On 12 November 2013 a very good friend to very many people, Raymond S Burton Executive Councilor for District 1 in New Hampshire passed away at the age of 74 after a lengthy battle with liver cancer. Ray passed away at home in Bath, NH with close friends in attendance. The job of Executive Councilor and the man were so intertwined that Ray answered to Councilor as readily as his given name.
In recent years and weeks through the efforts of Ray’s friends and supporters there had been dedications of the Raymond S. Burton Bridge on Route 135 in Woodsville, the Ray Burton Park at the Grafton County Complex, the Raymond S. Burton Commons in North Woodstock, and two weeks ago, the Raymond S. Burton Overlook in Bretton Woods.
Ray’s family farmhouse on River Road had a purpose built great room where he entertained and conducted the business of the state and his district. Past the kitchen however were his private quarters and the office where he could work in private. There was a living room with a television, VCR and DVD players and a couple of comfortable chairs. Off of the living room were his office, bedroom, bathroom and through the bathroom another bedroom.
It’s hard to believe that this powerful, longstanding, nationally connected politician worked out of this tiny office but Ray did just that. His tools of the trade included a Rolodex, two telephones, two answering machines and eventually a computer with a dial-up connection. And his fantastic memory for people. Plus the little black book and the 3X5 cards always available when a constituent needed help. And don’t forget the card with the name and telephone number of state agencies and people who might be of help! Ray loved antique cars. Ray Burton found antique automobiles to be a great attention getter and icebreaker when campaigning and we all know that the Energizer Bunny of New Hampshire campaigning was truly Burton for Certain. But what Ray kept to himself and what truly showed his devotion to the job, Executive Councilor for the State of New Hampshire Council District 1 was his sexuality. Didn’t you ever notice that Ray lived alone? In later years Ray would appear with his lifelong friend Barbara Ashley and pretty soon he was taking credit for things that he hadn’t done. Now Ray understood that you had the win to govern, but after the election was over he made good decisions, decisions that were good for his district, his constituents and good for the State of New Hampshire. Ray walked down the political center so well that in general elections the name Ray Burton appeared on the democratic party’s side of the ticket four times because the name Raymond S. Burton was written in by members of the Democrat party-voters in the primary! This caught the attention of the Republican party and in the run up to the elections in the year 2000 members of the national Republican party made the journey to 338 River Road Bath, New Hampshire to visit with the councilor and while they were here meet the local politicians. I had fun visiting with Frank Luntz because as an Aspberger’s adult I’ve spent most of my life trying to figure out what people are really saying and messing with their minds in retribution. Now Mr. Luntz is the type of reasonable sounding person that scares the shit out of me. In a January 9, 2007, interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Luntz redefined the term “Orwellian” in a positive sense, saying that if one reads Orwell’s Essay On Language (presumably referring to Politics and the English Language), “To be ‘Orwellian’ is to speak with absolute clarity, to be succinct, to explain what the event is, to talk about what triggers something happening… and to do so without any pejorative whatsoever.”
Well I’ve drifted off my path and to bring myself back again, the GOP made sure that if Ray didn’t toe the party line the GOP was willing to run a more conservative candidate for the seat Ray had so ably occupied. Ray got the message and stuffed his personal life back into the closet and toe’d the party line. Ray finally got his final wish, that being to die while still in office, most of us wish it weren’t so soon but 74 years on this earth aren’t really too bad a span. But I doubt his grateful constituents and the opposition haters truly appreciate what Ray gave up personally to serve the public.