2013 was a year marked by tragedy and triumph

New Hampshire Union Leader
December 31. 2013 12:13AM
Six weeks after losing his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, Jeff Bauman threw out the ceremonial first pitch for a game between the Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway Park on May 28. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

A girl disappeared in Conway. A legend in state government died.

The Red Sox won the World Series for Boston, months after the city was rocked by a terrorist attack during another sporting event, the Boston Marathon.

Those with serious illnesses will be able to legally obtain medical marijuana, but casino gaming will have to wait.

The events of 2013 made New Hampshire cheer, cry and reflect during 2013.

New Hampshire residents were among those who reeled in horror when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three, including an 8-year-old boy. The blasts injured hundreds of others, including New Hampshire native Jeff Bauman.

Bauman, in spite of grave injuries that ultimately cost him his legs, gave authorities critical early information to identify the alleged terrorists, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

New Hampshire's law enforcement and emergency responder communities sent dozens to help in rescue efforts and in the manhunt that ended with Tamerlan Tsarnaev's death and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's capture in Watertown, Mass.

In June, Concord found itself in the national spotlight after a rally in which the gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns read Tamerlan Tsarnaev's name as a "victim" of gun violence. The New Hampshire Union Leader was the first to report the reading, which went viral and was reported in numerous national media outlets. The group apologized for including Tsarnaev's name.

In January, Catherine "Kitty" Houghton was murdered in a Littleton hotel lobby, allegedly by Rodney Hill in an apparently random attack. Hill, a married father of three children, told police that night he was the devil's son and went after Houghton because he believed she was the devil in disguise and was out to harm him and his family.

Houghton, who was a trustee and 1960 graduate of the White Mountain School, has since been memorialized at the school, with a new arts center named after her.

In August, Muni Sayvon, during a supervised visit at the Manchester YWCA, shot and killed his 9-year-old son, Joshua, before turning the gun on himself.

Abigail Hernandez, 15, was last seen walking home from school in October. A massive search has come up empty. The Conway community was angered in early December when it was learned that authorities had withheld the existence of a letter Abigail had sent her mother two weeks after her disappearance. Authorities have yet to reveal the letter's contents or from where it was sent.

A Massachusetts man, Charles Normil, was indicted by a grand jury in September on charges that he was responsible for the brutal November 2012 home invasion and beating of Bedford Dr. Eduardo Quesada and the sexual assault and beating of Quesada's wife, Sonia Varela. Varela was found dead in January, about six weeks after the attack, from an apparent overdose of prescription medication.

Jubilation, too

In October, the Boston Red Sox, picked by many pundits to repeat their 2012 performance and end up near the bottom of the American League standings, finished the regular season tied with the best record in baseball. Boston went on to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in six games to win the World Series, giving the Sox three titles in 10 years.

The Southern New Hampshire University men's soccer team won the Division II national championship in December.

The University of New Hampshire football team strung together an impressive run in postseason play, making it to the semifinals of the college Football Championship Subdivision playoffs before losing to top seed and undefeated North Dakota State.

The New England Patriots have clinched the AFC East Division title as they look forward to the playoffs, while the Boston Bruins boast one of the best records in the National Hockey League.

Sports didn't provide the only inspiring moments in New Hampshire's 2013.

In May, UNH professor Yitang "Tom" Zhang stunned the mathematics world by providing a proof for the twin prime conjecture, one of the world's oldest, and previously thought unsolvable, mathematical problems.

UNH Professor W. Jeffrey Bolster's book, "The Mortal Sea," has garnered international acclaim, including Columbia University's Bancroft Prize, the American Historical Association Albert J. Beveridge Prize and the James Rawley Prize in Atlantic History.

The political is personal

Raymond Burton, who had served as a Republican executive councilor representing the state's North Country for more than 30 years, died in November, shortly after announcing that he would not seek reelection in 2014.

The November elections saw the reelection of Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and Concord Mayor Jim Bouley. Meanwhile, Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau waged a public fight with the Nashua Police Department over investigations into her and her husband that she claimed were politically motivated as retaliation over budget disputes.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown continued his flirtation with running as a Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Brown, who owns a home in Rye, has sold his home in Massachusetts and moved to the Granite State. He also appeared at numerous speaking engagements throughout the year.

In January, Stacie Laughton of Nashua became the state's first openly transgender legislator when she was elected to the state House of Representatives. But she withdrew from the office before being sworn in after revelations that she still had unpaid restitution following a 2008 conviction of fraudulent credit card use.

Former state Senate President Peter Bragdon was hired as the executive director of the New Hampshire Local Government Center in August and immediately found himself criticized over perceived conflict of interest — the LGC administers insurance products for public employees and municipalities and has been the subject of regulatory action and a state Supreme Court appeal — after he initially said he wouldn't step down as the Senate leader. The Milford Republican eventually stepped down as president and was replaced by Sen. Chuck Morse, though Bragdon continues to retain his Senate seat.

A busy State House

Gov. Maggie Hassan, who assumed her role in January to replace former Gov. John Lynch, built her first budget partly around including $80 million in revenue that would come with the passage of a law to allow one casino in the southern portion of the state. The Senate approved a casino gambling bill, but it failed in the House, essentially killing the idea of casino gaming in the state until 2014, when lawmakers will be asked to take up the issue again.

A renewed effort to introduce Right-to-Work legislation was quickly killed by the Democratic-controlled House.

Efforts to expand Medicaid in the state as part of the Affordable Care Act failed when the Senate, controlled by Republicans, voted along party lines not to expand the program to cover nearly 50,000 more people who do not have insurance.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, itself saw a disastrous rollout in October, as the healthcare.gov website crashed when people tried to enroll. President Barack Obama's pledge that people could keep their current insurance was broken when insurance companies canceled plans because they couldn't comply with Obamacare requirements. The website's bugs had diminished somewhat by the end of the year, but some glitches continued, including failed transfers of patient information from the website to insurance companies.

The year also saw major legislation adopted, notably the legalization of medical marijuana, which had long been opposed by Lynch but had Hassan's support.

The law allows people to purchase from four regional dispensaries; a House provision allowing for home growing was removed at Hassan's insistence. To qualify for the program, a person must have both a debilitating disease such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or hepatitis C, and conditions such as significant weight loss, severe pain or wasting syndrome. Patients must have had the same physician for more than three months. The law allows the patient or caregiver to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, the same amount that could be dispensed at one time at the dispensaries.

Also in 2013:

• In November, state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark voluntarily stopped driving after experiencing a blackout and getting into an accident in Portsmouth that injured a pedestrian.

• In January, biathlete Sean Doherty of Conway won a world championship in Obertilliach, Austria.

• In November, Rockingham County Attorney James Reams was suspended from his duties and barred from his office as the state Attorney General's Office investigates criminal, operational and managerial issues. Reams has called all allegations "absolutely false."

• Debra Livingston was selected as Manchester's school superintendent after two exhaustive searches to find a replacement for Thomas Brennan, who retired in June.

• The 2012-13 flu season hit New Hampshire particularly hard. There were 44 influenza-associated deaths for 2012-13, the highest number recorded during a flu season since 1997.

• The Northern Pass project was changed somewhat, with company officials agreeing to bury a small portion of the 180-mile transmission line. As it goes through various permitting processes, the project continues to be vehemently opposed by those who say the new transmission towers will destroy scenic views and ruin property values.

• In June, the New Hampshire Union Leader ceased printing at its plant on William Loeb Drive and contracted its printing to the Seacoast Media Group in Dover. In September, the Union Leader was named the Newspaper of the Year by the New England Newspaper and Press Association.

New Year

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