TILTON — After guiding the facility for almost nine years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic that claimed the lives of 36 residents, Margaret “Peggy” LaBrecque is stepping down as commandant of the New Hampshire Veterans Home.
“Being in the healthcare industry, we practice taking care of others on a daily basis,” LaBrecque wrote in an email to the Union Leader on Monday afternoon, adding that while she “thoroughly enjoyed my career of caring for our State’s Veterans,” she decided to leave in order “to care for a family member in need of my time and attention.”
LaBrecque said it has been “been an honor and privilege to serve the State of New Hampshire since 1998 and our Veterans here at the Home for 16 of those years. I thank our great team for their dedicated service to our Veterans by providing great quality of care and quality of life to our Veterans.”
Although the New Hampshire Veterans Home Board of Managers will choose her successor, LaBrecque said she agreed to stay on as commandant “until a qualified candidate is selected to fulfill this role.”
“The Board, leadership team and I,” she said, “will all continue to work together to provide a seamless transition for our Veterans and their families, as well as for our staff, veteran service organizations and other community connections.”
Paul Lloyd, the chairman of the Veterans Home’s Board of Managers and also chair of the NH State Veterans Advisory Committee, said LaBrecque has “done a great job up there and we are sad to see her go,” during a telephone interview Monday.
Although military service runs deep in her family, LaBrecque made history at the Veterans Home in February 2013 when she was tapped to succeed Barry Conway because she was the Veterans Home’s first female commandant and also the first not to have personally served in the armed forces.
LaBrecque joined the Veterans Home in December 2005 as business administrator, having previously worked seven years as an accountant at the NH Liquor Commission, according to her LinkedIn profile.
While the pandemic was not the reason for her departure, it nonetheless continues to be an issue that challenges LaBrecque and the Veterans Home.
In a Sept. 9 letter to residents and families, LaBrecque noted that “The Belknap County weekly average positivity rate continues to be substantial” before adding that the Veterans Home “received news of an asymptomatic employee who tested positive” for the COVID-19 virus.
The employee “had contact with residents and staff in our Tarr North area,” said LaBrecque, adding that all residents and staff would be tested for COVID-19 on both Sept. 10 and Sept 14.
The positive test of the employee, she explained, means that “all social excursion and visits other than pre-approved compassionate care visits have been put on hold to maximize safety and precautions. We will post on our Facebook page and communicate via email when social excursions and in-person visits resume.”
Until then, said LaBrecque, the Veterans Home is “happy to connect you and your veteran with a video call or window visit.”