LACONIA — Elizabeth "Libby" Tobey Gonnerman Erb, 97, passed away at the Taylor Home in Laconia, on August 26, 2013.
She was born to Fred C. Tobey and Susan Colby Tobey in Brookline, MA on November, 22, 1915. At age three, she moved to New Hampshire, beginning a life-long love affair with the Granite State. The fifth of seven children, Libby grew up on a farm, rode a horse to school, and attended a one-room schoolhouse, where she and her siblings made up nearly half the student body. Every September, she'd go to the county fair, walking her cow "Molly" a mile to the fairground and inevitably picking up a blue ribbon.
Libby attended Plymouth High School and earned a diploma from Colby Junior College (now Colby-Sawyer College) in 1934. At age 20, she moved to Boston, where she lived in a rooming house owned by her grandmother. She landed her first job as a typist, and eventually became a stenographer at Woolworth's.
She married Harrison Frederick Gonnerman, Jr. in 1939, and raised four children in Hillsdale, NJ and Bethesda, MD. She was an especially devoted mother and civic volunteer: selling hot dogs at Little League games, serving on the local school board, raising money for veterans. From 1941 to 1956, her parents owned Lucknow, now known as the Castle in the Clouds, in Moultonborough, and she spent many summers there.
After her marriage dissolved in 1962, she moved straight back to New Hampshire, now a 46-year-old single mother with four teenagers. She reinvented herself as a real-estate broker, becoming one of the top agents at Byse Agency in Laconia before going into business for herself with "Libby's Referral Bureau." Over a 30-year career, she sold nearly 400 homes in the Lakes Region area.
To those who knew her, Libby was an extraordinary woman with a generous heart, unmatchable sense of style, quick wit, and Yankee spirit. She was also an enthusiastic storyteller, frequently regaling her children and grandchildren with tales from her own childhood. One of her favorite stories was about the times when she and her brothers and sisters would put on a circus at their farm.
"I was the trapeze lady," she once told her daughter Susan. "We tied strings of black crepe paper to make a horse into a zebra. We hooked the barn cats into pairs and called them bears. We had small dogs too who were more cooperative than the cats. One of the boys was a clown. The circus lasted one day. We called the neighbors and charged 10 cents to get in."
Beginning in 1970, she lived in a majestic, five-bedroom house, painted lavender, which sat atop a hill near the entrance to Governor's Island. Her ex-husband moved in with her there in 1982, and the two remarried in 1993. At the time, she was 77; he was 79. For their honeymoon, they traveled to London aboard the QE2 ocean liner. He passed away the following year.
In 1996, she sold her house and moved into the Taylor Home in Laconia. There, she met Dean Erb, a fellow resident. In 1999, two days before her 84th birthday, she married him at the Weirs Beach United Methodist Church.
Libby was the proud matriarch of a large extended family who will miss her greatly.
She was predeceased by her six siblings, yet her maiden name—Tobey—continues to live on in her family. In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sons, Michael Gonnerman of Hanover and Tobey Gonnerman of New Hampton; one daughter, Susan G. Hayes of Laconia; one daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Gonnerman; a sister-in-law, Alice Gonnerman Mueller; two stepdaughters; six grandchildren: Cynthia Gonnerman, Abigail Sampson, Jennifer Gonnerman, Peter Gonnerman, Tobey Gonnerman, and Samuel Prest; four grandchildren's spouses; and six great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Hollace Prest, died in 2009.
Libby spent her final 17 years at the Taylor Home, and her family wishes to extend their deepest gratitude to the Taylor Home staff for the loving and devoted care they provided.
The memorial service and burial will be private.
She will be buried at the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Holderness, where her parents and first husband were put to rest.
Donations can be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI NH), 85 North State Street, Concord, NH 03301.
Wilkinson-Beane-Simoneau-Paquette Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 164 Pleasant Street, Laconia, N.H. is assisting the family with the arrangements. For more information and to view an online memorial go to www.wilkinsonbeane.com.