A Family Gathering in New Hampshire…Hell’s Angels and All!

Sunset on Lake Opeechee, Laconia, NH

This past week we bid farewell to my grandfather, Andrew “Zeb” Garneau.  When he died last week he was 101.  Earlier this year when I turned 50 his comment was, “You’re halfway there Tony!”

At the time of his birth in 1910, William Taft was president of the 46 United States!  My grandfather would be two years old before Arizona and New Mexico joined the union, and 49 before Alaska and Hawaii did!

He would have been really proud to see his extended family return to Laconia, NH to pay him tribute.  He would have been especially pleased to see the pleasure we all took from seeing each other.  I spent time with aunts and uncles, great aunts and great uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and many longtime family friends.  We have all spread far enough apart over the years that it takes a major family event such as this to bring us all back together.

No question on NH loyalties!

I still am caught off guard when I return to New England and hear that accent!  Played up so well by the likes of  Adam Sandler and Matt Damon it really exists.  Standing in Walgreens I listened to two guys talking about how “wicked haahd the Sawx had to work to win!”

The picture of the lake above is taken from my mom’s back yard.  She has a beautiful home on the lake but I knew she would have a houseful so I opted to stay at the hotel in downtown Laconia.

The Landmark Inn, Laconia, NH

This was a questionable move on my part.  The Landmark Inn of the Lakes Region appears to be right out of Soviet Russia!  Still, it was only $59/night and conveniently located so I decided to just stay there.  I checked in and then learned that they were hosting the Hells Angels that week!

The Hells Angels actually own a compound in Laconia and were holding an event called World Run 2011.  It brought together thousands of bikers from all over the US and Canada, many of whom stayed at the Landmark Inn.

By the time I left I counted 60 bikes in the parking lot of my hotel.

As it would turn out, however, they were surprisingly quiet and ended up being just an interesting side note to the week.

As we proceeded through the rituals of calling hours, funeral, burial, and reception I visited and caught up with my extended family.  It was heart-warming to see the people from my youth and hear about their children and grandchildren.

The day was also the birthday of my sister Linda (or as they say back home, my “sistah Linder).  We ate at a really nice restaurant on the lake.  The restaurant is part of the posh Opeechee Inn and it is simply called O.  What an incredibly charming spot!  It had a sophisticated menu which in many cases mixed flavors to create something greater than the sum of its parts. 

My grandfather Andrew holding my son Andrew, circa 1991.

We told plenty of stories and seemed to savor the respite that the birthday celebration offered to the previous somber events.

Gramps and I in 2009, he was 99 yrs old!

 I am grateful for the time I had with my grandfather and what I learned from him.  A World War II veteran, and then a mailman for his whole career, he was a classic meat and potatoes, bedrock values type of guy. 

He was famous for sayings like “What the height?”, and “GOSH sakes alive!”  Gramps was a man of few words on the phone, a life long sports fan, especially the Sox.  I remember him being so excited that the Celtics had drafted a young kid named Larry Bird and Gramps telling me that he was going to be a legend.

He had a deep unwaivering faith and a tireless dedication to his family.  He was prepared for his next journey and often joked about it with lines like, “I’m just waiting for the day Tony!” but it was always with a sense of humor and a humble patience for what life had in store for him.

So now back in Virginia I find myself reflecting on family, my hometown, and a man born over 100 years ago.  You’ve done good work here Gramps, and we thank you!



  1. My grandfather was a 2nd cousin to President Taft. I was a very little boy, the first time I heard him say that the country was going to Hell in a handbasket. It’s taken me more than 50 years to find out why he said that. By the way, he was right.

  2. Thanks for the photos. I go to this lake almost every summer. This is the first summer I have missed. My brother has a summer place up there right by the beach. Maybe you know him. His name is Vic

  3. Tony – what a great post. I know you already know how lucky you were to make it to 50 years old and still have a grandparent. I was 26 before I lost my first, and was 32 when my last “memere” passed away. She was always my favorite although I was close to all my grandparents. They’re special people and thanks so much for sharing.


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