LITTLETON — From 1966 through 2021, the late Gerald Haines Winn set the record as the longest consecutively-serving town moderator in New Hampshire history.
And as his family and colleagues remembered Winn, 84, who died of cancer at his home, shortly before 8 a.m. on Jan. 9, they noted Winn was a Christian whose faith made him a devoted husband and father, as well as an automotive mechanic par excellence and a real-estate “pioneer” who early on recognized the value of storage units.
Winn, who for the last 25 years also served concurrently as the moderator of the Littleton School District, accomplished all the above and much more, said his family during an interview Wednesday at his business, Century 21 Winn Associates & Winn Associates Property Management on Meadow Street, as a “flatlander” from the lower Upper Valley.
Born in Piermont, in the lower third of the Connecticut River Valley in New Hampshire, Winn was accused of being a flatlander while moderating a Littleton Town Meeting about a quarter-century ago, recalled Mona Hunt, his widow and wife of 62 years.
The accuser, said Mona, felt her husband wasn’t giving him a chance to speak. When Winn told the man everyone would have an equal opportunity, the man retorted, “That’s the trouble with you flatlanders,” next questioning whether Winn was from Monroe, a town that abuts Littleton.
Winn, Mona continued, corrected the man: “No, that was my wife, I came up from Piermont.”
That kind of humor, said Carrie (Winn) Gendreau and her brothers Jeffrey Winn and Greg Winn, helped their father defuse tense situations, but the humor was borne of having given his life to Jesus Christ shortly after he and Mona got married in 1959, said Jeffrey.
“Everything he did publicly was an expression of his faith in Jesus. His patience, kindness, the way he ran meetings … was an expression of how he loved the Lord,” said Jeffrey.
His father also loved public service, Jeffrey said.
Greg Winn said if his dad, who retired as Littleton town moderator in September 2021, “could have moderated from a hospital bed or a wheelchair, he still would have moderated.”
Gendreau, chair of the Littleton Board of Selectmen, said she and her father were the first father-daughter team to be certified as Dale Carnegie instructors, adding proudly that he is mentioned in a recent edition of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
Her dad was “a pioneer in a lot of things,” Gendreau said, and storage units were among them. He was building storage units when people thought it was “crazy” to do so, she said.
Greg Winn said his father, to his peers, was “the one to go to fix anything,” having operated an auto-repair shop in Littleton — Winn’s Flying A — before going into real estate.
Jeffrey said his father’s idea of a well-tuned engine was one where you could set a coin on edge and the running engine was so smooth that the coin stood firm.
That kind of precision was also a hallmark of Winn’s tenure as town moderator, his children said, as none of their father’s rulings as moderator was ever challenged in court.
Milton Bratz, a Littleton selectman and the town’s health and zoning officer, said Wednesday he had known Winn as town moderator for some 30 years, considering him both a colleague and friend.
“Gerald’s ability to run a meeting quite well was based partly on his personality and partly on his years of experience overall,” said Bratz. “I’ve never seen him lose his temper, and maybe he has, but I haven’t been there.”
Town meetings “can become quite hot,” said Bratz, but “Gerald had the personality of a smiling, welcoming, accessible person and he ran the town meetings very well over the years. As a person, he was exactly the same way and just a good friend.”