Mark Hayward's City Matters: A country for old men
Art Hebert of Goffstown listens to Joe Byron, founder of Honor Flight New England, during a monthly meeting of the New Hampshire Retired Men’s Association held at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester on Tuesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Bob Pelletier of Manchester talks about his experience during the monthly meeting of the New Hampshire Retired Men’s Association, held at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester on Tuesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Take Randy Travis, whose silky, baritone voice filled country music charts in the late 1980s. In his most famous song, he swears that his love will last to infinity. Or in other words: "As long as old men sit and talk about the weather, as long as old women sit and talk about old men."
Welcome to the New Hampshire Retired Men's Association, a group of gray-haired gents who gather monthly at a small meeting room in the basement of a West Side mill building.
"It gets us out of the house and away from the wife," said Claude Morin, a 72-year-old who used to work as an excavator and handyman.
"Want to know something? I'm bored stiff," said Pelletier as he regaled me with stories about the Union Leader of old.
According to 2010 U.S. Census figures, there were 28,000 men in New Hampshire between the ages of 65 and 69, compared to 29,200 women. A few more women, but not by a lot.
We men die faster. There's fewer of us around the older we get. So it's natural to stick together.
The group draws from Manchester, as well as Derry, Raymond, Nashua and Weare. A guest speaker is always on hand. The topics are wide ranging, said Tom Arnold, 77, a retired engineer who took over the running of the association when his predecessor died.
Some meetings have involved field trips — to the Manchester School of Technology and the city's wastewater treatment plant. This month's meeting, always held on the third Tuesday of the month, featured a presentation of Honor Flight New England, which gives war veterans an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
The association was a godsend to Morin, who said a hip replacement forced a drastic change in his life. He lost weight, which was good, but he went from working three jobs to staring at four walls.
Mark Hayward's City Matters appears Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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