PLYMOUTH - Politicians past and present paid tribute Saturday to Ray Burton, each using personal examples of how the state's longest-serving executive councilor made state government work for his constituents in the North Country for more than four decades.
"Ray would send lengthy letters, all of them ended in 'May I hear from you?'" former Gov. and current U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said during a ceremony at Plymouth State University. "You knew when you got a letter from Ray, you'd better respond."
Another former governor, John Lynch, said Burton got things done in Concord unconventionally.
"Ray Burton was the only councilor in the history of New Hampshire who could second his own motion," Lynch said, bringing laughter from hundreds in the audience."
"I said, 'Ray, you can't second your own motion,' and he said, 'Yes I can!'"
Burton died Nov. 12 of kidney cancer at the age of 74. A Republican, Burton was first elected in 1977. Aside from a brief time in 1980, he was reelected every two years since.
Burton, a graduate of Plymouth State College, received many awards for his dedication to North Country causes. Just days before he died, he was in attendance when a Mount Washington overlook was named in his honor.
His friends in government spoke of his tireless devotion to his constituents.
"He was the gold standard for public service ... people look at his model as a way of getting things done," said U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte. "He was a statesman who truly raised the bar for public service."
"If it mattered to a constituent, it mattered to Ray," Gov. Maggie Hassan said. "For the people he represented, he was more than an executive councilor, he was part of the family."
"He had a way ... when you saw him, you would always think he was talking just to you," Ayotte said.
Hassan said that when she was last with Burton, just days prior to his death, she asked him whether she could do anything for him or his family in her role as governor.
"He started asking me about more (government) appointments to the North Country," she said, bringing laughter.
Lou D'Allesandro, a longtime friend, former executive councilor and current state senator, recalled how Burton flew to each airport in the state in a small plane.
D'Allesandro remembered seeing Burton a few days before he died.
"He said to me, 'Lou, I've done just about everything that I need to get done,'" D'Allesandro said. "He said, 'I am satisfied, really satisfied with my life.'
"We are all blessed to say Ray Burton was our friend," he said.
Lynch said: "He knew he worked for the people and not the other way around. Ray is undoubtedly up there urging the Lord to look north."
Shaheen and others agreed that Burton was at the ceremony "in spirit."
"I know Ray Burton is with us because Ray would not miss a gathering in the North Country with so many people attending," Shaheen said.