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MONADNOCK PROFILES: Claudette Prive is a woman of many hats

  • Bennington resident Claudette Prive has been collecting hats since she was a teenager and has more than 70 in her collection that at its height featured 102 choices. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Bennington resident Claudette Prive has been collecting hats since she was a teenager and has more than 70 in her collection that at its height featured 102 choices. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Bennington resident Claudette Prive has been collecting hats since she was a teenager and has more than 70 in her collection that at its height featured 102 choices. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Bennington resident Claudette Prive has been collecting hats since she was a teenager and has more than 70 in her collection that at its height featured 102 choices. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Bennington resident Claudette Prive has been collecting hats since she was a teenager and has more than 70 in her collection that at its height featured 102 choices. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • Claudette Prive. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, April 12, 2019 6:19PM

Claudette Prive is hard to miss around downtown Bennington.

She lives right next to the elementary school and is retired, so she’s often out about about, making her way to the Bennington Country Store or Common Place Eatery with the help of her rolling walker. But it’s her hats that catch people’s attention.

With close to 80 hats in her collection, Prive has something to match every outfit. It’s a way of dressing she picked up from her mother. In her house growing up, the shoes, hat and bag had to match the dress and that was just the way it went.

“My mother was a very fashionable woman,” Prive said. “Everything she wore, she had a hat to match.”

There’s the teal Queen Elizabeth hat that is earmarked for Easter Sunday. She bought a colorful light-up one in Las Vegas, and has received many as gifts over the years. There was a nurse at the Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown, where her husband was a resident for eight years and Prive has been a longtime volunteer, that brought her back the one she wore to her daughter’s wedding in London. She has ones from Ecuador, New Orleans, Mexico and Ireland – which was a thoughtful purchase by one of her sons considering her Scottish-Irish heritage.

“There’s always a little story,” Prive said. “And it’s really a memorable thing for me.”

But what hat really all depends on what she decides to wear on a particular day. Prive has a few hats that she wears more often than others because they “go with just about anything.” There are others that are reserved for special occasions and holidays. The light up hat from Las Vegas is a favorite when she goes out for an evening of bingo.

“Sometimes I just want something colorful,” she said. “I tell people I’ll wear anything you want, just let me know what you like.”

She began collecting hats as a teenager and at one point, Prive said she had 102 to choose from. But she’s given some away over the years, including quite a few to residents at the Hillsborough County Nursing Home. She made one specifically for camping when her kids were young (as well as others over the years), and as an avid pin collector, many of her hats are a combination of her two hobbies.

“I came out of (Common Place Eatery) the other day and this girl coming through the parking lot says ‘oh my God, I love your hat,” Prive said. “If I had a dollar every time I said thank you for a comment like that I’d be rich.”

When her husband Russell needed more care for dementia, Prive still wanted to be close with the man she had been married to for more than 40 years. So she started to volunteer at the nursing home, going every single day. After her husband passed away, Prive would continue to visit  residents she had gotten to know, even playing her guitar and singing. When she moved to Bennington from Bedford four years ago, she would make the trip at least once a week.

Recently she had to take a step back from her volunteer job due to a brain aneurysm that is being treated with medication. With already poor eyesight and the inability to drive in part because of a stroke, she had to rely on rides from family or friends, but hopes to get back to her second family soon. She’s pretty sure they miss all her hats.

“If you like doing something, keep doing it,” Prive said. “So as soon as I’m able to, I’ll be back.”

Prive met her future husband Russell in 1966 when she rented an apartment from him in Manchester. The two got married shortly thereafter and stayed together for 49 years until Russell died in 2015. The two ran Prive and Son Construction, with Prive acting as business manager, and raised their four boys in Bedford.

She lives in a house owned by her son Kevin, which he renovated to create an apartment for her on the first floor. Two other sons live in Boscawen and Manchester and the other in Florida.

After she sold the family’s 12 ½ acre property in Bedford and moved to Bennington, she told each of her sons that she wanted to go on a vacation with them. To enjoy time with them while still can. So she went on a cruise to Bermuda with Royce, to Orlando with Dana and New Orleans with Kevin. During one of Kerry’s visits from Florida, they took a trip to northern New Hampshire.

“I have a great family and I’m really blessed to have four boys who pay so much attention to me,” she said. “For me, people don’t spend enough time with their family to really enjoy them.”

In her younger days, Prive was the lead singer/guitar player in a country band called Blue Chords. She also used to crochet, making blankets for residents at the nursing home.

She grew up in Berlin and has been in New Hampshire her entire life. And if Bennington ever needs someone to speak glowingly about the town, they need to look no further than Prive.

“I just fell in love with this little place,” Prive said. “The whole town is unique and everybody is so genuine. I don’t ever want to leave here.”