John D. Summers
On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, we lost a great patriot, conservationist, community servant, husband, father and friend.
John D. Summers was born March 7, 1929, in Boston, to Jack and Wilhelmina Summers. John, the first-born of five sons, relocated with his family to Dublin when he was a young child, where he lived for 12 years. He graduated from The Holderness School in Plymouth, after which he joined the U.S. Army and served honorably during the Korean War. After he completed his service to his country he attended and graduated from Keene State College, where he majored in English.
While at Keene State, John started selling skis, boots and other equipment out of his small apartment’s living room as a student in 1949. The Keene State Ski Team was his best customer.
A lifelong outdoorsman and tennis player, John quickly outgrew his living room and opened his first retail store, “John Summers’ Ski and Sport,” later “John Summers’ Ski and Mountain,” on Church Street in Keene. He quickly outgrew the 10-by-12-foot space and moved two years later to a larger location on Main Street next to the Colonial Theatre.
In 1980, John expanded to a much larger space at 16 Ashuelot St., again changing the name to “Summers Backcountry Sports.” John served the sporting community for a total of 62 years selling skis, boots, ice skates, canoes, kayaks, bicycles, mountain climbing gear, tents, snowshoes and cross-country skis.
In a natural extension of his outdoors store, John was passionate about conserving the environment. He was one of the founders of both Friends of Pisgah and Pathways for Keene, two organizations devoted to preserving the beauty and enjoyment of his beloved town and state. Preservation for John included saving historic bridges and buildings from the developers’ wrecking ball. John and his wife, Marty, together with the Keene Heritage Committee, raised $120,000 from the community and started “Save the Buildings Now” to relocate two important 19th-century buildings from Faulkner-Colony Mill to Ashuelot Street, where they became part of the Senior Center.
In addition, John ran a side company, Sum Turf Construction, building Har-Tru tennis courts throughout New England. John closed his beloved “Summers Backcountry Outfitters” store and tennis court company in 2010 and continued his conservation and preservation efforts.
After a lifetime in New Hampshire, John and his wife, Marty, relocated to Lake Worth, Fla., in 2017. John is survived by his wife, Marty; his two brothers: Charles Summers of Boxboro, Mass.; and Frank Summers of Worcester, Mass., and his children, Heidi Summers of Marshal, N.C., Kristen Harper of Livingston, Ky., Monica Summers of Glen Falls, N.Y. and Sonja Thompson of Bucksport, Maine. His brothers, William and David, and his son, Michael, predecease him. He has 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
Due to the pandemic, a private family memorial will take place sometime next spring or summer 2021 at the family’s plot in Dublin. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in John’s name to: Friends of Pisgah, Inc., P.O. Box 134, Chesterfield NH 03443; or Pathways for Keene, P.O. Box 226, Keene NH 03431.