MANCHESTER — Elias Emile “Skip” Ashooh, 68, a well-known business leader who figured prominently in the creation of what became the SNHU Arena, passed away peacefully Thursday night after a brief illness.
City business and political leaders recalled a hard-charging advocate for the state’s largest city, the oldest son of seven whose siblings also went on to their own successful careers in government, business, philanthropy and family life.
Mike Skelton is president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce that bestowed on Ashooh the Citizen of the Year award in 2000.
Skelton had just met with Ashooh a few weeks ago about a local development project.
“His impact on the community was felt literally until the day he died. He remained on the Manchester Development Corporation and was instrumental in making the rebirth of the Rex Theatre a reality,” Skelton said.
Ashooh was a “Manchester pride person,” Skelton said, someone who in a variety of roles looked for ways to advance the city’s image.
“Skip was the consummate dealmaker businessman known as someone who was unafraid of tackling complex problems,” Skelton said.
“Communities thrive on the backs of men and women like Skip.”
State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, will fondly recall Ashooh’s love for a good cigar and his passion for seeing Manchester succeed.
“Skip Ashooh was the cigar-smoking king of Manchester. You could always find him in his Elm Street office which was Castro’s Back Room,” D’Allesandro said.
“He was so civically engaged, a guy who loved the city and would literally do anything to make it a more appealing place to people.”
D’Allesandro said Ashooh looked out for and celebrated the many achievements of his six siblings like Nick Ashooh of Lyme, who went on to become a successful executive with Public Service Co. of New Hampshire and Rich Ashooh of Bedford, a former BAE Systems executive, candidate for congress and current assistant secretary of commerce in the Trump administration.
“You can always tell a lot about somebody by their family, how they treat their brothers, sisters and parents. Skip was top shelf in that regard,” D’Allesandro said.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said Ashooh was a persistent force for progress in the city.
“Skip’s passing is a huge loss for the city of Manchester. He was a personable, kind-hearted man who was a forceful advocate for our downtown. Skip was someone everyone knew, was always impeccably dressed and spearheaded countless projects that improved our city,” Craig said in a statement.
“I worked with him on Manchester Connects and the Manchester Development Corporation and was always impressed by his knowledge and commitment to our community. There is no doubt, Manchester is a better place because of Skip Ashooh. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Gail, and his family and friends.”
Former Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen said he saw firsthand Ashooh’s community activism in building Our Lady of Cedars, the city’s Catholic church serving the Lebanese community.
“I don’t believe Skip ever held elective office but I can’t think of an elected official who did more for Manchester than he did,” Stephen said.
“What always impressed me was how selfless he was, never wanting to take credit for something that happened because he knew the right strings to pull. In our community he served as a role model for a lot of us, myself included. This is such a loss but I know Skip’s can-do spirit will live on in Manchester, that’s a big part of his legacy.”
In 2000, then-U.S. Sen. Bob Smith spoke on the Senate floor about Ashooh’s crowning business achievement.
“His most significant contribution to Manchester has been as an ardent supporter and advocate of the Manchester Civic Center. Skip should take great pride in the economic revival of downtown Manchester,” Smith said at the time.
A 1973 graduate of Saint Anselm College, Ashooh went on to become a junior high school social studies teacher in the city where he shared his love of American history.
Ashooh would then launch a successful career as a licensed stockbroker with R.L. Carr and Co. and go on to head up his own financial services firm in the downtown.
It was Ashooh’s business acumen that would become invaluable as city officials struggled to come up with a politically-palatable financing plan that could build the downtown civic center.
As chairman of the Manchester Development Corporation, Ashooh led the effort on behalf of Mayor Ray Wieczorek and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to make the civic center happen from the selection of the architect to helping to secure at that time an American Hockey League franchise, the Manchester Monarchs.
“Skip was one of the prime architects of the deal that made the Manchester Civic Center a reality It was such a unique and creative deal at the time but that was Skip, somebody who always didn’t just dream of what’s possible, he set out to make it happen,” Skelton said.
Ashooh was also regarded as a seasoned political observer as seen in observations he gave to a Wall Street Journal reporter after the Tea Party election in 2010 tossed many Democrats out of power in New Hampshire and other states.
“The country as a whole is trying to find its center balance,” so the political pendulum that swung widely toward Democrats is now swinging back, Ashooh said. “If you go back 50 years, how many times has the presidency and congress been dominated by one party? It usually doesn’t last long when it happens.”
As the oldest child, Skip Ashooh became the “godfather” of annual family reunions at Bear Brook State Park, where he showed off his cooking prowess.
Family members said his life became complete with the 30-year relationship with his wife Gail (Tamasess) Fisher, which began through their joint love of dogs.
Fisher has authored for many years the popular “Dog Tracks” column in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
A full obituary will appear in the New Hampshire Sunday News.