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Lobsterman remembered as 'gentleman and gentle man'

New Hampshire Sunday News

July 20. 2013 8:10PM

PORTSMOUTH - The body of Anthony "Tony" Rahn, a longtime Portsmouth lobsterman and retired teacher, was recovered from his beloved Piscataqua River Saturday afternoon.

"He was a gentleman and a gentle man," said Jeffrey Collins of Exeter, Rahn's close friend. "He's well-loved and he'll be sorely missed."

Rahn, 69, was a physical education teacher in Portsmouth and Newington before he retired, Collins said, as well as a coach, softball umpire and basketball referee. Born and raised in Portsmouth, Rahn was a lobsterman "pretty much all his life," he said.

Rahn, Collins said, knew the Piscataqua River "like the back of his hand."

But Friday morning, something apparently went terribly wrong while Rahn, an experienced diver, was in the river.

New Hampshire Marine Patrol got a 9-1-1 call around 10:45 a.m. Friday, reporting that a diver had not resurfaced in the area of the Sarah Long Bridge. Crews from the Marine Patrol, Fish and Game Department, U.S. Coast Guard and Portsmouth police and fire departments searched for the missing man throughout the day.

The search resumed Saturday, and Rahn's body was recovered around 1:30 p.m.

Collins, who is principal at Portsmouth High School, remembered how excited Rahn was last spring when Collins asked him what he thought about taking his lobster boat and two Portsmouth High students up to Lake Winnipesaukee for the first-ever New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association bass fishing tournament.

"He loved it," he recalled, noting Rahn even put a fish finder on his boat, the Erica Mart, for the competition.

Collins said the tournament, held in May, was a perfect opportunity for Rahn to combine his love of kids, the water and his hometown.

"It's a seaport community and he represented Portsmouth out there in his 18-foot-long boat," Collins recalled. "He had two kids on there smiling from ear to ear.

"One of the kids turned to him halfway through and said, 'This is the best day I've ever had in my life.'

"But that's what Tony was all about."

R. Patrick Corbin, executive director of the NHIAA, recalled how Rahn's lobster boat created quite a stir at the bass fishing tournament.

"Everybody got a big kick out of it," he said.

Collins said Rahn's wife, Martha Rahn, is a secretary at Portsmouth High; the couple raised a daughter and a son. He said the school community is very tight-knit and will do what it can to take care of Rahn's family now.

"All of our hearts and minds are with his wife and his family," he said. "I'm sure the community will pull together for the family and be there for each other."

Rahn had had close calls before. In July, 2007, according to a story in the New Hampshire Union Leader, he was laying traps off Odiorne Point in Rye when a line got wrapped around his hand and yanked him overboard, backwards, in full gear. "I almost saw the white light," he told a reporter back then.

His years of experience on the water saved him. Rahn managed to free himself from the line, his bib and his boots and swam to a large lobster buoy nearby. He was rescued by passing fishermen.

Rahn told the Union Leader he also was on a boat that capsized in 1993 or 1994 while he was under the Sarah Long drawbridge. He said he felt lucky that both incidents hadn't ended much worse.

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