Article - Farmington’s Beulah Thayer Is Fondly Remembered By Many
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FARMINGTON — Beulah Thayer, the matriarch of the Thayer family, which has done so much for the town of Farmington, died peacefully on Oct. 23 after a very short illness.
She had celebrated her 100th birthday on May 4, along with dozens of family members at Thayercrest, her home on Main Hill. Close relatives flew in for the occasion from as far away as Singapore and Oregon.
Beulah Perkins, as she once was known, was born in Alton in 1912 and graduated from Alton High School with the Class of 1930. From there she attended Keene Normal School for three years, emerging with a teaching certificate, and in 1934, she taught grades 1 through 4 for a year in a one-room school house in Bedford.
“I loved teaching and I loved the kids,” she recalled during an interview earlier this year.
While still in high school, Beulah had mastered the piano, and by chance, this led to her meeting the man she would marry — Jim Thayer. Jim played saxophone in a band, and when they lost their piano player for an event at Alton Bay Pavilion, Beulah was recruited.
Her parents carefully chaperoned the couple as their friendship developed and deepened, and were naturally a little concerned at their age difference — at the outset Beulah was 16 and Jim was 21.
Jim Thayer, Farmington born and bred, attended Harvard Business School and then went to work in Farmington National Bank. When it encountered difficulties during the Great Depression, Beulah recalls that Jim and some associates went to Washington, D.C., with a rescue plan, and managed to resurrect it. Farmington National Bank was associated with Jim Thayer for the next six decades.
He and Beulah were married on June 14, 1934, and the couple built a house on land owned by his mother further up Main Street from Thayercrest, where she lived at the time.
She very quickly came to love the town, and became involved in the multiple clubs of the area. All three of her children, Sylvia, Jim and Rick were born here.
Beulah was been active in the Eastern Star, Farmington Woman’s Club, the Girl Scouts, Farmington Historical Society, the Goodwin Library board of trustees, Farmington School Board, the Congregational Church, and the Women’s Fellowship. She was a Sunday School teacher, the Junior Choir director and served on the Board of Wardens.
She was a member of the Mary Torr Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Dames of the Court of Honor and the Daughters of the Colonial Wars.
Beulah was involved with Frisbie Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and Strawbery Banke, and served as a FMH volunteer. She spent many years involved in projects with the school children of Farmington, and continued to take a very active interest in the lives of her own three children, nine grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.
In the 1990s, Jim and Beulah Thayer decided to contribute $2 million toward the construction of the current Farmington High School and worked with the Assistant School Superintendent Jack Henderson to bring it before the voters. This was roughly a third of the total cost, with the state chipping in another third. The people of Farmington, appreciative of the Thayers’ generosity, passed the bond with a record majority.
Former County Commissioner Ron Chagnon, who chaired the Farmington School Board at the time, said, “Jim, Beulah and Sylvia came to the meetings, and Beulah was more active than anybody, but they didn’t want any recognition, whatsoever. We had to convince them to let us name the entrance (to the high school) Thayer Drive. They were not for fame and glory — they just loved the town of Farmington. They were nice, nice people.”
The Thayers also financed the construction of the addition to the Goodwin Library and major repairs to the Congregational Church spire.
Goodwin Library Director Debbie Christie said that when she took over the position, Beulah made it known that the downstairs portion of the new addition was to be a children’s room.
“That became the groundswell,” said Christie, adding that the book shelves and furniture was donated by Beulah Thayer.
“She always believed that our future is in the hands of the children,” Christie said.
President of Farmington Historical Society Dottie Bean is also an active member of Farmington Congregational Church and Farmington Woman’s Club, organizations that Beulah Thayer belonged to for many decades.
Said Bean, “She is leaving a big hole. She did an awful lot for an awful lot of people that no one knows about. She touched a lot of lives in this town. It wasn’t just the big things — she helped a lot of people.”
President of Farmington Woman’s Club JoAnn Doke, remembers Beulah Thayer with great affection.
“She led me through two presidencies. She was so helpful and gracious and always there to give advice, as well as being generous. She could be called upon to help with anything. It is a big loss,” said Doke.
After her husband died, Beulah carried on with the family’s philanthropic work, and a few years ago following consultations with her family, announced that she would renovate Farmington Town Hall, and hire master carpenter Martin Gilman to supervise the extensive project. It included installation of state-of-the art sound equipment and a screen for multimedia presentations, new stage curtains and lighting, new seating and tables for functions, and much more.
Speaking on Wednesday, Gilman, a former town selectman, said, “The Town of Farmington is going to miss her terribly. She has been good to the whole community.”
To mark her 100th birthday on May 4, the bells in the tower of the Farmington Congregational Church were rung 100 times. The bell ringer, a longtime member of the congregation and a choir member, Norman Greeley, said he gladly volunteered for the job in light of everything that Beulah Thayer had done for the church over the decades.
Her memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. at the First Congregational Church of Farmington, on Monday, Oct. 29. This will be followed by a reception at the church to which everyone is invited.
Memorial gifts, in lieu of flowers, may be made to the Goodwin Library Memorial Fund in care of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, 422 Main St., Farmington, N.H.
FHS- Kyle leach