MANCHESTER — On a day when future expansion plans for the Red Arrow Diner were revealed, faces from its past filled the booths at the popular eatery, as members of its founding family gathered to share memories of their matriarch.
A memorial service was held Friday for Mabel Lamontagne, whose husband David founded the Red Arrow Diner in 1922. Lamontagne died in December at the age of 105, and family and friends gathered at the diner on Lowell Street for a luncheon celebrating her life.
"There were a few tears at the ceremony, but my mother was 105 and a half, and she lived a wonderful life," said Rita Lamontagne Bowlby of Portsmouth. "She held and attended many, many gatherings of the family and had lots of laughs, so today was really celebrating the positive and wonderful person she was. We all miss her terribly, but everyone is very happy with the relationships that we've had with her. They were absolutely fabulous."
"She had a full life, and so many stories were shared again today," said Ray Lamontagne, of Wilton, Conn. "This is a celebration of a life well-lived."
Family members talked and laughed over lunch on Friday, filling the booths to the right of the diner's entrance. Ray occupied a booth with a plaque bearing his mother's name.
"The last time she was here was in 2007, for her 100th birthday," said Lamontagne. "I talked to Carol Sheehan (the diner's owner) to arrange it, and she asked if there was anything special she could do. I knew it got busy there, so I asked if she could save the parking spot out in front for us. I pulled up, and there were two guys there looking pretty serious. I thanked them for saving the spot, but they didn't seem to know what I was talking about.
Turns out they were Secret Service agents. Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama was inside. He said he was trying to talk to people, but all anyone wanted to talk about was mom."
Lamontagne said he can't go anywhere without running into someone who knows the Red Arrow Diner.
"I travel a lot, and whenever I run into someone from New Hampshire they ask if I know the place," said Lamontagne. "When they hear that my father started the diner, it always sparks a conversation. It's great to see it still doing so well. I wish them all the best."