A New Tree Grows In Hampton

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By Nancy Rineman

Atlantic News, Thursday, July 31, 2003

A LIVING MEMORIAL -- Friends of the late Helen Hayden gathered at the park at the Five Corners in Hampton Saturday morning as Hampton Parks and Recreation Director Dyana Martin, Parks Coordinator Darren Patch, and Nate Liebenow planted a European Beech tree in memory of the former selectman and community activist. [Atlantic News Photo by Nancy Rineman]

HAMPTON — The park at Hampton's "Five Corners" is boasting a new European beech tree following Saturday's tree-planting tribute to the memory of Helen Hayden, Hampton's first woman selectman.

More than a dozen Hampton residents and friends of the late Helen Hayden attended the Saturday morning ceremony honoring Hayden and her many contributions to the community.

The tree, a tri-color European Beech tree, was delivered by Parks Coordinator Darren Patch and Nate Liebenow. Hampton resident Ruth Stimson, [3rd from left in photo] who led the effort to remember Hayden with a living memorial, began the 10 a.m. gathering by recounting the many areas of involvement Hayden represented.

Reading from a prepared release, Stimson described Hayden as a "distinguished citizen [who was] active in many organizations." Stimson talked of her own association with Hayden involving Girl Scouts, and the fact that Hayden also loved poetry.

Hayden was elected to the board of selectmen in 1972, following the 19 years she had served as Hampton's town clerk. She served two, three-year terms as selectman, and was the chairman of that board in 1975. Hayden was also a long time active member of the First Congregational Church, where, at different times, she was a Sunday School teacher, warden, clerk, church secretary and deaconess. She was also on the Marsh Conservation Committee of the Hampton Garden Club. She and her husband, Jack, were caretakers for the house that is now Tuck Museum property. But it may be Hayden's interest in health care, and her involvement in the birth of the Seacoast Visiting Nurse Association, for which she is most remembered.

Hampton resident Donald Palmer told those gathered at the Five Corners Park on Saturday that he and Hayden often talked about the need for health care in the towns of Seabrook, Hampton Falls, Hampton and North Hampton. In 1966 they used the court house for a meeting place. One year later, in 1967, they had one nurse, one secretary, and contracted out for a physical therapist. The agency today has 30 staff members.

Ironically, Palmer has recently enlisted the services of the Seacoast VNA following open heart surgery in 2001. His wife is currently a patient, he added.

"We used to have to beg," Palmer said of the first years attempting to form the Seacoast VNA. He said it took two to three years to get the association off the ground.

"It is gratifying today to see how the agency has grown," Palmer said. "All of this started with a lady who had a lot of pizzazz and could see the need for all this."

Betty Moore spoke of meeting Hayden in 1988 as a member of the Hampton Historical Society.

"She was a remarkable woman, full of life and energy," Moore said.

"She certainly was a big force in the Monday Club," offered Fran Harvey. "She did everything well and was an excellent president."

Reverend Deborah Knowlton of the First Congregational Church, who never met Hayden, said she felt she knew her from all she had heard about her. In her closing prayer, Knowlton gave thanks "for the gifts planted in her, and the way her being shaped our community."

"People might stand for a moment, wondering just who Helen Hayden was," Knowlton said. Hayden was born in Windham, New Hampshire, on May 19, 1902. She was a summer resident of Hampton Beach from 1905-30, when she moved to Hampton year-round. She was a graduate of Pinkerton Academy in Derry, and Keene Teacher's College. Her husband died in 1979. Helen Hayden passed away on November 11, 1998, leaving a daughter-in-law, Anna Cook Hayden, in Littleton, New Hampshire, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"When you go by, please bring a gallon of water to put on Helen's tree," Stimson suggested.

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