HAVING SPENT most of my adult life outside the Granite State, I hadn't heard of Raymond Cote until last week, when he was honored for his outstanding commitment to the Manchester community by the Moore Center at its 14th annual Garden Party fundraiser.
It was probably time I met the longtime philanthropist and former president of Harvey Construction, since the last project he worked on before he retired more than 20 years ago was the 173,000-square-foot building at 100 William Loeb Drive that I walk into five mornings a week.
Cote mentioned that fact to me Thursday on the lawn of the Brady Sullivan Building, fondly recalling Nackey S. Loeb, the late president and Publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Citizens Bank New Hampshire President Joe Carelli had just stopped by to congratulate Cote, gushing about the space his corporate team recently moved into in the City Hall Plaza tower on Elm Street, across the street from its old digs, the former Amoskeag Bank building. The addition to the building Citizens had occupied, where its bank branch and rooftop signs remain, was built for Amoskeag by Harvey Construction during Cote's tenure with the company.
Seems my cousin has left his mark on this town.
I didn't know that Raymond Cote and I shared a common lineage until the New Hampshire Sunday News published a black and white image of my father, Eugene, as a young man playing the drums to accompany a column I wrote last Sunday about his many careers.
The next day, I had a voice mail waiting for me from a woman who identified herself only as "Mrs. Cote." She said she wanted to let me know I had cousins in town.
Olga Cote, Raymond's wife of 63 years, didn't leave her name or number, but she did notify the folks at the Moore Center, who invited me to the garden party so that I could be there to honor my second cousin.
It was an invitation I could not refuse: Whether this man was related to me was trumped by the importance of the event. The nonprofit Moore Center helps people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and brain injuries. It also provides services to children and seniors and training for human-services professionals.
This year's event raised $180,000, which will benefit the center's autism services, said Brady Sullivan partner Arthur Sullivan, who serves on the Moore Center board. The several hundred people gathered under the tent Thursday listened to impassioned speeches from Eileen Suckley and Amanda Cordier, mothers whose children have received help from the center. Suckley's 26-year-old son, Thomas, described his battles with autism and his achievements with help from the center over the past decade.
If I had been a no-show, there would have been an unclaimed "Cousin Mike" manila envelope sitting on one of the tables that Olga compiled for me.
Inside: copies of old black and white photos, including a family portrait that included my grandfather, Charles Cote, and Raymond's father, Alfred, as young men with their siblings and my great-grandparents, Antonin Cote and Jesse Bogle. And a newspaper clipping of my grandfather with the 1920 graduating class of Wilson Grammar School in Manchester that had been republished in the Union Leader under the heading "Old School Memories."
Mostly, I would not have had the chance to meet Ray, who visited with me at one of the tables, though we were interrupted frequently by friends, family and business and civic associates who came by to pay their respects.
Among those who was there to root for Ray was Maurice Beliveau, who for years did business with Cote and Harvey Construction when he operated United Plate Glass Co. These days, Beliveau and Cote are among a circle of friends who golf, play cards and dine together.
"He is a very kind person," Beliveau said. "He can be very sensitive, and I think he's the person who appreciates what he's been given and had a chance to build himself up. He was very much favored by Paul Harvey (of Harvey Construction), who was one of my dear friends."
Cote, 84, a retired member of the New Hampshire National Guard, graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in civil engineering and worked for Harvey Construction for 30 years. His extensive work with nonprofit boards includes helping New Horizons of New Hampshire, Federated Arts of Manchester, Elliot Health Northeast, Notre Dame College and the Bishops Annual Fund.
Upon being called to the stage, Cote spoke briefly, saying he was humbled by the honor and asking his wife to stand up for a round of applause for all her support.
"I'm a man of few words but a lot of meaning," he said.
Nice job, cuz. You would have made a great editor.
Mike Cote is business editor at the New Hampshire Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321 ext. 324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.