A Life: Carol Dow; ‘She was in everybody’s heart’ – Valley News

HANOVER — There were hundreds of photographs in Carol Dow’s apartment.

Some were hanging on the walls while others were placed lovingly in albums. Many showed Dow alongside others, her face in a smile that showed exuberance and love.

“Carol developed family by loving people and knowing people,” said Sally Page, a longtime friend of Dow’s who met her in 1973 through a job training program. “In those albums you see one of the biggest families you could imagine because Carol created her own family.”

Dow, who was born on Oct. 18, 1938, died Nov. 17, 2021, at age 83 after a period of declining health. She moved to Hanover in 1973, where she quickly became part of the fabric of the community. Hanover doesn’t have a mayor, but if there was anyone deserving of the unofficial title, it was Dow.

“She was in everybody’s heart. Everybody has their love story of Carol,” said Rhea McKay, who met Dow in 1980 when she was managing a group home where Dow’s friends lived. “Everybody owns a part of Carol and her loving relationship.”

Dow moved to Hanover from the Laconia State School, where she had lived for 22 years beginning at age 12, along with a sister whom she cared for. Later in life, she reunited with a brother and sister-in-law which brought her great joy.

“They just had this incredible reunion,” said Page, a long-time Hanover resident who now lives in West Lebanon.

Dow’s time at Laconia did not define her and she did not often reflect on it, Page and McKay said. Dow’s move to Hanover came at a time during a larger state and national movement to bring people out of institutionalized settings and into communities.

“She came out of there with the same attitude that no one was going to mess with her,” said Robert Vaillancourt, who met Dow in 1980 when he was working for United Development Services to empty Laconia State School.

When Dow was younger, it was common in those times for parents to institutionalize children with developmental disabilities. In order to survive there, Dow had to stand up for herself and it was a skill she carried the rest of her life. She never hesitated to tell people if she felt she was being treated unfairly.

“Carol was one tough cookie,” Vaillancourt said. “She didn’t take any gruff from anybody.”

That mindset — and her loyalty to the people she loved — endeared Dow to her many friends, including Amanda DeRoy who met her at a Hanover laundromat 37 years ago. DeRoy was washing aprons as part of her job at Everything But Anchovies when Dow struck up a conversation and they became instant friends.

“If anyone said anything to me she would go after them,” DeRoy said. “She was a devout friend and she would protect you even though you didn’t need any protection.”

Dow brought a DeRoy a rose every Valentine’s Day. When DeRosa got married, Dow crocheted a king-size quilt for her. After DeRosa gave birth to her first child, Dow walked to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to visit.

“She was very good to my two children,” DeRosa said. When her kids were growing up, they’d read Dr. Seuss books with Dow. She’d send them birthday cards and bring them gifts.

Dow spent holidays with DeRosa and her extended family. She would visit DeRosa at EBAs, where she loved to order onion and pepper pizza.

“She was always included in our lives,” DeRosa said. “She was family.”

Dow worked as a housekeeper at various businesses in Hanover and the surrounding towns before getting a job at the Hanover Coop cleaning children’s seats for shopping carts.

“She had an incredible work ethic,” McKay, of Thetford, said.

She did grocery shopping for her neighbors at Hanover Senior Housing and helped them clean their apartments or do laundry. Dow was frequently spotted walking around downtown Hanover, where she’d stop in at businesses and greet people.

“We’d walk down the street and she’d run over and give someone a big bear hug,” said Vaillancourt, who is now a family therapist in Bethel. She was not shy about being affectionate with people.”

Sometimes, Dow would spend a weekend at Vaillancourt’s house where she would visit with horses and golden retriever puppies. Dow especially loved horses and rode at High Horses Therapeautic Riding Program. Photographs of horses were hung alongside photographs of people in her apartment.

“There weren’t a lot of people invited to my house, but Carol was one of them,” Vaillancourt said. “There were people who knew her, who befriended her in a very normalized way and welcomed her into their extended social life and community.”

She’d frequently go for coffee with Jane Conklin, a West Lebanon resident who was working for United Developmental Services when she met Dow in 1994. If the pair stopped by EBAs, Dow would help herself to a brewing pot.

“Her apartment was very, very important to her. She was very proud of it,” Conklin said. “She tried to keep it neat and tidy. It was just, she was just always going to live there.”

Birthdays were of particular importance to her and every year, she would look forward to celebrating with friends.

“It was a very special day for her,” Conklin said. “We’d try to do a little celebration, giving her a birthday cake and cards.”

Over the years, she became particularly close with members of the Hanover Fire Department. If an alarm went off at her apartment building, Dow greeted the firefighters who arrived.

“She’d always be sitting outside waiting for us,” said deputy fire chief Michael Gilbert. The firefighters would playfully accuse her of being the one who set off the alarm. (Though, Page admitted, sometimes Dow’s toaster oven was responsible.) “We’d always joke with her and if we joked with her too hard, she’d hit us with her cane.”

Gilbert first met Dow when he started at the fire department 23 years ago. Dow was a friend of the late Jeryl Frankenfield, a deputy chief in the Hanover Fire Department. Every time she saw a firefighter, she’d ask about Frankenfield and when he died, members of the department picked her up to bring her to his funeral.

“You mention the name to anyone who works here and they know who she is,” Gilbert said. “We all took to her.”

She attended Dartmouth College graduations, tree lightings and Fourth of July celebrations. She was a frequent patron at the Friday night dinners at Community Lutheran Church. People who were friends with Dow received as much as they gave, McKay and Page said. She didn’t pay much attention to “social foolery,” McKay said, and openly expressed the love she had for everyone who was lucky enough to be part of her life.

“It would be hard to describe why she was so wonderful. She was original,” DeRosa said. “I’m a better person for having known her and so are my children.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.