Man Hopes Gym Will Bear Names of Hampton Heroes
By Patrik Jonsson, Staff Writer
Hampton Union, Friday, May 29, 1998
They battled honorably the football field and the basketball court.
And they fought honorably and fell on the European battleground in World War II.
Now a local man hopes to honor Dick Blake and Bob White, two "fantastic kids" and sportsmen who joined the 10th Mountain Division's Ski Troops in 1944, by naming the new Marston School gym the "Blake-White Gymnasium."
The school district completed the new gym last year, but has yet to officially name the new building. The school itself is named after Adeline C. Marston, a longtime local teacher who taught three generations of Hampton youths, including White and Blake.
"They were buddies forever. They were good, clean-living guys," said Colonel Paul Lessard, a Korea and Vietnam veteran who grew up watching this duo manhandle opponents on local sports fields. "Something should be named in memory of these guys. They were shining examples of American youths."
Lessard plans to approach the School Board on June 15 to a get a "yea or nay" on his idea, which would honor two men whose status as role models could straddle generations, he said.
Concerned about possible protests from families of other fallen local soldiers who also may deserve recognition, Lessard said he wanted to unveil his plans before the meeting so others can attend and discuss the idea.
Hollis Blake, Dick Blake's brother, said that his brother, a member of the vaunted "Twin Towers" basketball squad that notched extraordinary winning streaks, would help fill the old Hampton Academy High School gym with cheering onlookers.
Blake remembered his younger brother with respect.
"He was a very nice boy." Blake said. "They were mostly into sports, but would go fishing quite a lot together, as well."
Bob White, meanwhile, became a legendary local football player. "the kind of player who could smack an opponent to the ground with a vicious tackle, and then leap numbly to his feet and give the other fellow a helping hand," wrote Bill Elliot in a tribute penned for Hampton Union.
Lessard said that both boys were humble about their abilities, but fiercely competitive, and became heroes for younger children, like himself at the time, who came to watch the games.
Skiing fanatics who scoured the White Mountains for trails to fly down, both boys signed up for the 10th Mountain Division and trained in Colorado before shipping out to do battle in the Italian alps. Using only mules for transporting provisions, the troops fanned out into the mountains on skis to fight Mussolini's fascists.
But only Blake died in the mountains, the victim in February 1945 of a concussion mortar that killed him without leaving a scar. White, who lived in Hampton, died after being transferred to the 310th Infantry Division, the victim of a train wreck in France in June, 1945.
The two men's bodies returned to town on the same train in 1945, after which the town held a joint memorial ceremony honoring the two fallen local heroes at the Hampton United Methodist Church.
Lessard said he doesn't know how the School Board, which completed the $3.7 million addition last August, will receive his idea.
School Board Chairman John Woodburn said that the board has no other ideas for a name and, currently in the midst of building an addition to Centre School, has not given it much thought. "We haven't really thought about it," Woodburn said.
Other local school districts have already found the name process a difficult one this year.
Last month, the Exeter School Board bypassed a petition proposal to name a new middle school the "Thomas G. Meehan Middle School," after a popular administrator still on staff, and opted instead for the more generic "Cooperative Middle School."