Chamber names citizens, business leader of year

Marcia and Roland Patten: Dedication to town

  • Chamber Business Leader of the Year

    Chamber Business Leader of the Year

  • Chamber Citizens of the Year

    Chamber Citizens of the Year

  • Chamber Business Leader of the Year
  • Chamber Citizens of the Year

Marcia and Roland Patten have been named 2013 Citizens of the Year and Bonnie Cohen was named 2013 Business Leader of the Year by the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.

The Pattens, longtime civic volunteers and leaders, and Cohen, CEO of RiverMead, will be honored at the gala banquet on March 21 at Monadnock Country Club on High Street in Peterborough.

According to Chamber Executive Director Jack Burnett, “These honorees are among many nominated by townspeople this year, so they are literally the best of the best, all of whom are winners. Marcia and Roland and Bonnie are three of the most selfless individuals you will ever find, period — not just in Peterborough, but anywhere.”

Tickets for the gala banquet are $45 each or 8 for $350. Table sponsorships and associated publicity, $100; silver, $250. For more information or to purchase tickets or sponsorships, please contact the Chamber at 924-7234 or, or go to This event will sell out, so early purchase is encouraged.

Marcia and Roland Patten

For nearly 50 years, Roland and Marcia Patten, have been repaying “a debt of gratitude” to the town of Peterborough. Their commitment has helped to give Peterborough the Common Pathway, an award-winning town history, and a renovated Town House, among a list of achievements.

Marcia grew up in Peterborough (her family owned a farm that stretched across the land now occupied by South Meadow School and ConVal High). She met Roland when he transferred to Peterborough High School, and they married a year after graduation. She says, “You marry for love, but I knew I had made the right choice when he single-handedly dug a well for us. After all his work, I said to myself that I not only had well water but also a really good man.”

That dedication to and appreciation of a job well done helped account for the success of Roland’s Auto Service in Peterborough for 37 years. “When I went into the business,” Roland says, “the survival rate for independent garages was 5 years. I believe it was my reputation as a businessman that let me be elected Selectman — giving good service, being fair with customers, trying to help whenever I could.”

Being an independent businessman also gave him the flexibility to take part in town affairs. In addition to raising their own two children and being foster parents for 9 years, they both have served on multiple committees.

In 2008, Roland became the first recipient of the Governor Walter Peterson Medallion Award for volunteerism. He began his involvement in town affairs as a ballot counter in 1968. Then he was asked to serve out the term of a departing member of the town’s Budget Committee. He recalls, “They said play it by ear: Just attend meetings and don’t make a big scene.” But by the second session, he was one of only two committee members who voted against the committee’s proposal for a moratorium on pay raises for all town employees. Eventually, the committee changed its mind, and Roland went on to serve for five more years. In 1976 he was elected to the Recreation Committee and championed the addition of a third ballfield. When the recreation director abandoned the cause just before Town Meeting, Roland forged ahead. Marcia recalls, “He was grilled extensively, and he had answers for all of their questions. I had people tell me just this year that he changed their minds at that Town Meeting.”

While Roland continued his service as a member or leader of the Capital Improvement Committee, Goyette Trust Committee, Town Hall Study Committee, Juvenile Diversion Program, and Select Board (9 years), Marcia was growing in her career as a journalist, all the while keeping the books for the service station. After 12 years at the Peterborough Transcript, she worked 25 years for the Monadnock Ledger, and helped guide its transition into the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. She served two terms on the Budget Committee, volunteered at the elementary school, and was a member of a group that founded a nonprofit kindergarten.

Since her retirement in 2010, she has joined the Peterborough Lions Club, of which Roland is a longtime member, and serves both as chair of the library trustees and as a town ballot clerk. In that role, she works under Roland, who is assistant town moderator.

Marcia said she is proudest of her work at the Peterborough Historical Society, where, for the better part of a decade, she served as chair of the subcommittee that produced the two-volume town history update, “Our Changing Town.” “It will always be on the shelves somewhere,” she says.

“You have to be ready to learn and be ready to participate. Everyone has something to contribute,” Marcia advises anyone who would follow in her and Roland’s footsteps.

Roland says, “Everyone at some point in their life owes a debt of gratitude. If there’s a job out there and you can help, do it — but not if you have a hidden agenda or an axe to grind. Neither of us did anything by ourselves. We worked with people and we did it together.”

— By Sharon Bailly

Bonnie Cohen

As Chief Executive Officer at RiverMead, a full-service lifecare community for seniors, Bonnie Cohen says, “The Village expansion at RiverMead is a kind of capstone for my career. It’s the largest project I’ve been responsible for.” The $30 million project in Peterborough includes cottages and apartments for independent living, apartments for assisted living, and many amenities, such as a grille, a pub, a movie theater, and a large fitness center.

But the brick-and-mortar achievement of the Village and of RiverMead’s previous expansions is not the driving force behind Cohen’s success. Managing a retirement community became her career goal when she realized that her life’s mission was to improve and enrich the lives of seniors. “People who live in continuing-care retirement communities live longer,” she states. “At RiverMead, we support the residents. As you get older, your abilities can change, and you may want someone supporting you so that you can be the person you always were to the world. We serve the residents here, and I’m delighted to serve them.”

For 15 years, Cohen has helped frame and advance the RiverMead mission, promoting “an enriching, healthy retirement lifestyle, social interaction, and active involvement in the regional community” and offering residents “a lifecare program, quality housing, and health care services.”

In her field, she explains, “You need to be comfortable with people in different stages and walks of life, and you have to give of yourself. It’s not just pushing paper. It’s being engaged in people’s lives. I’m involved with residents, staff, and vendors. I’ve also involved myself in the Peterborough community because RiverMead is part of the community.”

For someone who so enjoys interacting with people, she laughingly admits that the rise of electronic communication over her career has become a minor trial. “I used to spend 60 percent of my day on the telephone. Now the phone might not ring the entire day, but I’m responding to 50 to 100 emails.”

Cohen began her career as an elementary school teacher in Chicago, but after a few years, she took a job as activities coordinator at a senior center. She earned her license in nursing home administration and became administrator of two nursing care facilities. She also earned her M.A. in management, as well as a separate degree in hospitality management, which she taught at community colleges in Illinois.

After Cohen and her husband moved to New Hampshire, she became Executive Director of the Rochester Visiting Nurse Association but kept waiting for the right opportunity in senior living. That’s when RiverMead came along.

The perfection of that match is shown by the recognition she has received over the years. She was 2012 recipient of the Excellence in Leadership Award from Leading Age Maine & New Hampshire and a participant in many conferences and teleconferences on issues that affect seniors. She served on the Board of Directors of Peterborough Rotary and the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.

Cohen is retiring from RiverMead this year. “Retirement from RiverMead will be a bit of a wrench,” she said. “RiverMead and Peterborough have been my focus.”

— By Sharon Bailly

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