Former Ledger photographer, firefighter Bill Gnade of Hancock dies at 60

  • Bill Gnade. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/12/2022 2:02:21 PM
Modified: 1/12/2022 2:01:29 PM

Armed with his trusty camera and fire scanner, Bill Gnade of Hancock was always on the scene. Photographer, firefighter and family man, Gnade made his mark on – and documented – the region; by the time he died last week at 60 following a fight with cancer, he had left an impression on many.

Gnade graduated from ConVal in 1979 and got his BA from Gordon College before returning home to write for the Monadnock Ledger newspaper, where he started in 1986. Before long, he was made staff photographer, manning the darkroom, developing black-and-white film for himself and the reporting staff and sending the color shots to Concord for processing in those pre-digital photo, pre-Internet days.

Ben Malcolm joined Gnade at the Ledger as a sports reporter in 1988 and fondly recalled their trips around the state to cover big sporting events or just around the block to photograph the “Roy’s Boys” or capture other profile shots for the paper.

“It was something he had an eye for, a way of bringing out people’s personalities and uniqueness,” Malcolm said.

Eric Poor joined the Ledger in 1991 as a reporter green to photojournalism toting a Sears & Roebuck imitation Pentax camera. Poor said Gnade took him under his wing and showed him the finer points of photography, from technical settings to framing and even darkroom developing.

“He really was a mentor for me as far as photography went, and that was pretty generous,” Poor said. 

Poor said he still has a framed photo on the wall gifted to him by Gnade. Poor actually took the photo himself on an assignment covering a crew restoring an antique mast wheel, and when Gnade prepared the photo for print, he was taken by it, and made two copies – one for the newspaper, and one for Poor. 

While at the Ledger, Gnade was named the New Hampshire Press Association’s Photographer of the Year in the weekly newspaper category; he’d eventually move to work photographing for the Keene Sentinel, where he won the same award in the daily newspaper category. His work appeared in several religious magazines and was the cornerstone of the Sentinel’s Business Monadnock publication. 

As a photojournalist, Gnade stayed primed for action; Poor said he kept a portable scanner with him at all times so he could race off to car crashes or late-night fires. And it was through that news coverage that Gnade discovered another calling.

“From there, it’s not a real big step to put on one of those fire department pagers,” said Poor. “As a reporter, you get a look at what the first responders in your community are doing and a real appreciation for it –  if you’ve got the heart for it.”

Gnade joined the Hancock Fire Department as a volunteer, showing up on fire scenes with the same gusto in his fireman’s boots as he did when he was holding a camera. 

“We’d see him at the calls,” said Hancock Fire Chief Tom Bates. “Being on the paper, he’d try to jump in there. Usually, of course he’d ask permission to get close to the scene. Someone must have made a comment to on him - ‘Why don’t you just join the fire department if you want to show up?’ And he did. As fire chief, I kind of try to watch everybody and be cognizant of what everybody’s doing at the scene, and Bill was always there ready to jump in and help.”

Gnade became a certified EMT with the Hancock department and had just completed his recertification at the end of the year, Bates said. 

Gnade was diagnosed with cancer in the late 2010s; despite that battle, he still volunteered with the fire department.

“The last few months he just felt so bad, because he couldn’t participate as much as he had early on when he joined the department,” Bates said. To keep using his talent and drive, Bates asked Gnade to document the scenes with his camera; a display of his photos have been installed on the walls of the fire station.

Gnade is survived by his wife, Jane and his son, Nathan. 


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