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Somersworth hit-and-run fatality was accomplished artist

Union Leader Correspondent

June 19. 2017 3:12PM

Flowers, kind words and a teddy bear were left at the scene of a hit-and-run near High Street and Bartlett Avenue in Somersworth. Accomplished artist Gail Burwen was killed and police are looking for the driver responsible. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

SOMERSWORTH — Police have identified the 71-year-old woman killed in a hit-and-run Saturday night, but have yet to find the driver who plowed into her.

Gail J. Burwen, who lived on West High Street, was struck and killed in the area of a pedestrian crossing at High Street and Bartlett Avenue. Police say a light-colored sedan hit Burwen about 10:40 p.m. 

Burwen died at the scene, and on Monday police were out in force looking for a sedan with fresh damage to the front end. Capt. Russell Timmons said police are also working with a local market which might have video surveillance images of the incident.

According to her obituary, the Massachusetts native was an accomplished artist whose work appeared often in the National Lampoon, a humor magazine that ran from 1970 to 1998, and was based in New York City.

Burwen also illustrated many book covers over the course of her career, including “The Secret Life of Plants,” her obituary says.

Burwen’s funeral services will be private.

On Monday afternoon, neighbor Rivka Rowe said she and her husband, Ben, heard the impact when Burwen was hit. Rowe said the Target shopping cart Burwen was pushing scraped along the roadway. Groceries were all over the street, Rowe said.

Target is more than a mile away from the intersection.

Although the driver did not stop, several people stopped and tried to save Burwen, Rowe said.

Rowe, who has lived on High Street since January 2013, said she is concerned about the intersection where Burwen was hit because traffic in the area seems to be getting heavier over time. 

“We have a lot of accidents right here,” Rowe said. “People don’t yield for pedestrians ... People are in a rush to get nowhere.”

Rowe said sidewalks could help, but she believes the recent change in a streetlight bulb has made it more difficult to see people using the crosswalk or waiting for the COAST bus.

Rowe said the new bulb has white light instead of the traditional yellow.

Anyone with information about the hit-and-run is encouraged to call the Somersworth Police Department at 692-3131.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Burwen was the art director for National Lampoon.

Public Safety Somersworth

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