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Ailing Ray Burton Honored: A Scenic Overlook And A Look Back

It is hard to imagine there have been many openings of roadside scenic areas that attracted three former governors, a sitting governor and two US Senators as well as dozens of state office holders.

But that happened Friday afternoon in the North Country during a ceremony to honor longtime Executive Councilor Ray Burton.

In theory the ceremony was for the opening of the scenic area on US 302 across from the Mount Washington Hotel.

But it was really about North Country Executive Councilor Ray Burton, who arrived in the back seat of a yellow convertible.

Chris Jensen, NHPR
Ray Burton and Gov. Maggie Hassan. Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR.

Sunday Burton announced that his kidney cancer – diagnosed earlier this year  and said to be in remission - had returned.

After four decades representing the North Country Burton said he would not seek re-election for either executive council or Grafton County Commissioner.

He was thin and frail and had to be helped from the car as a crowd of more than 200 people clapped and cheered his arrival.

Gov. Maggie Hassan – as well as other office holders – took turns telling anecdotes and thanking Burton.

Gov. Maggie Hassan told Burton his service to the state was unmatched. Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

Hassan said his public service to the state over four decades was unmatched and then she began ticking off attributes:

“Your focus on your constituents. Your focus on making things work. Your courtesy and kindness even when there is disagreement,” she said.

“You are quick to defuse tension. You are quick to offer compliments.

Most of all you always focused on the value of sheer participation in a citizen democracy.”

Hassan also said there will be an effort to get the legislature to name the scenic overlook after him.

Burton sat quietly and then remarked on all the praise.

“You learn very quickly don’t get too puffed up about all these things that come your way, because, chances are, somebody, before I get out of here today will un-puff me about all of this," he said.

He noted the thousands of votes he has cast.

“Some of those votes sometimes come back quietly to haunt you and some come back in a moment of joy, like today,” he said. “And today is one of those times I really love being in public service and public life. Because, the bottom line is it is about public service to the people of New Hampshire.”

Then, he paused.

“There really is not much else to say other than I am very happy with what I have done with my public life.”

Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

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