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Francestown celebrates Nevada man who saved village store 

  • William “Bill” Smith, who donated money for the Francestown Improvement & Historical Society to purchase the village store after it was repossessed by the bank last summer, talks to residents on Thursday. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Marilyn Kraft, one of Bill Smith’s three daughters, addresses the community during a potluck dinner held in their honor on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • William “Bill” Smith, who donated money for the Francestown Improvement & Historical Society to purchase the village store after it was repossessed by the bank last summer, listens as one of his daughters speaks to the community during a potluck thrown in their honor on Thursday. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • William “Bill” Smith, who donated money for the Francestown Improvement & Historical Society to purchase the village store after it was repossessed by the bank last summer, addresses the community during a potluck that was held in his honor on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, May 15, 2018 8:27AM

Francestown residents came out to a potluck dinner Thursday night to honor the man, and his three daughters, who are credited with saving the town’s village store. 

William “Bill” Smith and his three daughters, Ruth Milam, Marilyn Kraft, and Gloria Nurre, all attended the dinner that was hosted in the newly renovated Town Hall.

The W & E Smith Foundation, which was started by Smith and his late wife Elaine, has been around since the 1990s.

“We like to do fun things, and this definitely is a fun thing,” Smith said as a reason why he offered to purchase the building after it was repossessed by a bank last summer. 

Smith, who is from Nevada, learned of the struggling store in the small town in New Hampshire after reading an article in a national newspaper about the demise of general stores across the country. Smith wondered how he could help the tiny to  wn and called   Town Administrator Jamie Pike to seek guidance. Eventually, a deal was hashed out so that Smith’s donation would allow the Francestown Improvement & Historical Society to purchase the building, and pay off all its back taxes.

The building will be referred to as The Three Sisters Building, in recognition of Smith’s three daughters. A plaque with the foundation’s name, the three sisters names, and their picture sat on a wooden bench in the Town Hall during the potluck dinner. 

“We were a little surprised when he said, ‘I’m thinking about buying a building in Francestown, New Hampshire,’” Kraft said during the event. “ … And we were like, ‘OK, you go for it.’”

Kraft and Milam said their father’s decision to purchase the store in a town they had no connection to, nestled in a state he had never stepped foot in until last week, wasn’t surprising.

“There’s been so many times that my dad has had an idea and fixated on it. And he will explore it. He’ll be obsessed with it. And then he’ll make a very educated decision on it,” Milam said. “Some of the ideas are filed away and other ones he goes for. But nothing surprises me anymore.”

Kraft said the vast majority of things her father decides to pursue are successful.

“I would say he’s 99 percent successful, I can't really think of anything that he has done or touched that didn’t come out successfully,” Kraft said.

Milam said her parents always lived frugally. Growing up, she said, her best friend’s family would go all out at Christmas time, the ground near the tree covered in gifts. In comparison, Milam said, her family got “practical stuff.”

“Underwear,” Kraft said chiming in with a laugh.

The two women said their mother, who passed away six years ago, always picked up pennies on the ground.

“She’d be walking along and she would see a penny, she would stop and pick it up,” Kraft said.

Milam said even when their mother was elderly and in a wheelchair, she still would not pass stary pennies. 

“She was determined to get that penny,” Milam said.

Since their mother passed away, Kraft said the family finds pennies in unlikely places. Both women said they both keep a jar of pennies they have found in their homes. It’s a tradition that has been passed down to the younger generations, too.

“And that’s just a sign of my mom and dad, there was no wasting,” Milam said.

Instead, the family pursued philanthropic efforts.

And now, Milam said, she understands why.

“I’d much rather have the personal connections,” Milam said.

Smith introduced his three daughters near the end of the potluck dinner. Kraft stood up after her father and made a quick speech where she thanked the community for welcoming her family.

“My mom has been gone for about six and a half years, and she just would have been so touched by your generosity,” she said to those who had gathered in the Town Hall.

With the donation from the W & E Smith Foundation, the FIHS is now tasked with raising enough money to renovate the store, and eventually, rent the space out.

The society has already launched a campaign effort through a series of events that range in price. For more information about the events, visit its Facebook page called Bringing Back the Francestown Village Store. 

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.