Monument to the Old Man dedicated


June 17, 2011
FRANCONIA—This past Sunday, hundreds of people crowded the shores of Profile Lake, under the misty shadow of Cannon Mountain, to dedicate a monument to the Old Man of the Mountain and rededicate Franconia Notch State Park as a veterans' memorial.

It was a wet and dreary morning, much like the May morning in 2003 when news spread throughout New Hampshire and the world that the Old Man of the Mountain was no more.

Rev. Lyn Winter noted the weather was appropriate for that reason. She quoted Daniel Webster's famous aphorism about the Old Man, that God put it there to "show that in New Hampshire he makes men." She added two words with a smile.

"And women."

Emotions were still raw for some people who choked up thinking about what the Old Man meant to them and to New Hampshire. John Devivo, manager of Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch State Park noted the deep meaning the Old Man had for so many.

"Some people say it was just a pile of rocks, but for millions of people it was much more than that," he said. He asked how many people still look up at the face of Cannon Mountain looking for the Old Man when going through the Notch.

Most people raised their hands.

Devivo hosted the ceremony, which culminated with the unveiling of seven large iron profilers. Each of these large pieces of metal, when looked at just right, shows a visitor exactly what the Old Mountain looked like. Each of the five pieces of metal lines up with the next to represent the different pieces of stone that made up the Old Main.

This project has been years in the making and cost several hundred thousand dollars. In addition to the profilers there are paving stones throughout the plaza surrounding them, which can be purchased and engraved.

The next stage of the monument will be five large pieces of granite that when lined up will form a full-size replica of the Old Man—but on ground level.

That stage is expected to cost around $3 million.

A representative of the American Legion Riders spoke briefly about dedicating the park to veterans. David Nielsen, the last caretaker of the Old Man, followed him. For years his family went up on the rock face putting on epoxy, and adjusting the turnbuckles that held the Old Man in place. Nielsen was the son of Niels Nielsen, who took care of the profile from 1965 to 1991, when David took over.

Niels died in 2001 and David buried his ashes within the granite face in 2002, less than a year before it fell.

David noted his connection was more direct than most but said he appreciated all the people who were there to dedicate the monument to the state symbol. Then he smiled.

"I won't apologize for the weather. This is New Hampshire, after all." Nielsen said.

Dick Hamilton, former head of White Mountains Attractions and one of the drivers to get a monument built to the Old Man, spoke to the crowd. His nightly farewell to the Old Man as he drove from Lincoln to Littleton—"Goodnight Boss"—was quoted several times during the event and became symbolic in 2003 of the effect the fall of the icon had on people.

Hamilton noted that the spot where they stood was emblematic for New Hampshire and held great meaning for the Granite State. At one time the Profile House, one of the state's grandest hotels, once stood near that spot before it burnedc down in the 1920s.

Though that day in 2003 when the Old Man fell was sad, it was a sharp contrast to the unveiling that took place Sunday, Hamilton noted.

After a song about the Old Man by a group of students from Lafayette Elementary School, seven people, including Hamilton, Frank Grima, Rich McLeod, State Rep. Kathy Taylor, and Nielsen all pulled on a string to unveil one of the profilers.

George Bald, head of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, said that the fall of the Old Man was the saddest of his career in that office.

Col. Dick Martell of the Air National Guard spoke at the rededication of the park to veterans and remembered the impact of the attacks on 9/11 had on the United States. He noted that thousands of New Hampshire residents had served since that day defending out country.

Cory Snyder of Sugar Hill, a world famous telemark skier from Sugar Hill, played Taps on a bugle as the cold wind blew over the lake and the participants there.

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