CONCORD — Veteran journalist Roger Amsden, who covered the Lakes Region for four different newspapers, died on Friday night, Oct. 4, at age 77, following a period of declining health. Those who worked with him remember him as a skilled reporter with unparalleled knowledge of the region and its residents, and as someone who was a pleasure to have in the newsroom.
Gordon King, who worked with Amsden at the Laconia Citizen, said he had known him for most of his life. “I knew him from high school, we went to high school together in Ashland.”
“He was a good friend, a great reporter, an excellent reporter. He will be sorely missed,” said King.
The Citizen was the first of four newspapers that would print the Roger Amsden byline. He later wrote for The Weirs Times, the Union Leader and The Laconia Daily Sun, from which he retired only a year ago.
“What a great guy, we had more fun with him,” said Bob Lawton, who ran The Weirs Times when Amsden wrote for that paper. Lawton kept many of the articles Amsden wrote, he said, and he said he frequently re-reads them.
“It’s honest, it’s researched very well, and he had such a beautiful flow with his words and everything, if you read any one of his articles, you’ll know that he knew what he was talking about,” Lawton said.
“He was the city editor (and so my boss) at the Citizen when I joined the paper 40 years ago,” said Michael Mortensen, who later joined Amsden at the Daily Sun. “He was knowledgeable, helpful, and kept me on my does… I was also fascinated to know that growing up, his family didn’t get electricity in their house until he was in junior high school. I don’t know of anyone else who had that experience,” Mortensen said.
Mortensen added something about Amsden that many others echoed: he had an uncanny memory, which was filled with people and facts of the Lakes Region, and baseball.
“I always thought that he knew by heart the stats of every Major League baseball player since Mel Ott,” Mortensen said.
Ginger Kozlowski worked with Amsden when she was the managing editor at the Laconia Daily Sun. She recalled how even in a newsroom full of reporters, Amsden was a gifted story teller.
“Roger Amsden was always up for a tale. Whether he was writing for the newspaper or just regaling the staff with his memories and humorous anecdotes, he could be counted on for a story full of detail, history, and often a good laugh. I was always amazed at his ability to recall in detail events and people from the past. It seemed he knew everyone in the Lakes Region. And if he didn't know the person directly, he knew their sister or brother or some other relation,” she said. And, even after doing the work for decades, he still found delight in his work, whether it was a multi-part series about the Chinook sled dogs, writing about local high school athletes as if they were World Series winners, or covering local municipal meetings.
“He probably drove the Laconia and county politicians a little nuts with his coverage – but he was there at those meetings, doing the kind of work reporters rarely get credit for doing – shedding light on the inner workings of government,” Kozlowski said, adding, “He could take a pretty good photo, too.”
Kozlowski said, “The Lakes Region has lost a citizen who had the institutional memory of decades past. It is truly a loss that we will no longer have this storyteller and historian. My sympathies to all who knew him.”
Hunter Taylor, Belknap County Commissioner, was one of the politicians that Amsden covered. He said, “I knew Roger Amsden from his reporting of Belknap County governmental meetings, many of which were contentious and difficult to describe. Roger was nevertheless able to capture both the important details of the meetings and their mood. In addition to respecting him as a talented reporter, I also enjoyed Roger as a compassionate and interesting man. His interests and knowledge ranged from baseball players of the past to Belknap County political history. Roger made the world a better place, and he will be greatly missed.”
The breadth of Amsden’s skills was something that stood out for Ed Engler, founder, owner and president of the Laconia Daily Sun. Engler was serving as managing editor when Amsden joined that paper.
“He was good at a lot of things, a very versatile journalist. He was equally good at writing hard news, feature stories, taking pictures, a great general assignment reporter,” Engler said. He added that Amsden’s broad and deep knowledge of the region enriched the articles the paper published, even those that didn’t carry his byline.
“He was a fine colleague, he had a great sense of humor and it was a pleasure to be around him,” Engler said.
Michael Kitch worked alongside Amsden at the Laconia Daily Sun, and he said that in the newsroom, Amsden was like a utility infielder in baseball. “He could play any position,” Kitch said, and he remembered how generous Amsden was with the information he had collected over his career.
“I really enjoyed the time we had together at the paper. I just enjoyed his company,” Kitch said.