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Community mourns the loss of former state Rep. Carole Estes

On the anniversary of a woman’s right to vote, Plymouth’s former state Rep., Carole Estes celebrated with members of Plymouth’s female Democratic political delegation by attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion and renovation at the Pease Public Library in Plymouth. Born in the “Jim Crow” segregated South, once denied the right to vote, Estes went on to pursue a highly successful career in computer technology, breaking the “glass ceiling”, and in recent years, being elected to the New Hampshire State House of Representatives. A highly respected and beloved community member, Estes died last week in the midst of undergoing treatment for cancer, after a tremendously courageous and inspiring life. She will be deeply missed. Pictured: Grafton County Commissioner Martha Richards, State Rep. Suzanne Smith, Rep. Carole Estes, State Sen. Deb Reynolds and State Rep. Mary Cooney. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
October 20, 2010
PLYMOUTH—This past Saturday afternoon, the sanctuary of the Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (SKUUF) was filled to overflowing, as was the life of former state Rep. Carole Estes.

Hundreds of public officials, dignitaries, community members, friends and neighbors gathered to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Estes, who died last Tuesday at her home in Plymouth after a heroic battle against breast cancer.

But everything about Carole's life was heroic.

Through tears at times, but smiling still, speaker after speaker remembered Estes as someone who truly inspired and humbled them.

Setting the tone for the service, Plymouth State University President Sara Jayne Steen read "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou, which ends:

….Now you understand

Just why my head's not bowed.

I don't shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It's in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need of my care,

'Cause I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.

The Rev. Sarah Stewart recounted the remarkable life story that culminated in Estes' all too brief but highly influential sojourn in Plymouth, where she came in retirement after a long and successful high technology career to be with her daughter Allison, son-in-law Daryl Browne, and the three grandsons that were the light of her life — Jordan, Alexander and Orion.

Estes was born in and grew up in Miami, Fla., where she personally experienced the bigotry and discrimination of the segregated "Jim Crow" South. She was banned from many public places, unable to sit where she wanted on the bus, even while wearing the uniform of the United States military.

After completing her military service, she went on to get her higher education and enjoyed a long and highly successful high tech career rising through the ranks, breaking the "glass ceiling," until she was managing thousands of employees and a budget in the millions.

In her "retirement" here in Plymouth, she gloried in her role as a grandmother, delved deeply into community causes and ran a successful campaign for the New Hampshire legislature, a significant accomplishment for someone who was once denied the right to vote.

Communities for Alcohol and Drug-free Youth (CADY) Executive Director Deb Naro remembered Estes as a dear friend and dedicated CADY board chairperson who was profoundly effective in her public and community service, and also a lot of fun to be with.

Naro humorously related the story of the two former state legislators, who both voted against expanded gaming in New Hampshire when they had the chance, traveling for a brief "getaway escape" together before Estes started chemotherapy, to indulge in one of Estes' favorite pastimes – casino gambling at Foxwoods.

Her colleagues in the legislature remembered her as an extremely effective legislator, one who actually accomplished her mission to create money saving efficiencies throughout state government through better use of computer technology.

But significantly, they remembered her also as an articulate spokesperson for civil rights. State Sen. Deb Reynolds recounted her "historic" and deeply moving testimony on the floor of the New Hampshire State House in favor of marriage equality, in which she compared the contemporary fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians with the landmark struggles to win freedoms for African Americans of the 1950s and 1960s, including the freedom to marry for love, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Others gave thanks for Estes' contributions on the Plymouth Elementary School Board, as an active member of the Plymouth Area Democrats, and as a faithful member of the Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, where she co-chaired the building committee for the recently completed expansion of the Fellowship Hall.

Numerous others shared spontaneous thoughts and memories during the service. Almost everyone fondly remembered her indefatigable optimism. No matter what was going on in her life, if you asked Estes how she was, her answer would invariably be the same: "The sun will come up tomorrow. It's all good, baby!"

And it was.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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