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Selectmen Shawn Jasper, Library Trustee Arlene Creeden, Phillip Rodgers, Alvin Rodgers, and Library Trustee Chair John Knowles, Library Trustee Linda Walkley-Kipnes, and Library Trustee Anne “Connie” Owen shortly after the Rodgers announced the gift.
Hudson has long been blessed with philanthropists. Dr. Alfred Hills and Kimball Webster -- who created Hills Memorial Library in 1909, among other things -- are a few of the best known historically.
Even today, Septuagenarian brothers, Phil and Al Rodgers, have stealthily contributed to Hudson over several decades. Expanding their family’s legacy, the Rodgers brothers gifted $4 million to build a new Hudson library in memory of their beloved Hudson parents, at a special Library Trustees meeting on October 10, 2007. While library plans will be detailed soon, this article features the lives of these two remarkable benefactors whose generosity will enable a new and long-awaited library to benefit all of Hudson and its future generations.
G. Phillip and Alvin Rodgers were born three years and one week apart, the eldest of five sons (including Ken, “Dewey” and Ronnie) of the late George and Ella (Landry) Rodgers of Hudson. “Mom was one of eight kids from Grande Anse, New Brunswick. Her father was a lumber camp cook and he moved the family here in the 1920s,” reflected Phil. Ella married George H. Rodgers in Nashua in 1927, and shortly after they settled at Stuart’s Corner in Hudson near Eayrs Pond to raise their family and set up shop.
“Dad was a skilled textile mill worker in Nashua and also a trained mechanic,” detailed Phil. “He worked 50 hours a week for 40 cents an hour for just $20 a week.”
“Mom largely ran the Rodgers’ family store and filling station, and took care of us boys,” added Al.
Clearly, the Rodgers taught their sons the value of hard work, family, and community. Phil and Al held their first jobs at the tender age of eight as a water boy and a weeder, for 10 cents a day working for a neighboring farmer, George Steel. Both have worked incessantly ever since. Family, community service, and work -- the solid foundation of their lives and maxims they’ve instilled into each of their respective five children and twenty grandchildren, many also actively engaged in Hudson.
Library to be named after George and Ella Rodgers.
They created Rodgers Brothers Construction in 1956, shortly after Al came home from the Air Force. For the next half century, the name Rodgers dominated the local construction market as they built over 2,500 area homes, ironically including the library annex at 49 Ferry Street, and many commercial properties. “We primarily aimed to build good homes at reasonable prices that families could afford,” explained Phil. He recalled their earliest homes were built on Birchcroft (behind T-Bones) and sold for $12,800 in the late 1950s – homes now worth $225,000+.
A life-time Hudson resident offered, “A Rodgers Brothers home was always the home of choice. They were famous for high quality craftsmanship.”
“Being the oldest, I always knew Phil was boss,” admitted Al, the quieter sibling. “We always got along well because he did his job running the business office, buying and planning, while I did my job doing the design work and field construction,” he detailed with a smile.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And--which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
--Rudyard Kipling, 1909
Along the way, these self-made businessmen always supported Hudson and helped others. “Phil and Al have well served this community, throughout their lives,” declared son-in-law and Hudson Lion’s Club Director Steve Middlemiss. “Both are also Melvin Jones Fellows, the highest honor a Lion’s Club member can earn.”
Living the motto, “We Serve,” Phil and Al are 50-year-plus members of the Hudson Lion’s Club. Al was the first District Governor for Hudson in 1975/1976 -- an honor his son, Gary Rodgers, retired Hudson Deputy Fire Chief, repeated in 2002/2003. They championed Lion’s Hall (Hudson Community Center) in the mid 1960s and the Hudson Recreation Center in the late 1970s as building co-chairs, and also generously donated labor, supplies, and equipment. They were also stewards of the Lion’s baseball field and Hudson swimming pool, and they helped build St. John’s school. Concrete Systems and Liberty Millwork were among the many Hudson businesses they successfully started.
While Rodgers Brothers Construction is still incorporated and operating at 5 Newton Street, they are no longer actively building. Semi-retired at 76, Al has picked up golf with his wife Betty. They also relish family time and enjoy their winters in Florida.
Bravely battling bone cancer, Phil, 79, remains a self-professed workaholic. The remarkable high school drop-out and self-made millionaire also shared he is an eternal optimist, “inspired by his mother’s positive attitude, and guided by Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’.” Phil is now urgently driven to realize his dream for a new town library and to make that lasting contribution in the name of his parents.
“As a proud Hudson citizen all of my life, this is something I’ve long dreamed of,” stated Phil. “I fondly remember going to Hills Memorial Library as a Webster School fourth grader.“ When a new library first went on the Hudson ballot as a warrant article in 1980, Phil was involved in the library building committee.
Most recently, though warrant article 9 for a new Hudson library earned 52% of the town vote, it missed the 60% majority needed to pass the $3.6 million bond issue in the March 2007 elections. With Rodgers’ funding, and utilizing the same library plans (15,690 sq. ft. facility), architects (Adams and Smith, LLC) and town-owned land (194 Derry Road; between Alvirne and Hills Garrison) as the Library Trustees proposed -- and the Hudson Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee supported last spring -- things should move quickly.
“We intend to move ahead and start land clearing for the new library this fall,” reported Phil enthusiastically. “Our goal is to have the new library opened for the 100th anniversary of Hills Memorial Library in June 1909.” He added with quiet conviction, “I plan to be there.”
“This is thrilling!” exclaimed John Knowles, Hills Memorial Library (HML) Board of Trustees Chair. In accepting the Rodgers’ donation, Knowles responded, “We are deeply grateful for this generous gift. It is especially exciting that this donation will enable construction of the new library in time for the dedication (of HML’s) 100th anniversary.” He was also “glad the support and work of so many these last few years will allow us to move ahead quickly.”
“Dreams really can come true,” exuberantly stated Jane Bowles, Friends of Library co-president. “This is a tremendous gift to benefit everyone in Hudson for generations to come. We are so grateful for the Rodgers brothers’ enormous generosity and vision.”
“Hudson has done well by us, and now we want to give back and create a lasting gift to honor our parents’ name,” concluded Al sincerely. His wife Betty said, “This is such a great honor for our family. They have contributed so much to the community, and to be remembered by this gift is a wonderful honor.”
Hudson native summed up, “This is a fantastic opportunity from two great guys who have given so much to this town. God Bless them both.”
The proverbial cat is finally out of the bag. Litchfield Superintendent Cathy Hamblett is getting married the Saturday after Thanksgiving and moving to the Bennington, Vermont.
“I’m excited,” said a grinning Hamblett, who noted it was the first time in her career that she’s ever left a job without having another job. “Who knows what the future will hold? I’m going to enjoy being married, getting settled into our home, and will take my time seeking another position. Who knows? I may do something besides being a superintendent,” she laughed. “There are endless possibilities.”
While the school board has known for a while, it has been a secret as they — working with Hamblett — searched for an interim superintendent to fill Hamblett’s shoes, and they have unanimously appointed of Dr. Elaine Cutler to take over the responsibilities as interim superintendent of the Litchfield School District.
Cutler is expected to start at the end of October, and Hamblett plans to stay on until November 16. “That will give us some overlap. The board wanted to have that overlap because it is important to making a smooth transition,” said Hamblett.
Cutler started her career in education as a teacher in Lynn, Massachusetts. She then moved to Florida where she spent 30 years in the positions of special education teacher, staffing supervisor, elementary principal, director of elementary education, and assistant superintendent. For the last four years, Dr. Cutler has been the superintendent of schools for SAU #28, Windham / Pelham School Districts, where she was known as a collaborator, a great communicator, and someone who was very knowledgeable. She’s well aware of the challenges of working with a Budget Committee as well as a school board.
Cutler, who was on vacation when we spoke about the new position, said, “I’m looking forward to coming to Litchfield. The board was absolutely lovely during the interview. Having an opportunity to concentrate on one district will be excellent. I’m looking forward to carrying on the excellent educational work that has been going on in Litchfield.”
Cutler earned her Bachelor of Science and her Masters in Education at Salem State College, and her doctorate at Nova Southeastern University.
Hamblett said, “It has been an honor to serve as the first superintendent of the Litchfield School District upon the establishment of the district as a single district school administrative unit, SAU #27. While there have been challenges, there have been many positive accomplishments and experiences during my tenure.”
Dennis Miller, school board chairman, complimented Hamblett and the work she’s done for the district. “On behalf of the entire school board, I wish Cathy the best as she moves into the next phase of her life. She has been instrumental in the formation of SAU #27 as a standalone unit after Hudson separated in 2003, following the opening of Campbell High, and the hiring of our excellent staff in the SAU office. Her academic and student focus have been the guiding principles for the administration and staff over the past seven years.”
Hamblett said that one of her goals was to turn Litchfield into a unified school district that concentrates on student achievement. “I think we’ve done that. We have a perspective of our district as an educational, united school district. I would like to thank school board members, faculty, administrators, support staff, parents, and students for their contributions to those accomplishments. My heart is pulled in so many directions as I give my intention to retire, looking forward to my marriage and relocation.”
The board announced their warm welcome to Dr. Cutler as the interim superintendent. “It was apparent during her interview we shared common ideas on job performance, academic expectations, leadership, and educational principles,” said Miller. “Together, we are confident we can meet the goals laid out for the district, administrators, and school board over the next year. Dr Cutler will also play a key role in the search for a permanent superintendent for the 2008 – 2009 school year.”
“I am honored to serve as Litchfield’s interim superintendent,” concluded Cutler. “I have long admired the sense of community and attention to academic excellence that is so evident throughout the district. I look forward to working with a committed school board, excellent administrators, and dedicated teachers and parents who deeply care about student achievement and well being.”
Two of Litchfield’s best.
Even, the Manchester Airport Truck was there to provide a demonstration.
Many types of fire trucks came from many communities.
Dispatcher, Jeff Labrie
This ladder truck came from Allenstown.
These trucks should look familiar.