Hometown Heroes: John Stone serves community in many ways

John and Helen Stone.

John and Helen Stone. —COURTESY PHOTO

John Stone, as Santa, greets a child at Jaffrey Public Library.

John Stone, as Santa, greets a child at Jaffrey Public Library. —FILE PHOTO

John Stone, as Santa, reads to children at Jaffrey Public Library.

John Stone, as Santa, reads to children at Jaffrey Public Library. —FILE PHOTO

By BILL FONDA

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 07-21-2023 11:23 AM

One of John Stone’s first memories of Jaffrey is an act of kindness.

It was 1978, and he and his wife Helen were moving from Massachusetts to Jaffrey so he could begin teaching at Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School.

As they were looking for a place to live, they met Olive Roy, who was working for Letourneau Gas and Oil. Even though he said it was after 5 p.m. at the end of a long day and Roy was ready to go home, she showed them an apartment.

“She was the one who made us feel right at home,” Roy said. “She was my first introduction  to Jaffrey, and the rest is history."

Calling it a great “middle of the road” for both his and his wife’s families – he’s originally from Adams in the western part of the state, and Helen is from the Boston area – Stone has lived in Jaffrey longer than he lived in Massachusetts.

After a nomination from his son Jeff – who stated that his father has been "part of so many different organizations around town, it'd make your head spin” and that he’d probably be the mayor if Jaffrey had one – Stone is the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript’s Hometown Hero for July.

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Stone’s civic involvement includes the Knights of Columbus, where he just finished a six-year term as Grand Knight; chair of the board of trustees at Jaffrey Public Library; The Park Theatre; board chairman for Perfect Peace, which runs homes for people with disabilities and has a day center to teach life skills; and president of the former Jaffrey Friends of Recreation.

He said that whenever he saw a need, or people would ask, he would get involved.

“I just enjoy doing stuff for people,” he said. “I have a vested interest in Jaffrey."

As for what brought him and his wife to town in the first place, Stone taught at the middle school until 1996, when he became principal at Rindge Memorial School.

He served as principal until his retirement in 2012, during which time he was named New Hampshire Elementary School Principal of the Year in 2009 and also represented New Hampshire as a National Distinguished Principal.

“I just enjoyed being with the kids, trying to figure them out and trying to give them the best education I could as a teacher and a principal,” he said.

There’s one other role for which Stone is well-known in the community, although not under his real name. For the past 29 years, he has been Monadnock Santa, appearing at nursing homes, the Monadnock Adult Care Center in Jaffrey, the Jaffrey Christmas Fair, churches, the VFW and anywhere else his services are requested. He even has a summer outfit for events such as Jaffrey Summerfest and this year's 250th anniversary parade.

“Whenever someone gives me a call, I'm there,” he said. “It just warms my heart. If people need me, I'm there for them.”

Stone converted his pickup truck into a “sleigh” so he could visit people's homes.

“I'd go to houses, and kids would come outside and play in the snow,” he said.

Sometimes, Monadnock Santa is joined by an elf named “Rebecca” – his 13-year-old granddaugther Autumn.

“Sometimes, she just takes right over,” Stone said. “I taught her magic tricks, and we have a good time.”

Stone took on the role after Aylmer Given, Jaffrey's previous Santa, died, and “it just wasn't the same in town for me.” He went to Given's wife Mary to seek permission, and when she told him he didn't need it, he insisted.

“She said, ‘Fine, but you can't have the suit, and you can't have me” as Mrs. Claus, he said.

As Santa, Stone continued to visit Given every year, and she would always give him a hug. He was also with her the week before she died in February 2020.

One memorable Monadnock Santa memory came at the Jaffrey Christmas Fair, when a young woman who was soon to be shipping out to Germany for the military visited him. She and her parents were both nervous, but he gave her a gold coin and said everything would be OK if she kept it with her.

Last year, Stone said the woman's mother posted a picture of her daughter on Facebook, and she still had the coin.

“Holy mackerel, what an impact I had on that girl,” he said.

Stone is 70, but don't expect him to give up his volunteer work or Monadnock Santa anytime soon. He said he’ll keep it up “until I can't do it anymore.”

Each month, the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript will recognize one of our region’s many Hometown Heroes. Nominate a Hometown Heroat ledgertranscript.com/SpecialPages/Hometown-Heroes.