BERLIN — Ray Burton, whose career as a public official was the personification of service to others, will be honored posthumously next month by the Northern Region chapter of the Granite United Way.
The longest-serving Executive Councilor in New Hampshire history, Burton represented District 1 from 1977-1979 and from 1981-2013. A resident of Bath, Burton died there on Nov. 12, 2013 from liver cancer.
Following his death, Burton — whose vacant seat was filled in a special election by Joe Kenney — was lionized throughout the state and especially in his beloved "North Country."
His memory will be honored again on April 10 at the Northern Region Annual Campaign Celebration and Loyal Contributor Recognition Dinner, which will be held at the White Mountain Chalet in Berlin.
The dinner will feature a keynote address by George Bald, the former commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, and the presentation of awards, which are named after the United Way's values: Give, Volunteer, and Advocate. The Advocate awarded will be presented to Burton's family.
Additionally, the Northern Region chapter will bestow a Hero award, and for the first time in 2014, one for Loyalty, said Kathy Frenette, the director of resource development for the Granite United Way's Northern Region & North Country Region, on Monday.
Held since 1972, the annual celebration and dinner will feature some very good news, said Frenette — that the Granite United Way has exceeded its overall fundraising goal of $7.2 million by more than $200,000 — but that will be tempered by the more somber reality that the agency has lost one of its most unwavering champions.
"We didn't think of anyone else other than Ray who should have the Advocate award," said Frenette. "When Ray would get calls from people in his district who needed help there'd be times when he would send them to our office. We had that kind of relationship. He would call saying 'I have nowhere else to go, can you help?' and we worked with Ray for quite a few years."
Although he was a Republican, Frenette said Burton was foremost "a great advocate for the district."
"Ray didn't care if you were Republican, Democrat or Independent. If you lived in his district and you had a need, like being out of heating oil or whatever it may be, he was there and he would make the calls and make sure the person got what he needed. He was always there and I don't know if we're ever going to get that again. He was an advocate for northern New Hampshire; he was everybody's advocate."
Burton wore many hats, Frenette summed up, and in addition to being an advocate he was loyal, which is why the Northern Region United Way's 2014 annual celebration and dinner is dedicated to his memory.
The theme of the event is "loyalty, so again," said Frenette, "when you're looking at loyalty, it's Ray."