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Legacy Awards: Singer family has legacy of giving

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 19. 2018 8:13PM
Gary Singer talks about awards he has gotten over the years in his office at Merchants Automotive in Hooksett on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
About the Legacy Awards
Presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader and sponsored by Eastern Bank, the annual Legacy Awards program was launched in 2012 to celebrate the accomplishments of these distinguished residents.

This year's awards will be presented Thursday, May 31, at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, starting at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and include hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.

To register for the event, visit, call 206-7822 or email

HOOKSETT - Decades ago, Irving Singer would bring home college students and others in need of a hot meal after synagogue on Saturdays.

"My mom always knew to set an extra five or six settings for people who didn't have a warm meal," son Gary Singer recalled last week.

The gesture was part of a legacy of giving - both public and private - by the Singer family over the past half century.

Whether it be supporting the nation's largest blood drive or donating money to build Singer Family Park, generations of the Singers have donated money and time - often without fanfare.

That has earned the family a Granite State Legacy Award this month.

"I don't think there's a better example of a family that could be more deserving of this award," former Manchester Mayor Bob Baines said.

"They have established a legacy of giving," said Baines, who gets fundraising help for his annual blarney breakfast from Stephen Singer, who for many years was the public face of the family's philanthropy.

"They have set an example for others to follow," Baines said.

Three of Irving's seven children (along with a son-in-law) currently own Merchants Automotive Group. Their 93-year-old mother, Bernice, still lives in Manchester.

The Granite State Legacy Awards celebrate the accomplishments of the state's most distinguished citizens who have given the most to New Hampshire through business, philanthropy, politics and more. The awards are given to New Hampshire residents who have made significant contributions over an extended period to their profession, community and state.

"They're a good family, and I'm sure they're deserving of the award," said Larry Gammon, president and CEO of Easterseals New Hampshire, to which the family donates money to help children's programs.

"With respect to the Legacy Award, my parents very strongly believed in giving back to the community," Gary Singer said. "My father, when he was living, for years was one of the largest contributors, even though he was Jewish, to Catholic Charities."

Brother Bob Singer provided a simple answer to the question of the family's legacy.

"We made the city and the state a better place," he said. "We were an example of giving back to the community."

The family's three most important charities are the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society.

"I think they have the greatest impact on people," Gary Singer said.

The Singer family has owned Merchants Automotive since 1962. The current owners, from left, son-in-law Michael Sydney and the Singer brothers, Gary, Jeffrey and Bob, gather Tuesday at the business in Hooksett. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

The family car business started at the corner of Valley and Willow streets in 1962 and moved to Hooksett later that decade.

In the 1990s, the family donated around $600,000 to help fund Singer Family Park, which hosted concerts and soccer games along the Merrimack River. The property later became the site of a city ballpark that carried the Merchants name during several years of sponsorship.

The family also donated $250,000 for a pedestrian bridge over the Merrimack River. It also funded part of the Irving and Bernice Singer Pedestrian Bridge that spans the Piscataquog River.

Philanthropy became the main job for Stephen Singer, the eldest brother, who now spends most of his time in New Jersey.

"When he was working at Merchants the last 10 years, with the approval of his other brothers, his full-time occupation, even though he was paid by Merchants, was to help the community," Gary Singer said. "That was his only responsibility."

Today, all four Merchants owners are in their 60s: three brothers (Gary, Bob and Jeffrey) and Michael Sydney, the husband of their sister, Joy.

The business includes selling used cars in Hooksett as well as leasing and managing cars, trucks, vans and buses in all 50 states.

General News Manchester

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