Linda Gebhart: Mother of the Beach

Story and Photos by Virginia Hatch

Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, May 6, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of Seacoast Scene.]
Not only is Hampton Beach being beautified, but this effort by Linda and the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee is encouraging socialization and is building a sense of community, where neighbors care about each other.
Linda Gebhart and Judy DuBois of New Hampshire Port Authority discuss the finer points of the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee's efforts.

While we were planning to take pictures of Linda's plantings at Hampton Beach, Judy DuBois of Hampton drove up. She stopped her car, got out and was thanking Linda Gebhart for all Linda has done - at the beach as a volunteer. To us, she said: "I wanted to stop by and thank her for all her volunteerism. We are planning to plant flowers at Rye Harbor and Hampton Harbor as a result of seeing her efforts here at Hampton Beach. Gardening is hard work." Judy DuBois works for the New Hampshire Port Authority which is headed by Geno Marconi in Portsmouth. She was, formerly, with the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Linda reported that this has been happening often, lately. The other day, a local resident, a fisherman, stopped by to say that he enjoyed the flowers and was planning to plant some at his house.

Not only is Hampton Beach being beautified; but, this effort by Linda and the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee is encouraging socialization and is building a sense of community, where neighbors care about each other. Their use of the Coffee Break Café for their committee meetings has unofficially anointed the cafe as its club house -- a place where one can drop in and find a neighbor to chat with about precinct business or world affairs while having a cup of coffee.

On April 23, the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee received the news that the HBBC had been awarded the New Hampshire Arborist Association Community Beautification Award. On May 1, they will receive their award in Concord from the Governor. They will be recognized for their beautification efforts along Hampton Beach.

They advised Mr. Welch, Hampton town manager, of this award and added: "The South gateway is now in bloom with 200 daffodils, with 200 red tulips to follow and, then, the 60 lilac bushes in May - June. Good things are happening in our community. Hampton Beach Beautification Committee"

In 2006, the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee was formed and the mile-long garden and 10 trees were planted. Last year, 2008, beautification at Bicentennial Park was started, a butterfly garden and the Liberty Elm Tree were planted. Seven more trees were planted around the beach, plus 22 lilac bushes and 500 spring bulbs. The commemorative plaque of the old wooden bridge was placed in the garden on a large stone. HBBC hosted a rain-garden workshop and planned to build one at the Police Station this summer. The decorative street banners went up this spring; and, more will go up later by the Sea Shell.

"The Earth Committee did a huge amount of work; and, we all learned a lot because of this experience. We are, already talking about plans for next year," said Linda.

On May 9th the HBBC, the Hampton Garden Club and The Partridge House are co-hosting a Spring-Garden Tea Party from 1-3 p.m. Refreshments, free plants, garden demonstrations and information will be offered. It will be a fun afternoon. It's free and the public is invited. The Partridge House is located at 777 Lafayette Road in Hampton.

As the mother of young children, Linda was active in her children's school activities. "Yes, I was the volunteers' Mom in School, doing crafts with the kids in the classroom.

Linda added: "My love for flowers and gardening came from my grandmother and mother. I remember working in my grandmother's vegetable garden as a young child. Every spring my mother and I would start flower seeds in my father's old cigar boxes. We had a large garden in Connecticut when our kids were small; and, have introduced my grandkids to gardening."

Linda's other interests are painting, gardening, knitting, sewing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, boogie-boarding, dancing, biking, drawing Labyrinths on the beach and walking them for meditation -- the practice goes back to the 12th century. "An artist friend introduced me to the practice 20 years ago. I visited Paris, where there is a Labyrinth laid in the stone floor of the Chartres Cathedral, and, I was able to walk it," Linda said.

Her work experience is as a Certified Spiritual Director, for which she received training at the Spiritual Life Center in Blooming, Connecticut. She has 20 years of leading retreats and giving programs around New England. She has taught art classes, for 20 years and other craft classes at adult education in Connecticut. Linda, also worked at a large car auction in Connecticut. She also has a level one Reiki certification, which is a healing laying-on of hands.

Linda and her family moved to Hampton Beach in January 2007 from Connecticut when her husband, John, an engineer, retired.

Married to John Gebhart after they met on Hampton Beach, 46 years ago. John was stationed at Pease Air Force Base at the time. He was from Indiana, but never went back home.

Together they had two children: Keith, who works as a chef, lives in Enfield, Connecticut. He is married to Diane, and they have two children, ages 12 and 7; and Lynette, who works for Medicare and lives in Marlborough, Connecticut. She is married to Ken, and they have two children, ages 11 and 9.

Linda Chauvin Gebhart is a Clerk for Hampton Beach Village District and a member of the Portsmouth Garden Club. She started a "Knitting for Peace" group. They knit prayer shawls and give them to the Seacoast Hospice. She, also, helped start a knitting group at the Lane Library, during the day time. She offered a couple of creative classes at Winnacunnet High School adult education. Last fall, she had a one-woman art show at the North Hampton Library. Geannina Guzman-Scanlon, who was a founding member of HBBC, invited Linda to join. "We've done a whole lot in 3 years, it's been non-stop planting. This spring there are 300 daffodils & 300 tulips blooming at the South gateway to the beach, in the State Park and mile-long garden. The cherry and crab apple trees are blooming on the lettered streets. Altogether, we have planted 16 trees. I've received $500 in Grant money from the Driftwood Garden Club and $200 from the Portsmouth Garden Club to continue the work at Bicentennial Park. We hope to build a new walkway to address the storm run off from the parking lot. On May 1st, Geannina & I and our husbands, received the NH Arborists Association Community Beautification Award in Concord. We are really excited about that," Linda said.

"Our Taxpayers Coalition had a Tea Party near the Hampton bridge last November, when the group formed," said Linda. "Our future plans: we are all waiting to hear about the (requests for) abatements we filed, trying to keep in touch with everyone. We are concerned the high property assessments and taxes will force some people to sell their homes, in this very down market. The whole nation is affected by this recession and having to learn how to do more with less, Hampton, also, has to cut back on the spending."

For a long time Hampton has not recognized the treasure of the beach, after giving it to the State in 1933 in exchange for building the seawall. Wonder if that was such a good deal.

"I don't mean to sound so negative just concerned about the environment in which we live. If we ALL take care of Mother Earth, then she'll take care of us."

Elizabeth Webb Memorial Garden. Seated on the ground among the tulips and daffodils are two of the gardeners who worked hard to get it planted: Linda Gebhart and her husband, John Robert Gebhart of Hampton Beach Precinct.
Geannina Guzman-Scanlon, a founding member of the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee, and Linda Gephart are shown at the Earth Week Awareness Fair which HBBC sponsored.