Helen Closson, a force for good, dies at 94

New Hampshire Union Leader
January 24. 2017 10:12PM
Helen Closson 

MANCHESTER — Helen Closson — the one-time director of the Manchester Girls Club, a promoter of arts and music and the force behind the successful Hands Across the Merrimack Bridge — has died at the age of 94.

Closson died on Jan. 17 from natural causes, said her son, Brooks Closson.

Married to a vice president of Public Service of New Hampshire (now Eversource), Closson sat on a plethora of boards that ranged from opera organizations to colleges.

She ran the Manchester Girls Club for 14 years. After it closed, she joined efforts with the fledgling Girls Inc., and she sat for many years on its board.

In between it all, she raised two sons, attended Mass almost daily at St. Catherine of Siena Church and attended Le Cercle Francais, a weekly French-language book club.

“She did a lot of stuff with a lot of passion,” her son said.

“She was a woman ahead of her time. She was so dedicated to women’s issues,” said Cathy Duffy-Cullity, executive director of Girls Inc.

At Girls Inc., Closson happily took up the task that most board members dreaded — asking people for money.

“Most people didn’t feel comfortable about it. Helen didn’t mind. She was passionate about the cause,” Duffy-Cullity said.

Former Manchester mayor Bob Baines tapped that determination in the early 2000s when he asked Closson to head an effort to turn an old rail bridge over the Merrimack River into a foot bridge.

The $2.3 million bridge opened in 2008, offering pedestrians and bicyclists a middle-river view of Manchester, old-fashioned streetlights and granite benches.

“She was incredibly devoted to that project. She thought it was important to connect the east and west sides of the city,” said Brooks Closson.

Closson said his mother was raised in Berlin, N.H. She met her husband, West Virginia native Ray Closson, when he was sent to Berlin as an Army recruiter.

As a young couple, they lived throughout New Hampshire; each PSNH promotion meant another transfer for the Closson family.

He ended up as vice president of regulatory affairs, a job he headed during the tumultuous years of licensing for the Seabrook nuclear plant.

Ray Closson died in 2011.

Helen Closson sat on boards of Manchester’s Palace Theatre, opera organizations for New Hampshire and New England, New England College, New Hampshire Public Radio, the New Hampshire Arts Council, the New Hampshire Institute of Arts and Science, the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra Guild and many others.

“She wanted to make sure there was opera in the city, there was good theater in the city, there was art in the city,” said Adele Boufford Baker, who served on many of the boards with Closson.

Baker most treasured the time she and Closson spent at Le Cercle Francais. Members read contemporary French literature, meet weekly at St. Anselm College, drink cafe au lait, and discuss the book, or their grandchildren, or the politics of the day.

She said Closson stopped attending the meetings in September because of ill health.

“We had such an affinity together,” Baker said, “because of the French.”

Brooks Closson said an obituary and funeral arrangements are expected to be released later today.

Closson leaves another son, Steven, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.


Deaths in the newsManchester

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