Manchester couple, homicide victims, memorialized at stamp club event
HOOKSETT — Close friends of the couple whose bodies were found in their home after it burned March 24 said they hadn't seen Robert and Constance Dion for several days before the fire — and the couple uncharacteristically missed a social engagement without calling.
Ed Swist and Robert "Bob" Dion, 71, met several years ago as members of local stamp collectors clubs. Eventually, their wives were introduced.
Swist said the couples had planned to attend a March 19 fundraising event in Loudon. But Swist said he and his wife never heard from the Dions.
The abrupt break in communication included the nightly sessions of the smartphone game "Words with Friends" between Bob Dion and Cec Swist.
Authorities have identified the Dions as homicide victims. Last week, attorney James Normand, who is representing relatives of the Dions, said the couple had died before fire heavily damaged their Manchester home. Meanwhile, police continue searching for Matthew Dion, 38, the Dions' son, described as "a person of interest."
At the time of his death, Bob Dion, a retired North Salem postmaster, was in the final days of planning the 54th annual Manchester Stamp Club show in Hooksett. The show went on as scheduled Sunday, with a memorial to the Dions prominent among the displays.
"He was the most honest guy I met in my travels," club member Dick Olson of Fremont said. "I've heard a half-dozen people say they came into a stamp collection and didn't know anything about how much it would be worth; I sent them to Bob and he would give them a fair deal and they would come away happy."
In the New Hampshire stamp fraternity, Dion was well-known as an avid collector and dealer willing to share his expertise.
"When you had a question, especially about recent United States stamps, you would talk with him because of his experience as a dealer and his past as a postman," said Dan Day of the Merrimack Stamp Club. "He had a lot of knowledge."
The North Salem post office became a place to go for collectors, Swist said.
"It was big enough so that if, say, Manchester didn't want to have a philatelic window, Bob would run it out of the North Salem post office," he said.
In addition to being a friend. Swist was a regular customer of Dion.
"At one point, I owed him $400 to $500 for stamps," Swist said. "I'd do work around his house to pay; it was down to about $42 when the house burned."
At the stamp show Sunday, many recalled Dion's friendly nature and honest approach to dealing.
"He was always at the shows, always with a big smile on his face," said Mike Girard of Raymond.
Dion's affinity for the post office and for stamps, and his wife's love of flowers figured prominently in the display. Olson, who built two plaques using commemorative stamps, said he found a stamp with flowers blossoming out of an envelope.
"It was Canadian; it tied Connie's love for flowers with Bob's getting the mail through," Olson said.
While Dion retired from the U.S. Postal Service several years ago, he looked forward to daily late morning trips to his Manchester post office box, where he would stop to chat with employees, according to Pamela Focosi.
Focosi who was engaged to marry the Dions' son Matthew and spoke for the family Friday at the Dions' funeral Mass, visited Sunday's show to see the memorial the stamp collectors had produced. She recalled that she would often visit the Dions' home and see them watching a movie together, Bob cataloging his stamps and Connie, 67, sewing a quilt.
"She did it to give people gifts, she just gave it to them and not to have them give anything back," she said.
Focosi said the couple's generous spirit is something she will remember.
"They would just do anything for anybody," she said. "They were ready to help at the drop of a hat, with no questions asked."