SANBORNTON — Many will recall William “Bill” Tobin as a man committed to his community, serving on multiple local boards and organizations. Others will recall his service as a state representative who, although a died-in-the-wool Republican, worked across the aisle with the Democrats to produce effective legislation. Still others recall his sense of humor while serving as an auctioneer at benefits for Boy Scouts, the New Hampshire Humane Society, and the New Ipswich Children’s Fair.
For his family, Bill Tobin, who died on Jan. 1, was a tireless worker who juggled those interests with hobbies, a love of animals, and concerns for the environment.
“I always thought of him as a builder,” said his son, Greg Anderson. “I recall his shop, and he would ask me to go fetch a particular tool for what he was working on, and it was always a chore to find the right one because there were so many tools. Growing up, it was a life of building things.”
Tobin’s widow, Faith, was also his business partner in their home inspection work, and she said he was well-respected among real estate professionals for his fairness and innovative solutions for the problems he found. During his career, he inspected more than 10,000 structures.
She said that, although Bill’s father was an auctioneer in Massachusetts and registered him as the youngest auctioneer in the state when he was born, Bill did not particularly care for the life of an auctioneer, even though he had a flair for it. He restricted his auctioneering to benefit events and political fundraisers.
Bill also grew up around animals — the family raised race horses and driving horses for buggies — so he surrounded himself with animals. His donkey was a crowd-pleaser at GOP political events, where Bill would place an elephant hat on the donkey’s head.
His talkative pet parrot would allow him to get close, but would bite others who approached — unless they were offering food.
Wherever he lived, he got involved in his community. After he moved to Sanbornton nearly three decades ago, he served on the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, and Conservation Commission, as well as participating on the building committee and the town’s historical society.
He was a driving force in the establishment of a town park, doing much of the work himself, as well as establishing a new town cemetery.
“Everyone knew, if you needed anything, to call Bill Tobin,” Faith said.
More to the man
“Recreation was never a big part of life,” Greg Tobin said. “He was always engaged in working so much.”
Having served as a pilot and air traffic controller in the Air Force, he worked in air traffic control in Nashua, but also established a hobby shop there. He then started Cornucopia, a furniture store in Wilton.
“He did antique restoration, including museum pieces,” Faith said, noting that he learned from working with renowned Boston restorer J. Erhardt Co., also learning the craft by studying with masters from Italy and England. He went on to teach college courses in woodworking.
His craftwork extended to building a replica of a cannon found at a home on Channel Lane in Laconia.
Their Sanbornton home, with multiple outbuildings, also was built by Bill Tobin.
He spent his spare moments in his home shop, creating intricate craft items, including Christmas tree ornaments. According to Faith, Bill saved the wood from each year’s Christmas tree to create a new ornament for the following year — replicas of horse-and-buggy, stagecoach, ship, and other meaningful icons. There is even an ornament depicting the Tobin float that appeared in multiple parades around the state.
He so loved working in his shop that, even after cancer left him unable to speak or walk, he still insisted on spending time there, working.
“He wanted to go with a hammer in his hand, and he did,” Faith said.