February 5, 2010

Dave French retires after 32 years

GOFFSTOWN - Goffstown Parks and Recreation director Dave French is preparing to move on to a new chapter in his life, as he retires from the post he has held for 32 years.

French’s last official day as Parks and Recreation director was Jan. 31, but he plans work part time for the department until Feb. 13, doing administrative work and finishing up a few programs.

“I’m just trying to help the transition,” said French.

French has been involved with sports and organizing programs since he was a kid. At the age of 10, he organized a baseball game in the backyard of his Spencerport, N.Y., home with all the neighborhood kids. They all brought white T-shirts and French put names on all of them, coloring them in with crayons.

“It was great until the mothers found out we ruined all these white T-shirts,” French said, laughing.

At the age of 16, French got his first summer job, working at a playground in his hometown, where he helped organize activities.

“I did that every summer until I moved to New Hampshire,” said French.

French moved to the Granite State in 1974 at the age of 24. He took a job as parks and recreation director in Gorham for four years before moving to Goffstown in 1978.

French said the best part of his job has been watching kids of kids of kids come through the Recreation Department and get involved with the programs.

“Kids that played basketball 25 years ago now have their own kids and are coaching the programs,” said French.

But there are also other things he remembers about his time in Goffstown.

“There’s building new parks and expanding the facilities. Having my own kid coach the basketball league. There are just so many things,” said French.

Goffstown resident Jamie Palmer said her sons grew up with French’s children and is impressed with how French handled his job.

“He worked harder with the kids who couldn’t hit the ball or couldn’t make the basket,” said Palmer. “He exemplifies what it is to be a town employee.”

Town Administrator Sue Desruisseaux knows this transition into retirement will be hard for French.

“This was more than a job to Dave. This was his life,” said Desruisseaux. “He raised his family doing this job, and it’s going to be tough to find his replacement.”

Desruisseaux said French has added many programs to the department over the years and made improvements to the facilities as well.

“And he’s done it on a shoestring budget,” said Desruisseaux. “He will be a tough act to follow.”

Desruisseaux said no one has been hired yet to replace French. At the moment, French does not have any plans for what he will do in his retirement, though he did say he would do some umpiring for the New Hampshire Umpiring Association.

“I really need to take a few steps back and decompress myself,” said French. “I have been doing this basically nonstop forever, and I just need to take some time away and figure out what I want to do for my next challenge.”

A formal surprise retirement party was held in French’s honor at Saint Anselm College on Jan. 16.

“I was completely surprised,” said French. “I had no idea until my daughter came into the gym at Mountain View. She had flown up from Florida.”

The Parks and Recreation will sponsor an open house retirement party for French on Sunday, Feb. 14, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the Recreation Center. During this time, all who wish to bid farewell to French may stop by. 

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