs," said Luther, who took little more than a third of the vote.
Undaunted, a year later Luther ran for the New Hampshire House of Representatives and was easily elected, joining the Republican majority that held nearly 300 of the 400 seats. He was re-elected in 2012 and 2014.

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World sled dog champion Keith Bryar loses life to cancer

Keith Bryar races with his dogs in the 2011 World Championship Sled Dog races in Laconia. (File photo/Karen Bobotas for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Keith Bryar races with his dogs in the 2011 World Championship Sled Dog races in Laconia. (File photo/Karen Bobotas for The Laconia Daily Sun)



MOULTONBOROUGH — Two-time Laconia World Championship Sled Dog derby musher Keith Bryar II, who died Saturday at the age of 57 after a five-year battle with cancer, is remembered by his long-time friend and fellow musher Jim Lyman as a caring person who had a deep love of the sport and always treated his fellow mushers with respect.
"He was a great competitor who always wanted to win, but he enjoyed it so much that even when things weren't going his way he could smile about it. He told me once that he knew his team wasn't good enough to win but that he was going to have a good time anyway," said Lyman, who is president of the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club and for the last 25 years has spent time with Bryar training sled dogs.
Lyman said that the club will definitely honor Bryar by naming next year's race in his honor. There was no sled dog derby this year due to poor snow conditions.
Lyman said that in some years he spent as many as 40 hours a week with Bryar training dogs and recalled one instance in Danbury several years ago when he was riding a snowmobile along the trail and went off the trail and got his snowmobile stuck in a snowbank.
"He stopped his team and came back to help get me out of the snowbank," he said. "There was no place for him to anchor his snow brake, so he said that he was just glad that his dogs were well enough behaved to wait until he got back to the sled before they started to run again."
He said Bryar was a favorite in Canada, where he frequently raced and won the Canadian championship in 2005, and forged close ties with Canadian fans and racers.
Bryar won his first Laconia championship in 2002 and again in 2011, and came from a family deeply involved in sled dog racing. His father, Keith Bryar Sr., drove to wins in 1960, '61 and '62, and his stepfather, Dick Moulton, won in 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1976.His mother, Jean, who once took a team to the top of Mt. Washington, ran the legendary Norvik Kennels in Center Harbor and won the North American Woman's Championship in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1962.
In a 2013 interview with The Laconia Daily Sun, Bryar said he was proud of his being able to adapt to changes in sled dog racing.
"'The old timers like Dick Moulton used to laugh at me when I told them that my team would some day average 20 miles an hour. They said it was impossible. But we did it two years ago and I'll always be really proud of that," he said.
That 20 mph pace Bryar refers to came on the first day of the 2011 race, when his team set a scorching pace by finishing the 15.5-mile course in 46.5 minutes, a pace which was unthinkable for the sled dog teams that his father and his stepfather Dick Moulton won races with. The dogs on those teams were primarily Siberian huskies for his dad and Alaskan huskies for Moulton.
But sled dog teams in the sprint races changed forever in the 1990s with the advent of the so-called Eurohound, a cross between an Alaskan husky and German shorthaired pointer, which Swedish musher Egil Ellis brought with him to North America and soon came to dominate all of the major races.
''They're dogs with a lighter coat and tremendous stamina. And they're easier to manage,'' Bryar said at that time, adding that that he had bred his dogs to retain an Alaskan husky look but with attention to their behavioral characteristics.
Lyman recalled that Bryar's favorite dog was "Goofy," who was one of the hardest-working dogs around, and spent years after his racing career as a training dog who helped young dogs learn how to race.

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Will the sun set this year on the Gale School?

Gale School sunset

The sun sets behind the Gale School. The building faces either demolition, a move, or renovation. (Courtesy photo/Jill Mahan)



BELMONT — It likely took less political time to build the Gale School in 1894 than it's taken to to try to save the school from the wrecking ball which is an effort that began to some degree in 1993, according to the Save Our Gale School website.

This year, voters from both Canterbury and Belmont will weigh in on three separate warrant articles regarding the future of the former elementary- and middle-level school at the annual School District Meeting on Friday, March 4, at 7 p .m.

The warrants

The first is a request by the school district to spend $71,000 to tear it down and preserve the bell tower and the bell. Though no numbers have been officially presented, there will be an additional cost to build a storage shed on school property to house the two until an appropriate use can be found for them.

The second two are generated by the Save Our Gale School Committee and placed on the warrant for the school district petitioned warrant article. The first of these, submitted by petition, calls for a total of $242,878 and would relocate the school to the corner of Concord Street and restore it. Of that $242,878, $5,027 would come from the Gale School Expendable Trust, $65,000 would come from the facilities trust fund, $50,000 would come from the unassigned fund balance and $122,878 would come through new taxation.

The second of these calls for a total of $187,978, which would leave the Gale School in place and would put a foundation under it, as well as rehabilitate the building for possible use by the school district. To leave the building in place would cost $77,979 in new taxes, or $44,899 less than moving it.
Since the efforts by private citizens to save the school have been ongoing for about 22 years, it helps to know a little bit about this school and why it is so important to a small but dedicated group of people in Belmont.
The History of Gale School according to the Save Our Gale School Committee
The school was built in 1894 and named after Laconia banking magnate Napolean Gale, who donate $10,000 to the school. Gale also funded the Gale Memorial Library in Laconia.
From 1912 to 1942, other one-room school houses in Belmont gradually began to close and Gale School emerged as the elementary school for Belmont children. Belmont had no high school until 1937; however, during the early part of this time period, many students weren't educated beyond "grade" school. Those who attended high school usually went to Laconia High School, Gilmanton Academy – which is now the site for their town offices – and Tilton Seminary, typically at their own expense.
In the 1920s, Gale School added a ninth grade and split the seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms to allow more room for high schoolers.
Until 1955, when they built the Memorial School for grades one, two and three on the same site, the Gale School was used as by the Belmont schools' administration, the school nurse and secondary art.
In 1970 and 1971, students from Canterbury began attending Belmont High School, and in 1972 the combined district was formally established as the Shaker Regional School District.
The current Belmont Elementary School on Route 140 was built in 1985 and the Gale School was relegated to cold storage.
With the 1997 construction of the Belmont High School on Seavey Road, the former high school became the middle school and the old Memorial School became home to the administration. The Gale School was no longer used for anything.
Preservation Attempts
Discussions about saving the Gale School began around 1993 when the state Division of Historical Resources determined the school would be eligible for listing on the state historical register. The first attempts by the school district to demolish it came in 2001 and 2002 when it appeared as a nonmoney article on the school district warrant.
In 2006, the Save Our Gale School Committee was formed and efforts to preserve the building began in earnest. News accounts at the time from area newspapers including The Laconia Daily Sun, indicate that most members of the school board and Superintendent Mike Cozort were against preserving it.
Officials said the Belmont Fire Department considered the building a fire hazard and school officials said it was preventing the district from using the property. As of this year, there isn't a proposed use for the land under the building, and Fire Chief Sean McCarty said this week that "any building that is not used or up to code is considered a fire hazard."
The years 2006 through 2008 are filled with newspaper records of a number of meetings held with the committee and the historical society, the planning board and the board of selectmen. The Save Our Gale School Committee also began fundraising, using spaghetti dinners and sales of T-shirts depicting the Gale School, along with other paraphernalia.
Other Belmont preservationists, like Linda Frawley and Wallace Rhodes, consider the Gale School as part of the Village District and have advocated for its preservation. In 2010, it was considered worth saving by participants in the Plan New Hampshire charrette.
In 2013, the Save Our Gale School Committee asked the town to consider moving the building to the corner of Concord Street and using it as a library. Library trustees nixed the idea for many reasons, with the primary one being that a library must be open to all of the public, and school property, for safety and other reasons, cannot. They also cited the terms of the existing library, which is in the Village District, and the restrictions on the trust funds used to support and maintain it.
In 2014, the school district presented a $43,000 demolition plan and the committee came forward that year with an "anonymous" donor who volunteered to do all of the site work.
Last year, voters overwhelmingly voted to table an article on the school district warrant to raze the building for a cost of $65,000 after former Chairman Pret Tuthill proposed giving the Gale School committee an additional year to come up with a plan for its use.

Gale School 2013

The Gale School in 2013

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