Berlin recalls service Laura Lee Viger brought to her city
By SARA YOUNG-KNOX
Union Leader Correspondent | July 31. 2012 10:46PM
In 2011, the park overlooking the Androscoggin River in Berlin on Unity Street was renamed the Laura Lee Viger Botanical Gardens, in honor of long-time city employee Laura Viger. Viger retired that year, after more than three decades working for, and with, the city. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX PHOTO)
“Laura's heart was the shape of Berlin,” Mayor Paul Grenier said in his July mayor's report. “Everything she worked for and touched made our city a much better place.”
Viger died at the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester on July 17, just a little more than a year after she retired, due to health challenges, from her position with the city as director of Community Services. She was 55, a graduate of Berlin High School and the University of New Hampshire.
She had worked for the city for 37 years, and in her capacity as head of the Parks and Recreation Department — part of community services — had been instrumental in putting together community-wide celebrations and community-wide memorials ranging from the Michael Durant Welcome Home Celebration to the candlelight vigil for Randy Rosenberg.
Her responsibilities as community services director included overseeing Berlin Parks and Recreation, and the welfare, health and library departments.
She was also as artist, and her watercolor paintings are vibrant with life. Even in her quiet winter scenes there's a sense of life beneath the snow, and of life behind the closed windows of churches and cabins.
In May, Viger proposed an art exhibit on the walls within the city hall, featuring local women artists. Taking part in the council discussion by phone, Viger said that if the council wished, she would be happy to include male artists, too.
In 2011, the city council named the city wayside park on Unity Street the Laura Lee Viger Botanical Garden, in her honor, and her name is engraved into the ledge at the park. The Coos County Botanical Garden Club, working with Northern Human Service's Community Service Center and the Berlin Recreation Department, supports the botanical garden.
Last year she also received the Sylvia Evans Award, which each year honors a woman in the valley who has given time and energy to the well-being of families in the Androscoggin Valley above and beyond the call of duty.
“There can be no doubt that Laura is one of the most deserving recipients of this award given her long career of public service and giving of herself to others and the community,” Patrick MacQueen said at the time.
“Even though she suffered a period of declining health before she passed away, she still took part in a phone meeting with the city council last month. I will greatly miss her frank discussions and suggestions as well as her friendship,” Grenier said.