We gathered on the hill above Cemetery Cove in Dublin to bid farewell to John Summers. The owner of Summers Back Country Sports, or as commonly called “the canoe store,” was being laid to rest.
We took turns behind the mic. His gravestone said, “Preservationist. Naturalist. Civic Leader.”
I had worked for him. One day he called me into his office. He had seen my letter in the paper calling for two brick houses to be spared, as a shopping center was to be built where they stood.
He liked the idea. And took over. John Summers was a genius at organizing projects and getting around the roadblocks put up by authorities. It was his ability and drive that saved the brick houses.
But my favorite image of John Summers is of him clearing a trailhead in Pisgah Park in his backhoe. Wearing an oxford shirt. In his yellow rig. Working midday on the hottest day of summer. This was John.
As his service concluded, a large hawk glided down the tree line of the hill to an oak by the highway: a regal bird for this robust civic leader.
John had many dreams. He had many pokers in the fire. John would have had to have lived several lifetimes to see them all come to fruition.
I mentioned one at the ceremony. Keene has a large stone bridge in South Keene which can be seen by motorists on Route 101. The Viaduct, as we called it, was built by the railroad in the 1850s. Originally it had stone walls on each side of the bridge. These were replaced sometime later by steel pipe railing.
After the railroad abandoned the line, the pipe railings rusted at the base and collapsed off the side of the bridge.
The city owns the bridge, and it is a marvelous place — a wonderful place to view nature or get away from the madding crowd.
But there is a problem. The bridge has no railings. This exposes us to serious liability issues.
The Viaduct needs railings or side walls. John Summers wanted the original stonework walls rebuilt. Why not?