Archie D. Minard, ALLENSTOWN
Saturday, January 17, 2004
ALLENSTOWN - Archie D. Minard, 86, of Pine Acres Road, died Thursday at the Burn Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was born in Salisbury, the son of Ulysess and Mary (Burbank) Minard. He worked for the soil department for the state of New Hampshire for many years. He also worked as caretaker for Plausawa Valley Country Club. Minard enjoyed hunting, fishing and his two dogs. Survivors include three sisters, Cara Dowes of Loudon, Olive Barton of Concord and Victory Greenwood of Penacook; and several nieces and nephews including his caregivers, Joe and Martha Barton. Thirteen brothers and sisters died previously. Funeral services will not be held. Burial will be held at the convenience of the family.
He was a 'sweetheart' and 'a tough old bird'
Blaze claims beloved town figure
By ERIC MOSKOWITZ
Concord Monitor staff
ALLENSTOWN - You could tell a lot about Archie Minard by the things he liked to get for Christmas: a good pair of gloves, a handkerchief, a plaid flannel shirt, a loaf of banana bread.
"Just the things old men like, and can use," said Martha Barton, his niece.
Minard survived the torpedoing of the U.S.S. Canberra in World War II. Fifty years later, he beat colon cancer. He died yesterday morning at 86 from severe infection, five days after being badly burned in a fire at his Allenstown trailer. He remained fiercely independent until the end, stubborn and proud as ever.
Last year, he tried to renew his driver's license, but he failed the test four times, so the state told him he couldn't drive anymore. Never one to enjoy having to rely on others, Minard bought himself a secondhand electric scooter, the kind meant to be driven only in supermarket aisles. He'd take it on the back roads of town, running errands. Though it went just 5 mph, he'd even drive it the eight-mile round trip to the Bartons' house in Epsom. In October, he surprised them by leaving a pumpkin on the doorstep when they weren't home.
He loved his trailer on Pine Acre Road, where he lived for nearly 40 years. Before that he lived in Loudon, and he stayed in touch with many of his old friends. He never missed a funeral, often showing up in a cowboy hat with a feather, complementing his usual flannel shirt and suspenders. He had eclectic taste, covering his yard with everything from bird feeders to bowling balls, hubcaps to Christmas lights. He tacked a "Reindeer Crossing" sign and a Red Sox foam finger to a tree near the front door. He carved his name and his old ship's name into shingles that hung near the road, above his old license plate: "MY2K9S," an homage to his beloved Boston Terriers.
Yesterday at the trailer, an American flag flew low on the mast. Yellow fire department caution tape encircled the property. On Saturday afternoon, in the midst of one of the coldest stretches in years, Minard's pipes froze. He took a propane torch and went outside, descending into the cinder block-lined crawl space he dug several years ago, to give himself better access to his pipes. While he was trying to thaw the pipes with the torch, some insulating blankets caught fire, and the fire spread to Minard's clothing. He rolled in the snow to put out the flames, then went inside the house to call 911.
Neighbor Sue Simpson spotted billowing smoke while driving past and rushed to the door, calling to see if Minard was all right. "No," he told her. "I did a stupid thing." Inside the house, Simpson found Minard already in shock, holding the telephone and saying, "You can't get 911." She took the phone and told him to head for safety in her minivan. A choking smoke filled the room. Simpson could see the phone when she dialed the numbers, but not by the time she was speaking to the emergency operator. She gave the address, then headed out to the van. Leaving, she discovered that Minard had remained in the house, waiting around a corner.
When she got into the minivan with him, a pair of Boston Terriers close behind, Simpson recognized that his burns were worse than the singed eyebrows and soot she initially saw. "He was still smoking," she said. "His jacket and his body was still smoking." His clothes had burned off in parts, and his skin was blistering, with visible burns on his hips, thighs and back, she said. "He was pretty bad off."
Minard was taken by ambulance to Concord Hospital, then flown to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He had second- and third-degree burns over 25 to 30 percent of his body, Barton said. Doctors were monitoring his condition and preparing for mid-week surgery when he suffered a heart attack Wednesday morning. He died yesterday.
"We're all heartbroken," said Veryl Brissette, a neighbor who has known Minard for four decades. She described him as a kind of grandfather to the neighborhood. Though he never had children, he developed a bond with many of the kids on the block, a number of whom moved away, then moved back with kids of their own.
"Oh, he was a sweetheart," Brissette said. She remembered the time that her daughter Dawna, now 46, emptied out the contents of her Easter basket, dividing them in half. Then she asked for a second basket and filled it with half the goodies, to give to Minard. "He started crying," Brissette said. As the 15th of 17 children born to a Salisbury farm family, he'd never had an Easter basket of his own before. "I swear he's still got that basket up there," Brissette said.
Not that he was a total softy. He was a well-known curmudgeon, an old salt who used to warn the kids waiting for the school bus outside his house that he'd call the police if he saw any roughhousing.
He could be "ornery" and "cantankerous," said Joe Barton, his nephew. But he'd also "do anything for anybody," said Martha Barton, Joe's wife. About 30 years ago, after Brissette's husband Frank had a heart attack, Minard quietly slipped her an envelope with five $10 bills, insisting that it be used for food for the seven Brissette children.
"That's the way he was," Martha Barton said.
He liked to keep an eye on things, and he rode around the neighborhood for years, with his dogs in tow. He loved to garden and was known for leaving potatoes, tomatoes and squash on friends' doorsteps. He was an avid hunter and fisherman. He worked several jobs over the years, among them building houses for a local construction company and testing soil for the state highway department. In retirement, he worked as a groundskeeper at the Plausawa Valley Country Club.
He was married for awhile, Martha Barton said. After a divorce, he stayed friendly with his ex-wife, Madeline, until her death from Lou Gehrig's disease about 30 years ago. He made the news 14 years ago in a story in the Monitor about how seniors were being squeezed from their homes. Minard's taxes rose from $250 to $1,000 in just a couple of years, and his inability to pay on a fixed income made losing the trailer a real possibility. The Bartons covered nearly $5,000 in back taxes so he could keep the house, which he cherished. "He didn't have much, but it was a palace to him," Martha Barton said. "He loved it."
He was one of four remaining Minard children. His sister Olive, Joe's mother, got sick in December, and the Bartons began making arrangements for her. With Minard, they just always figured he "would outlive everybody," Martha Barton said. "He was a tough old bird."
Joe Barton laughed, remembering a call he got from his uncle last year, a rare request to be taken on an errand. He needed "liniment." When Barton saw him, Minard was walking bow-legged. Before he bought the scooter, he briefly tried riding a pedal-powered tricycle.
"He says, 'I rode that damn bike down to Bi-Wise and now I can't hardly walk!' " Barton recalled. Still, he added, "You gotta give him admiration. Boy, he was willing to try anything." To preserve his independence, especially.
Friday, January 16, 2004