Thomas Ervin LaClair died peacefully at home on January 31, 2019 in Weare, NH at the age of 91.
Tom is survived by his daughters, Denise LaClair of Phoenix, AZ and Celynn Desfosses of Weare, NH, daughter-in-law, Linda (Torno) LaClair, five grandchildren, Heather Sonoski of Lantana, TX, Nikki Lara of Dover, DE, Stacey Ruiz of Glendale, AZ, Ariel Desfosses of Mont Vernon, NH, and Tobin Desfosses of Weare, NH, 9 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his daughter, Christine Wentworth of Aiken, SC and son, Thomas Brooks LaClair of Sunapee, NH.
Tom was born on September 8, 1927 in Newport, NH to Flora (Morrill) and Ervin LaClair. He graduated from Newport High School in 1945 and immediately enlisted in the Navy upon graduation, his first expression of the responsibility he so strongly felt towards his country, his family, his neighbors and God to “make this place better because of our presence here”.
Tom spent many successful years in the insurance business in Boston, Illinois, and Detroit in executive positions and part-ownerships. He and his family consistently returned to NH in the summer, where he always made the Old Man of the Mountain an essential stop. He was proud to be a native of New Hampshire and loved to quote Daniel Webster: “…But up in the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there he makes men.”
Tom and his family returned to New Hampshire in 1969, where he continued to serve the citizens of Newport first as Chairman of the Newport Budget Committee and then as Selectman. His favorite accomplishment was helping to save the “old primary building” which was eventually converted to Town and School administrative facilities.
Governor Meldrim Thompson appointed Tom as Director to the original New Hampshire Municipal Bond Bank committee where he served for 5 years, rejecting any compensation but a small traveling allowance as he felt it “was an unwarranted expense to the taxpayers of New Hampshire” and an opportunity for him to “give back to his hometown and state”.
Tom was not a politician; he disliked their tendency to tell people “what they wanted to hear”. He couldn’t use sugar to sell his thoughts; people either liked him or offered to contribute greatly to buy a saddle for his quick and permanent exit from Town.
Tom left his beloved New Hampshire in 1987 for the warmer climates of Tennessee and Arizona respectively, but continued his Don Quixote desire to “tilt the windmills of resistance” to help his fellow man. He worked diligently to build a fire department from scratch in Tennessee and established an Association Funds reserve for the reorganized fire department in Arizona, seeing both of those challenges as new opportunities to “earn his continued existence beyond his [then] 80 years”. He took Thomas Jefferson’s command, “For democracy to survive, there must be an Informed and Vigilant Citizenry!” as a personal charge to express his love and obligation to America.
Tom returned to New Hampshire in June of 2018, with his beloved dog, Daisy, to live with family for peace of mind, safety, company, and coffee every morning. He often said, “What a wonderful, fulfilling trip it has been—I’ve been so blessed.” His legacy challenges each of us to think of others, and forge forward, despite all adversity, when it’s the right thing to do. He will be missed.
Visiting hours are scheduled for Tuesday, February 5th from 3 pm to 5 pm at Newton-Bartlett Funeral Home, 42 Main St. Newport, NH, with a memorial service scheduled at 4 pm. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Tom’s life. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to your favorite animal shelter/rescue league. To sign an online guest book, please visit www.newtonbartlett.com.