Tributes pour in for N.H. political icon Ray Burton, dead at 74
Governor Maggie Hassan gives a goodbye hug to former Executive Councilor Ray Burton following a ceremony to honor his career of public service on Friday afternoon, November 1, 2013 with a presentation of the new Mount Washington Scenic Overlook. Governor Maggie Hassan was joined by New Hampshire officials who spoke of their connection to Burton. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
Gov. Maggie Hassan has ordered flags to half-staff across New Hampshire in one of the many tributes this morning to longtime Executive Councilor member Ray Burton, who has died after a months-long battle with kidney cancer.
Burton, a Republican and 35-year member of the Executive Council, revealed in February that he was being treated for cancer. He announced in late October that he wouldn’t seek a 19th term on the council in 2014.
He died at 1:53 this morning at his home in Bath, according to spokesman B.J. Perry.
Below are some of the tributes and statements issued today about Burton, coming from all three branches of the state government and beyond.
For full coverage, please see tomorrow’s Monitor.
“Today we have lost one of the most dedicated, caring and unwavering public servants that the State of New Hampshire has ever known. For nearly 40 years, Ray Burton stood up and fought for the people and communities of the North Country with a passion that can never be matched.
“For the people Ray represented, he was more than an executive councilor or county commissioner – he was a member of the family. If a challenge or problem ever arose, you could call Ray Burton and he would do everything in his power to help. If a business, a student, a community leader was being honored, Ray Burton would be the first to applaud. If there was a parade, a pot luck dinner, a public meeting, you knew that Ray Burton would be there.
“Even as his health prevented him from attending in person, Ray refused to miss Executive Council meetings, participating by phone without missing a beat or a vote. As much as any other person that I have ever known, Ray Burton understood the deep history and recognized the promising future of the Granite State. It has truly been an honor to serve by his side.
“With his passing, a hole has been left in the hearts and souls of all Granite Staters, and Tom and I are deeply saddened by the loss our friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and all who have been touched by Ray Burton’s unsurpassed commitment to the people of New Hampshire. He will truly be missed.”
-Gov. Maggie Hassan
“This is a sad day for New Hampshire. Councilor Burton’s passing marks the loss of a great New Hampshire statesman and a tireless champion for the North Country.
“Ray saw public service as a calling and a true joy. He was a constant presence in the communities of his district, always eager to make a difference in the lives of his constituents.
“At the State House, Ray was an extraordinarily respected voice. He was always well-versed on the issues, knew the ins and outs of state government, and took every opportunity to stand up for the people of northern New Hampshire.
“Ray’s commitment to improving the lives of his constituents truly raised the bar for public service in our state. Always quick to share wit and wisdom, he served with tremendous enthusiasm, remarkable diligence, and a deep and abiding love for the people of the North Country. Ray touched so many lives and he will be deeply missed.
“I join citizens across New Hampshire in mourning Ray’s passing, and I extend my prayers and deepest sympathy to his family and many friends.”
-U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte
“I’m so sad about Ray’s passing. He was a great friend to me and to everyone in the North Country. Ray was an incredible advocate for the people of northern New Hampshire and his commitment to them will never be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers are with Ray’s family and friends.”
-U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen
“I am truly sorry that New Hampshire has lost a great public servant and I am deeply saddened to have lost a good friend. Ray Burton spent nearly forty years working for the North Country, and his service stands as the model of what makes our state great. Ray was always there to serve his constituents and he never let them down.
“Ray’s passing is an enormous loss for New Hampshire, and he will never be replaced. Nancy and I extend our sympathies to his family and ask all Granite Staters to keep them in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
-Former governor John H. Sununu
“It is the end of era. For nearly four decades, Ray Burton (reigned) over the North Country like a combination benevolent king and parochial ward politician He was a true original, larger-than-life personality and person of immense kindness, decency, optimism and humor. Ray loved life and that makes letting him go very hard, but he’s in a better place. In a sense, he has not died, he’s been redistricted and we can rest assured that he’s lobbying the good Lord to look north. God Bless Ray Burton and the North Country as we endure such an enormous loss.”
-State Sen. Jeff Woodburn of Dalton, a former Burton intern
“Councilor Burton devoted his life to serving the people of our state, and it is an extraordinary and humbling legacy. Our great state and our beautiful North Country are stronger from his work and devotion, and he has left a model of service that will live on in the State House he served in for decades.”
-Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern of Concord
“New Hampshire has lost one of its most enduring public servants. Councilor Burton’s dedication to the people of the North Country was unparalleled, which is a remarkable legacy, especially in a state that is well known for its citizen-legislature. All five current Supreme Court justices consider Councilor Burton to be our executive councilor as well, because he played a role in all of our confirmations. We are grateful to him for putting his faith and trust in us as jurists. The Judicial Branch extends its sympathies to his family and loved ones. He will be so missed.”
-Linda Stewart Dalianis, chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Councilor Ray Burton. He was a dedicated public servant and an effective voice for the North Country. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends, and the people he loved and served so well for so long.”
-U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter
“With the passing of Ray Burton, New Hampshire has lost one of its finest public servants, kindest souls, and most steadfast leaders. For nearly four decades, Ray served his community and state with unmatched dedication, always putting the needs of those he served above all else. His compassion and commitment to the North Country and New Hampshire set a standard for service that will inspire generations to come.
“There is no replacing Ray Burton, but Ray’s memory will live on in the enormous good he did, in the countless lives he touched, and in the spirit of service he embodied. My thoughts and prayers, and those of so many across New Hampshire, are with Ray’s family, and with all those who were lucky enough to know him.”
-U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster
“The passing of Councilor Ray Burton is a tremendous loss to the people of the North Country and to the entire Granite State, which he deeply loved. Having worked with Ray for many years, I know first hand his unwavering dedication to the people of his district and New Hampshire, which are better places because of his service. Ray exemplified what a politician should be and truly put the people he represented above politics. A hole has been left in the North Country that can never truly be filled. Ray is one who is simply irreplaceable, and he will be profoundly missed by all.”
-House Minority Leader Gene Chandler of Bartlett
“Executive Councilor Ray Burton was a true public servant, a bipartisan leader and a tireless champion for the North Country. Ray ‘s dedication to his job was legendary and it earned him the unwavering support and admiration of his constituents. For nearly forty years, he set the gold standard for public service in our state, and inspired generations of Granite Staters to give back to their communities and help others.
“I am personally saddened by this loss. Ray was a good man, a steady mentor and an example of humility in service for all of us. I will never forget the lessons learned from him and the friendship we shared.
“New Hampshire has lost a legend who can never be replaced. Our state is a better place as a result of Ray’s service and accomplishments, and his memory will live on for years to come. My thoughts and prayers are with Ray’s family during this difficult time.”
-Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party
“I met Ray Burton during his first term on the council 36 years ago. I had the honor of getting to know him and working with him on many important issues. Throughout his long career serving District One his steadfast commitment, untiring dedication, and infectious enthusiasm for his job was on proud display each and every day. Every person in his district was treated with the utmost respect by Councilor Burton no matter their differences. His decades of service will remain a model for both young and old in New Hampshire looking to make a difference through public service. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, loved ones, and constituents in Council District One.”
-Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party
“The passing of Councilor Burton is a tremendous loss for the State of New Hampshire. As a public servant, educator, volunteer and friend, Ray was a larger-than-life figure whose contributions to our state could never be truly quantified.
“He will always be remembered as a tireless and effective fighter for the people, places, and way of life that defined his beloved North Country. He recognized that serving his constituents was about more than garnering votes, it was about doing what he could to improve the lives of those who trusted him to serve. We take comfort in knowing his spirit will live on through those he helped, mentored, and inspired throughout his distinguished career.
“Susan and I extend our prayers to Ray’s family and close friends at this difficult time and thank them for sharing him with us for so many years.”
-Senate President Chuck Morse
“As the longest serving Executive Councilor, Ray Burton touched the lives of our members and so many of the men and women across our state. He was a dedicated public servant and a passionate advocate for his constituents and the state. His legacy lives on in the actions of current and future public servants that he inspired, empowered and educated. On behalf of the House, I would like to convey our deepest sympathies to Councilor Burton’s family, friends and constituents.”
-House Speaker Terie Norelli
“Ray Burton was an outstanding public servant who understood that public officials serve the people rather than the other way around.
“The North Country and the state of New Hampshire are so much better off because of his service. He set the bar for public service that nobody will be able to achieve.
“As governor, I had the good fortune of sitting next to Ray Burton in Executive Council meetings for eight years.
“I will miss Ray. My thoughts and prayers are with Ray, his family and his friends.”
-Former governor John Lynch