Former state senator and Antrim notable Bob Flanders dies at 84

  • Robert "Bob" Flanders Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/4/2019 3:47:36 PM

Robert “Bob” Flanders, who gave decades of his life to civil service at both the state and local level, died last week at the age of 84.

Though he made his career in the insurance industry, many in Antrim know Flanders from his work on various town boards – including his multi-decade stretch as the man behind the podium, moderating Town Meeting, an office he held for 41 years, through 2002. Though moderator was his longest-running job, Flanders also put in time on a number of municipal boards, including the Select Board, the ConVal School Board, and a member of the Maplewood Cemetery Board.

Flanders also left his mark at the state level. 

For three terms, Flanders served as a Republican state senator to the state’s district 7, from 2000 to 2006. During the course of his tenure, he rose as high as to serve at the Deputy Majority leader. 

He continued his service to the state up until the time of his death, serving as a sitting member of the N.H. Adult Parole Board and the Judicial Conduct Board, roles he was appointed to by then-Governor Maggie Hassan in 2017. 

Those who knew him, said he was decisive about his beliefs, but never allowed them to get in the way of relating to those around him.

“He was very good at getting what he wanted done, done,” former Antrim Select Board member Gordon Webber recalled. “I differed politically with him, but he was very old-school in his approach – the minute you walked out of a meeting where you might have been adversaries, there was no grudge afterward. Bob was one of those guys.”

Dave Carney of Hancock, who was a friend of Flanders and ran his campaigns for the state senate, said that was one of his defining traits.

“He always had a kind thing to say, even about people he was disagreeing with,” Carney said. “He was the old stereotype of a New Hampshire legislator – there may have  been disagreements, but they were never disagreeable.”

Flanders wasn’t the kind of guy to “make a call” when he was trying to help someone, Carney said – once, when a constituent was having trouble accessing his benefits, Flanders took the time to go in person to assist him to straighten out the issue. 

“Service was in his DNA,” said Tom Eaton, who served as Senate president while Flanders was in the legislature.

“He was very thorough in anything he tackled. If he had a comment, you listened to it, because he was usually right in what he was thinking,” Eaton said.

He was also instrumental in the formation of the Antrim-Bennington Lion’s Club and the Antrim Historical Society, serving as the charter president for both organizations.

He even opened his home to community endeavors. His former neighbor, Dan Hurlin, who is now the director of the graduate program of theater at Sarah Lawrence College, recalled his start on the stage began in Flanders’ barn, when he allowed the neighborhood children to start a theater group.

Hurlin said when he was about 10, his parents and the Flanders would often get together for lobster dinners. At one of these gatherings, the children – as kids often do, joked Hurlin – raided their parent's closets for dress clothes to put on an impromptu performance of a version of “Star Trek.”

“Bob, he totally loved it. And I’m sure they’d had several cocktails at that point, because he said, ‘If you keep doing this, I’ll give you my barn and we’ll turn it into a theater.’ And we took him up on it, and showed up the next morning with hammers and saws. And bless his heart, he honored his word and let us do it.”

The “Lobster Theater” as it was named in honor of the dinner party that inspired it, went on for 10 years, based on that promise, Hurlin said.

The Flanders allowed the kids to take over their barn, built them a stage and helped them rig a light board and curtain, and his distinctive laugh was often heard from the audience on performance nights. 

One night, Hurlin said, Flanders wore a red ascot to a performance, and to several after. One night, when he wasn’t wearing it, everything went wrong, and afterward, the company became convinced it was a lucky charm. Ever after, Hurlin said, the ascot had to be in the theater for the performance – even if Flanders wasn’t present. As an adult, Hurlin said, Flanders gifted him the ascot as a memento.

“He took us seriously, which is such a rare thing for children,” Hurlin said. “When I was a teenager, we clashed like crazy over political things, because he was a very conservative Republican, and I was trying as hard as I could to be a hippy, but I never felt diminished by those disagreements.”

“Bob absolutely adored the Antrim community, its people and history. He had a down to earth, humor-filled approach to life and will be greatly missed,” Steve Ullman, one of Flanders’ fellow Lions Club members, said Tuesday. 

A celebration of life for Flanders will be held on Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Antrim. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the First Presbyterian Church.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT. 


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