Remembering twelve notable NH people who died in 2017

New Hampshire Union Leader
December 31. 2017 12:32AM
Top row, left to right: Sally Zyla Addison, Helen Closson, Raymond Saidel, Brian Costa, Scott McGilvray, John "Steve" Vaillancourt. Bottom row, left to right: Beverly Powell Woodward, C. Arthur Soucy, Mother Cecilia, John Joseph Noonan, Jon Breen, Abigail Katheryne Lizotte. 

Among the New Hampshire natives who died in 2017 was the oldest living American-born person; a Manchester native who was stationed on the USS Ward during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; and the presidential debate moderator who ordered that Ronald Reagan's microphone be silenced.

They are among the dozen notable people from the Granite State we commemorate as the year draws to a close.

Sally Zyla Addison

Sally Zyla Addison, 82, taught dance - and with that the resulting benefits of poise, posture and persistence - to generations of Manchester children at her Sally Zyla Dance Studio. She performed at the New York World's Fair and on cruise ships. She also danced in New York, Chicago and Boston. She died Jan. 9.

Locally, she supported the Palace Theatre, the Salvation Army and New Horizons.

"She helped so many organizations in the community," said longtime friend Bob Baines, a former mayor.

Helen Closson

Helen Closson was 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.

Closson sat on boards that promoted culture: theater, symphony, opera and arts institutions. Her later accomplishments included the $2.3 million pedestrian bridge and the launch of Girls Inc. She died Jan. 17.

"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.

Raymond Saidel

Not surprising that Raymond Saidel, 92, would operate an automobile dealership - the Merrimack Street Garage - in downtown Manchester. Saidel was always doing things out-of the ordinary. Beset with poor eyesight, he memorized the Army induction eye charts so he could fight in World War II. He earned six battle stars and the French Croix de Guerre.

He built his own line of race cars. He operated a flight charter school. He hiked White Mountain peaks in the winter. And he reported on the Arab-Israeli conflicts of the 1970s for the Union Leader. He died Feb. 13.

"He was just like a Renaissance guy; he went from one exciting adventure to another," said his son, Alex Saidel.

Brian Costa

A Keene cop for 21 years, Brian Costa, 46, rose through the ranks to become captain and then chief in a small city that had its law enforcement challenges: opioids, a particularly aggressive cell of free staters, and a public college.

He was a father of three and a coach. His suicide on March 9 left the city shaken.

"We need to go on, but he'll always be part of us," said Keene Mayor Kendall Lane after Costa's funeral.

Scott McGilvray

In January, Hooksett resident Scott McGilvray was sworn in as a state senator. He died March 21, less than three months after getting elected to the N.H. Senate.

McGilvray, 51, was a Democrat and president of the 17,000-member NEA-New Hampshire, the statewide teachers union. He was a former social studies teacher at Manchester Memorial High School, and as football coach, he brought the Crusaders to their first playoff berth in three decades.

"Scott made the lives of countless others better as a teacher, coach, mentor, friend and leader," said Megan Tuttle of NEA-New Hampshire.

John "Steve" Vaillancourt

With an acerbic wit, a contrarian brand of politics, and gifted orator, Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester was a state representative and former alderman who was respected, feared and loved, at times simultaneously. As a politician, blogger and community-television political commentator, he shifted his focus effortlessly from Washington politics to State House intrigue to City Hall shenanigans.

Vaillancourt, 65, was passionate about same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, ending greyhound racing and low taxes and spending.

He died suddenly on March 27 at his Faith Lane home.

"He was a spicy representative whose floor speeches kept us spellbound and amused," said veteran state Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare.

Beverly Powell Woodward

As first lady of New Hampshire, Beverly Powell proved the foil to her fiercely independent, often controversial husband and two-term governor, Wesley.

She was honed in Republican politics early, babysitting for then Sen. Styles Bridges and later becoming his secretary in Washington. That is where she met Wesley, who was Bridge's administrative assistant. After Powell's death in 1981, she married retired Lt. Col. Douglas Woodward.

Beverly Woodward, 98, lived in Hampton Falls, was the vice president of her class at the University of New Hampshire and volunteered for several organizations, including Cub Scouts and Exeter Hospital. She died June 3.

C. Arthur Soucy

Affectionately known as "C. Arthur," Soucy entered Manchester politics in the late '50s and early '60s, volunteering and working on campaigns, including that of John F. Kennedy. He was elected alderman in 1961 and founded New Hampshire Young Democrats in 1963.

He became a quintessential ward boss in Ward 6, the sprawling ward that covers the eastern reaches of Manchester. For decades, he sat on powerful city boards, such as Parks and Recreation and the Water Commission.

And he doled out political advice and favors to fellow Democrats. When he died July 9 at the age of 81, friends called him a lion of the Democratic Party and a Manchester legend.

Mother Cecilia

Mother Cecilia, 115, was the oldest living American-born person, oldest person living in Italy, second-oldest person in Europe and fifth-oldest person in the world.

A nun with Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, Mother Cecilia had been living in Rome for the last 59 years. She died July 13.

She was born Marie-Josephine Clarice Gaudette in Manchester on March 25, 1902.

"She was anxious to go to her Maker," said Doreen Remillard of Manchester, Mother Cecilia's great-niece. "She thought that God forgot her."

John Joseph Noonan

Dec. 7, Roosevelt declared, will live in infamy, and John Joseph Noonan experienced that infamy firsthand.

The seaman and Manchester native was stationed on the USS Ward during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The destroyer had sunk a Japanese submarine at Pearl Harbor an hour before the air attack, and Noonan liked to claim his ship fired the first U.S. shots of World War II.

Noonan, 93, went on to own and operate a shoe-pattern business. He fathered four children and counted nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

He died Aug. 12.

Jon Breen

Jon Breen, 81, is best known as "Mr. Green," the 1980 presidential debate moderator who had ordered then-candidate Ronald Reagan's microphone be silenced.

"I'm paying for this microphone Mr. Green," said Reagan, displaying a firm, demanding tone that helped him win the New Hampshire primary and then the presidency. Reagan had confused Breen's name.

Breen had a newspaper career that included the Nashua Telegraph and Foster's Daily Democrat. A native of Dover, he died Sept. 14.

Abigail Katheryne Lizotte

Abi Lizotte, 25, could do a lot of things: attend college, give birth to a son and raise him, hold down a job. She even inspired the launch of Hope on Haven Hill, the state's treatment center for pregnant moms addicted to drugs.

But she could not kick opioid addiction. On Dec. 1, Lizotte died from what her obituary described as "this insidious, cunning disease."

In 2015, Lizotte was the patient of Kerry Norton, a prenatal nurse who was frustrated at the lack of options for an addicted mother-to-be. Norton teamed up with Dr. Colene Arnold to create Hope on Haven Hill, a Rochester family home converted into a treatment center.

"Abi will always be our inspiration and her light will live in the dreams and aspirations of all who pass through our doors," reads the home-page of Hope on Haven Hill.

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