December 14, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: Big world, small town
By Jeff Rapsis

I don’t know what you do with your weekends, but lately mine have included quality time with obituaries.

Really — I’m responsible for a new daily paper we’re publishing in Manchester and on the weekends that requires keeping up with who died.

The paper is called the Manchester Daily Express (it’s distributed inside the Manchester city limits so pick up a copy the next time you’re in town), but there’s no shortage of Nashua connections that pop up time and time again. I had one of those this weekend when doing the obits, as we call them.

It happened last Sunday, when we received a death notice for a Manchester woman, Beverlie Jones, who was listed as originally from Waterville, Maine.

Because it was on paper, I had to physically type the text. So off I went—born and raised in Maine, graduated from high school in 1947, and so on.

My radar perked up a bit when it said she moved to Nashua in 1955 and then to Manchester in 2000. And then my eyes opened wide at the next part: in Nashua, she worked at Knee-Hi Kindergarten for 16 years and then Teradyne, Inc. for 19 years.

Given that, I knew exactly who this woman was: as “Mrs. Loisel,” she brought me snacks and hugged me when I was enrolled in Knee-Hi. Later, I knew her as “Bev” at Teradyne, where I worked during breaks from college.

Her name had changed due to a divorce, but I couldn’t help but still think of her as “Mrs. Loisel,” the woman who helped out at my aunt’s kindergarten.

She lived across the street from my aunt and uncle, and was practically a member of the family while I was growing up. My brothers and I were babysat occasionally by her daughter Kelly, who, it turns out, now lives in Manchester.

And there’s a further coincidence that’s a bit eerie. Just two days before I ran into this obituary, two guys were working on the plumbing in my basement. A extra pair of pliers was needed, so I retrieved them from a sturdy wooden toolbox I have. It’s painted battleship gray and lettered “JEFF” in big block letters.

The toolbox was built for me four decades ago by Mrs. Loisel’s husband. I got it as a Christmas gift at maybe the age of 4, when I was going through a phase where I was just nuts about pipes and plumbing.

When I rummaged through the box, I thought briefly of the woman who I’m sure inspired it to be made, having no idea she had so recently passed on.

Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence. And though I never got a chance to let her know I still have the toolbox from so long ago, it probably wouldn’t have come as news to her.

But still I’m compelled to say: Thanks for all the hugs, Beverlie!