Community remembers John French
Former fire chief served department for 21 years; also worked at post office
John French poses for a photo on Christmas Day 2012 while spending time with family.
John French, left, poses with one of his our grandchildren, Ashley French, at one year old, and his wife Denise on Christmas Day 2012. Ashley is the daughter of his son Brett French.
Former Bennington fire chief John French, 65, who died following a brief illness on Aug. 11, was a man known for his dedication to his community and family. His daughter, Kristie LaPlante of Bennington, said he taught her that in life “family comes first and community comes second.”
LaPlante said her father joined the Bennington Fire Department in 1970 and was a fireman until 1978 when he became fire chief until 1991. “He taught us that what you have, you give back to your community,” LaPlante said in an interview Monday. “He was always involved.”
Along with French’s long tenure with the Fire Department, French also served as the town’s water/sewer commissioner and as its civil defense director , according to his obituary.
French’s wife, Denise French of Bennington, is the town administrator and LaPlante, among other titles held over the years, is currently a tax collector for Bennington.
As the youngest of four children and the only girl, LaPlante said she learned a lot from her family man father. “My dad was an awesome guy. I know a lot of people say that, but he really was. He was fair and firm, and he taught us right from wrong. He taught us that if you want something, you work for it and respect the people along the way,” LaPlante said.
One thing LaPlante said she will always remember about her dad was how he changed when her first child was born in 2010. “The impact it had on him was like he was a born-again dad,” LaPlante said. “Family was always a huge source of pride for him. When he became a grandfather, he always made time to visit with his grandchildren.”
Before his death, French had spent eight years working as the post master for the Harrisville Post Office. French loved this job because it allowed him to interact with people on a regular basis, LaPlante said .
According to Mark Nichols of Dublin, who worked with French at the Post Office, French taught him everything he knew.
“He taught me everything from square one. I remember one time he was impatient with me and I told him I didn’t know if I could be [at Post Office] anymore and [French] said to me, ‘I just got to explain it better and give you time,’” Nichols said. “From then on as I got better, we became a better team.”
Finding notes from French around the Post Office reminds Nichols of him. “There’s a big blank here, and I have to fill it. I miss him,” Nichols said.
Bennington Fire Chief Mike Roina said Monday that serving others was something French liked to do. “Even after he left the Fire Department, he would still check in and see how calls went and give his two cents,” Roina said. “He just liked being a public servant.”