Former librarian, Jaffrey native, Cynthia Hamilton passes at 92

Cynthia Hamilton casts a vote at Jaffrey’s Town Meeting in 2023.

Cynthia Hamilton casts a vote at Jaffrey’s Town Meeting in 2023. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Cynthia Hamilton and Bernie Hampsey ride at the head of the Jaffrey 250th Town Anniversary parade in 2023.

Cynthia Hamilton and Bernie Hampsey ride at the head of the Jaffrey 250th Town Anniversary parade in 2023. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 05-17-2024 11:50 AM

Jaffrey native and avid community volunteer Cynthia Hamilton passed away on April 23, at the age of 92. She was such a town icon that she was selected last year, along with Bernie Hampsey, to be the grand marshal of the town’s 250th Anniversary parade.

Hamilton was a graduate of Conant High School and Bates College, with a graduate degree from Simmons University, and spent her career as a librarian in multiple locations, including the New Hampshire State Libraries in Keene and Concord, as well as the Jaffrey Public Library, where she worked until her retirement in 1996.

After her retirement, Hamilton remained a supporter of libraries, having served on the New Hampshire Library Association and the Jaffrey Friends of the Library.

In honor of her passing, the Jaffrey Public Library closed its doors on Saturday, to allow staff and members to attend Hamilton’s memorial service.

Hamilton’s love of libraries and books was lifelong. In a piece she wrote for the Ledger-Transcript in 2023, Hamilton recalled walking with her mother from River Street to the library.

“My favorite spot in all of Jaffrey was the library. Mother and I would go up the stone steps and walk into the lovely, old and welcoming building,” Hamilton wrote. “They were so good to a little girl. I got my first library card when I was four and never looked back.”

In addition, she was also a long-time member of the Jaffrey Woman’s Club, a past member of the Jaffrey Historical Society, and a deacon in the United Church of Jaffrey, where she also did the bookkeeping.

On the back of the program for Hamilton’s memorial service, there was a picture of a sampler made for Hamilton, quoting Philippians 4:8: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”

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“It just sums up how she lived,” said Kathleen Sterling, who was a member of the Jaffrey Woman’s Club with Hamilton. “She had a wonderful life, and she was just fantastic. I wish everyone could have sat with her and had a conversation.”

Bruce Hill, a member of the Historical Society, said that Hamilton had a long history in town, and occasionally, would make donations to the Historical Society, relevant to either her own family or her husband’s.

“She brought in her last artifact two weeks before she got ill her husband’s Grange lapel pin. That was the last thing we received from her,” Hill said.

Pauline Johansen, president of the Woman’s Club, said she met Hamilton in 2016, while Hamilton was selling tickets for the club’s annual raffle.

“Her smile immediately drew me to her. Being newly retired, I would finally have time to volunteer and wanted to meet like-minded folks,” Johansen said. “She invited me to attend a meeting as a guest and sat me at her table at the event. What a pleasure. Through the years I realized the treasure that she has been throughout decades for our community.”

Johansen said that once, when the Woman’s Club had a scheduled speaker who had to cancel at the last moment, Hamilton instead took up the microphone to talk about the history of the Woman’s Club and the Cutler Memorial building where they met, recalling the lives of past members and their contributions to Jaffrey.

“All off the cuff,” Johansen said. “She was the most memorable and enjoyable speaker we had ever had. She made each of us feel so special. I am deeply saddened by her loss. Saddened by the realization that I will never hear her laughter again, or her stories of a life well lived. She was a lifelong learner, and as a librarian, I am sure she influenced many in the community.”

Sterling said Hamilton was often the purveyor of etiquette during Woman’s Club events. She was also one of those people who knows everyone, and whom everyone knows, she said.

“She always talked about people she knew – she knew everyone,” Sterling said. “She taught me something every time I saw her, she always had some tidbit.”

She was also the first to put her hand out to greet someone new.

“If she went to a function, and saw someone standing by themselves, she would make that person feel welcomed,” Sterling said. “She wanted to know everything about you. It was very sweet. And if she saw you on the street six weeks later, she would remember everything about you.”

Among her volunteerism, Hamilton did the banking for the United Church of Jaffrey, including the Jaffrey Food Pantry, located in the church.

Kathleen LaRou, the director of the food pantry said that Hamilton was “an amazing woman,” who was special to many people in the community.

“A word that comes to mind when thinking of her is vivacious,” LaRou said. “Defined as ‘friendly, extroverted, energetic, lively, full of life.’ That was Cynthia to a T, a lover of life. Always curious and learning new things. She knew everything about so many things especially Jaffrey and told me so many stories and shared its history. Nothing will be the same without her.”

At Hamilton’s request, there were no calling hours. A memorial service was held for her on Saturday, May 11, at the United Church of Jaffrey.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the United Church of Jaffrey or the Jaffrey Public Library.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.