Mark Hayward's City Matters: Ovide's neighbors all say good things
It's basic journalism, as certain as a who-what-when-where-why lead in a breaking news story. I can guarantee that if you do something stupid enough to end up on Page 1 of the newspaper — murder your boss, say — that I or someone like TV reporter Amy Coveno, will be knocking on your neighbor's door.
Our neighbors, of course, know everything about us and are all too ready to divulge our dirty laundry to someone with a notepad or TV camera.
Ovide Lamontagne has been on the front page a lot. He hasn't murdered anyone (at least that we know of), but he is hoping to become the state's second governor from Manchester in three decades.
If neighbors are sharp enough to give insights into a murderer's psyche, certainly they can do the same for a politician.
What follows is the true Ovide Lamontagne — the man under the Boy Scout haircut and behind the disarming smile and the spin and hype generated by slick campaign ads.
“I wish I could say something bad about him, but I can't,” said Ned Desrosiers, who lives in a two-family home across Young Street from Lamontagne.
The registered Democrat said he will be holding a Lamontagne sign at the polls next month.
“He's one of those guys, that if you be a good neighbor, your neighbors will be good to you,” said Desrosiers, who oversees sewers and drains for the city's Public Works Department.
Desrosiers was so impressed with Lamontagne that he switched dentists to be a patient of Ovide's younger brother, Roger.
(Usually, neighbors aren't quite as complimentary about murderers. The general response is: “He kept to himself.” “Kinda quiet.” “He'd only say hello.”)
To the west of Lamontange's house is the home of Mary Lavigne. She raised a family of five while Ovide's parents — Ovide A. and Jeanne Lamontagne — raised their brood of eight.
Ovide M.'s first language was French, and he grew up in the home of a mother who never raised her voice, Lavigne said.
He attended parochial school at nearby St. Anthony School, then Trinity High School. He never got in trouble growing up, avoiding anything that would upset his mother, Lavigne said.
Ovide M. went off to college, met his wife, worked as a teacher for three years and returned to Manchester, according to his campaign biography.
Ovide M. and Bettie purchased the house to the north of Lavigne's corner lot on Taylor Street. Then, as Ovide A.'s family shrank and Ovide's M.'s grew, the Lamontagnes swapped houses.
Lavigne lives between Ovides Lamontagnes.
“He takes good care of his parents. He's always over there,” Lavigne said.
The oldest child, Ovide grew up with a big brother's sense of responsibility, Lavigne said.
“He's always been old for his age. Taking care of all of those brothers and sisters; he would help anyone,” she said.
After a winter storm, Lamontagne dons his Eskimo suit and starts up his snowblower, neighbors said. He cuts a path along the sidewalk in front of his house.
Then he would tackle the driveway across the street, where an aged Mary McGuire used to live until moving to a nursing home earlier this year, Lavigne said.
The neighborhood is one of Mary McGuires, white-picket fences and trimmed lawns.
Grade-school children walk care-free on sidewalks in the late afternoon. The Goffstown hills fill the view to the west. A small park with a baseball diamond is just up the street.
The Lamontagne house is the largest in the neighborhood. But its plain white color (even the trim is white) and modest landscaping lend it an air of humility.
Nearly every lawn on the block sprouts an Ovide sign. Lavigne has had all her children and grandchildren register so they can vote for Lamontagne, she said.
Of course, there were the wild parties this year. This past winter, the Lamontagnes hosted house parties for Republican presidential primary candidates. (Republican and wild parties used to be oxymorons, but the Tea Party and Free Staters have provided some spark to the traditional dry-martini Republican crowd.)
Bettie Lamontagne alerted her neighbors whenever a party was scheduled.
She warned them about traffic, and Ovide encouraged them to drop by, Lavigne said.
Eventually, Lamontagne had the city limit parking to one side of the street so neighbors could get by, said Susan Ventresca, Lamontagne's neighbor to the east.
Ventresca could be a troublesome neighbor to Lamontagne.
Her beagle mix found out that the easiest way to escape its fenced yard was to burrow into Lamontagne's yard, Ventresca said.
After she had to fetch the dog from Lamontagne's yard a couple of times, Ovide rigged something to stop the dog from digging under the fence, Ventresca said.
When not fortifying fences, Ventresca and Lamontagne share stories about their adopted children — Ovide's two daughters are grown and out of the house.
They also know about disabilities. Ventresca's business involves housing some adults with disabilities, and the Lamontagnes are guardians of a severely disabled man they helped raise to adulthood.
“I have no issues with Ovide,” Ventresca said.
Across the street is the home of Harold Beaulieu. His ex-wife said he keeps about six dogs. They yelped as she spoke in the driveway.
“He (Ovide) has every reason to (complain about the dogs),” said Shirley Lambiris. But he doesn't. “He's wonderful,” she said, “he's a nice, nice neighbor.”
Mark Hayward's City Matters appears in the Thursday editions of the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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