MANCHESTER — Clem Lemire, the city's long-serving former parks director, passed away Monday, but his legacy will remain in the many facilities and fields that he helped create, sometimes with his own bare hands.
Lemire served as the director of the city parks and recreation department from 1966 until his retirement in 1995. He spearheaded the creation of the McIntyre Ski Area and the JFK Memorial Coliseum rink, as well as numerous fields around the city, including the athletic complex at Memorial High School that bears his name.
Ward 2 Alderman Ron Ludwig, who served under Lemire since the early 1970s and succeeded him as parks director, recalled him as a passionate, hands-on boss. "He was a tough guy who put his job on the line several times on behalf developing recreation in Manchester," he said. "He got in a lot of political battles for cutting down trees without asking or filling swamps before the EPA was up to speed. Everything he did in Manchester was part of a vision of making all sections of the city better for kids and recreation."
George "Butch" Joseph, who served as league director of the Manchester Babe Ruth League, said "Lemire is one of the nicest men I've ever known. He was all about kids."
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas said "Lemire will be missed. When he was in charge of Parks and Recreation, he was always at every event. Whether it was Babe Ruth, American Legion, ice hockey, you name it, Clem had the place ready and he was always in attendance in case something needed to be done."
Lemire was from Franklin, and Ludwig said it was important for him that kids in all parts of the city and from all walks life have places to play and compete. He pointed to the creation of Rock Rimmon Park, across from the public housing complex in the northeast corner of the city.
"Who needs it more than the kids coming out of those buildings there. He was a real champion for people who don't have much," Ludwig said.
Ludwig also recalled Lemire as a hands-on outdoor enthusiast. "He'd take a chainsaw out of his car and get the job done," he said, adding with a laugh, "He probably took few pieces of wood home to burn."
Ludwig said Lemire did things his own way, and the city is better off for it. "We don't have a vision like that now in the city — and it was good thing, because we don't have any more land." firstname.lastname@example.org