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Francis Xavier Chapman, of Peterborough; family man, writer, community organizer and life-long volunteer, passed away peacefully at the NH Veterans Home in Tilton, on August 3, 2018. He was 92. Well-known in Peterborough as a community activist. As such, he was an inveterate presence at select board, school board, budget hearings, and town meetings. Fran wrote “Making Ripples in Wilder’s Town: A Collection of My Favorite Letters to the Editor” published in 2012 which curated some of the thousands of letters he wrote to local newspapers. A resident of Peterborough for fifty-three years, he was named a distinguished citizen of Peterborough in connection with the 275th anniversary celebrations in 2014 and in 2017, he was given special recognition for his volunteer service to the town. For some, he was best known as a dedicated exerciser at the Wellness Center for more than 15 years, as well as a lector at St. Peter’s Catholic church. Fran loved to sing; in the little remaining free time he had, he sang with the church choir for many years and later in life with the Barnstormers.
Fran was born in 1926 in Boston, the eldest of 7 brothers and sisters. He attended the prestigious Boston Latin School and later graduated from the Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C. as valedictorian. After one semester at Georgetown University, he started officer training at the US Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY but was called away to serve during World War II as a Merchant Marine in the Pacific. Upon his return, he earned a Bachelor of Science in agricultural studies at the University of Maryland. The next day he married his high school sweetheart, Mary, and they left D.C. to manage a dairy farm on the Susquehanna River in Maryland for ten wonderful years, where they had six children. Fran and Mary moved their family to Ohio for 5 years while he managed an ice cream plant. In 1965 they moved once more to Peterborough, NH where Fran led the national American Guernsey Association as Executive Secretary. He eventually became a real estate broker, a real estate appraiser, and owner of Our Town Realty, Inc.
Fran developed strong public speaking skills and has given countless speeches and presentations. Some of his most dedicated activism involved visiting Lion’s service clubs across NH in order to generate both funds and enthusiasm for community involvement. For several years, he was an expert witness in hearings at both the NH Senate and House of Representatives on education and tax issues. Fran loved statistics and used them avidly.
Fran loved being a public speaker and bubbled with enthusiasm when he got an article or letter published, but his excitement was at its height when prompting change. It brought him immense joy when his efforts materialized in greater community participation. Fran was especially pleased when, in 2002 he successfully lobbied for passage of Official Ballot voting, which allows people to vote on town issues without having to attend lengthy town meetings, resulting in a 300% increase in voter participation since its institution. Another achievement involved generating a record 51% voter turnout in a successful campaign against an environmentally unfriendly garbage incinerator in Peterborough.
Fran was also an active participant and leader in volunteer organizations and held many leadership positions in his community including: Member of the Contoocook Valley School District School Board and committees; Peterborough Lions Club member - as well as District Governor of Lions District 44N; President of the NH Chapter Society of Real Estate Appraisers; Chairman of the Granite State Taxpayers; President of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce; and many more. He was honored by the National Association of Vocational Education for advancing the cause of vocational education in 1987.
His work as an activist was marked with an ability to sort through innumerable problems and focus on what is really important; and always with a healthy sense of humor.
Fran spent the better part of his life promoting (and making use of) freedom of speech, cultivating community interest and participation in local government, and vigorously contributing to the bettering of his adopted town, Peterborough, NH.
Fran often described himself as “a person involved in his community and his family.” If there was ever a sports game, school play, concert, science fair, or graduation, he could be counted on to be there cheering his family on. Of course, this passion was not limited to family—any town hall meeting, ballot proposition, or school board election would seem odd without Fran there, making his voice heard.
Although not everyone agreed with his opinions, his passion inspired many. He encouraged thinking, not complacency. The same booming voice that sparked childhood imaginations with bedtime stories went on to spark interest in the democratic process. His commitment to his ideals was admirable. Whether it was with a speech to the community, town hall, state legislators, or a letter to the editor, Fran promoted thoughtful debate and political action. He was a community activist in the real sense of the word. In his last speech at Town meeting in May, 2017, at 90 years old, he thanked the voters for taking the time, making the effort to vote, to lead saying, “...love of country, love of community is who we are, enjoy it.”
Fran is predeceased by his wife of sixty-seven years, Mary (2017), son, Dennis (2003), sister Geraldine (2017) and brother George (2009). He was the loving father of Dennis, Kathleen, Kevin, Louise, Mark and Elizabeth and proud grandfather to Ryan, Ben, Rob (Laura), Tim, Zach, Annie, Dylan and Gracie as well as great-grandfather to Peter and Morris Elliot. He is survived by his siblings Eileen, Paul, Regina, and Claire. He was uncle to numerous nieces and nephews, and cherished father-in-law to Kathy, Goh and David. Fran will be lovingly remembered.
A Catholic mass for both Francis and Mary will be held at Divine Mercy Parish, in Peterborough, on October 29th at 11 am. Private interment at Arlington National Cemetery. To share memories, photographs, and condolences with Fran’s family please visit his permanent online memorial at www.cournoyerfh.com . In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Peterborough Lions Club, P.O. Box 167, W Peterborough NH 03468. Our family would like to express our deep appreciation to the many professionals who have provided love, care, and support for our father these past 20 months at Scott-Farrar and the NH Veterans Home.
Monday, October 29, 2018
Starts at 11:00am (Eastern time)
Divine Mercy Church
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