Chamber to honor top citizen, business leader
2014 WINNERS: Peter Robinson, Ann Lessard to be honored at gala March 20
PETERBOROUGH — The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has named its 2014 annual award honorees: Citizen of the Year is Ann Lessard and Business Leader of the Year is Peter Robinson.
Lessard, a retired teacher and longtime civic volunteer, and Robinson, owner of Roy’s Markets/Maggie’s Market Place, will be honored at a gala banquet sponsored by Public Service of New Hampshire on Thursday, March 20, at Monadnock Country Club.
According to Chamber Executive Director Jack Burnett, “These honorees, not unlike many others in the past, represent the word ‘local’ at its very best. Between them, Ann and Peter have many decades of outstanding service to many, many thousands of local students, shoppers, and citizens of every age and walk of life. For very good reason, they are two of the most respected people in the Peterborough area, and have been for some time.”
Tickets for the gala banquet are $45 each or 8 (a table) for $350. Cocktails will begin at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 and the event ending by 9:30. Table sponsorships and associated publicity are $100, and silver sponsorships are $250. For more information or to purchase tickets or sponsorships, contact the chamber at 924-7234 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.peterboroughchamber.com.
Business Leader of the Year
“Be a little fearless,” is the advice of Peter Robinson, the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Business Leader of the Year. He says, “My biggest regret is saying ‘no’ to things. I never regretted saying ‘yes.’ If I didn’t like the result, I still came away with the knowledge that it wasn’t the right thing for me.”
Robinson has said “yes” to many careers in his life: assistant manager of his college’s cafeteria (Northeastern University in Boston), cook on a boat, 18 years as an ice cream salesman both for national companies and his own distribution firm, three years in the Virgin Islands in varied positions (including property manager and charter boat owner), and seven years as a partner in a manufacturer’s representative business.
When that last partnership dissolved, his uncle, Albert Roy, offered to sell him Roy’s Market and Roy’s II, better known as Little Roy’s. Peter recalls, “I said, ‘There’s no way I will do retail,’ but my wife convinced me to try.” They purchased the stores in 2004, an example of business fearlessness that has worked out well not only for Peter and his wife, Amilbia, but for the entire Peterborough community. The Roy’s Markets family is well known for its widespread willingness to help local nonprofits of every shape and size.
In 2008, the couple bought Maggie’s Market Place, an organic food store next door to Roy’s, along with its Cook’s Complements kitchen store component. In 2010, they remodeled Roy’s Market, making it more modern, environmentally responsible, and energy efficient. Recently they added a kitchen to Little Roy’s, where they prepare the same fabulous lunches that they offered outside Roy’s Market last summer. “I like to think that I’m forward-thinking,” says Peter, “and early in life I learned that change is inevitable. We’ve been fortunate, but not without a lot of hard work and keeping up with what people are looking for. If I listen to my customers, they tell me what they want.” More recently, Peter has started a flourishing catering business to serve the Peterborough area’s burgeoning meetings and social events scene.
Part of what customers want, Peter has found, is that sense of nostalgia and continuity represented by the Red Coats, young men and women who serve as clerks in Roy’s Market, stocking shelves, helping customers to shop, and carrying groceries to customers’ cars. “As long as I’m here,” vows Peter, “we’ll continue to do that.”
In his view, the concerns about young people leaving New Hampshire are partly just the normal flow of the young from what they know to something new. “In the 1970s and 1980s, people wanted a different type of life. They wanted to leave the cities and go to the country. Now young people are looking to go to urban centers. They were raised here,” he points out with a smile, “and haven’t seen the bright lights of the city.”
Citizen of the Year
From her early career through her present retirement, Ann Lessard, the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year, has helped countless Peterborough children, families, and organizations. She ascribes her willingness to become involved to two main character traits: “I love teaching, organizing, and managing, and I never wanted to get bored.”
No one could accuse Ann of leading a boring life. A native of Francestown, born in The Peterborough Hospital, and a graduate of Peterborough High School and Keene State College, she taught first through third grades for 38 years and substituted for over a decade after retiring. In her career, she taught more than one generation of the same family. “What I loved about subbing is that the kids didn’t have a clue that I knew who they were, but if I knew the family, I could pick that child out of a crowd.”
A pioneer in creating integrated units for children (for example, science, spelling, and writing), she began presenting teacher workshops for Jim Grant (founder of SDE) in 1985, traveling to every state except Alaska, Hawaii, and South Dakota. She led workshops during vacations and the summer, explaining how teachers could use and develop integrated units and how to manage a classroom.
After retiring, she often tutored children who were having trouble with reading. “When I first started teaching, every school used Orton-Gillingham,” she says, “but that changed.” Using the Orton-Gillingham method as a tutor, she had great success and fondly remembers one such child who came to her unable to read and is now thriving in graduate school.
Ann is an active board member of the Friends of the Peterborough Library and one of the founding members (and still in charge of volunteers) for the library-associated Kyes-Sage used book store. She organized the senior lunches now held at the Community Center. With Joan O’Donell as co-leader, she founded a youth group that ran for many years at the Union Congregational Church. “We had 15 to 17 kids,” Ann recalls, “and they all brought their friends. We had a food drive, we handed out clothes to the homeless in Boston, we had a talent show, and the kids handled set up and clean up for the community suppers.”
Over the years, she has helped Bosnian refugees and other immigrants settling in Peterborough to learn English. “I would take them shopping and we would speak English. It was hands — on learning, the same way I taught the children in school, creating the experience and then talking or writing about it.” Ann has also been a very active Lioness over the years.
Ann and her husband, Joe, who led tours for a Boston tour group, have traveled frequently to Europe, including riverboat trips down the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, and other rivers. The couple has two children, Jennifer and Tod, and two grandchildren.
“Looking over my life,” Ann says, “I see how my skills developed. You don’t want to sit on the couch. By volunteering in your 40s and 50s, you have things to do when you retire.” Without question, over her lifetime, Ann Lessard’s list of “things to do” has made Peterborough a much better place for everyone.
Written by Sharon Bailly, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. Photos by Marilyn Weir, Marilyn Weir Photography.