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Couples killed in Hillsboro car accident will be missed by their communities

Brenda Mary Robb and Donald Robb with their granddaughters, Ella Scaggs, 7, and Pearl Scaggs, 1 1/2.

Brenda Mary Robb and Donald Robb with their granddaughters, Ella Scaggs, 7, and Pearl Scaggs, 1 1/2.

The Concord couple killed in a Hillsboro car accident Sunday had dropped off their granddaughter and were returning to Concord when their car collided with another vehicle, their family said yesterday.

The 5 p.m. crash on Route 202/9 claimed four lives: those of Donald Robb, 68, and his wife, Brenda Mary Robb, 62, of Concord; and Richard Monahon, 69, and his wife, Mary Monahon, 71, of Peterborough.

The Robbs, who lived on East Side Drive, were active in the community.

Brenda Robb taught at Rundlett Middle School for many years, retiring in 1998, and recently served on the city’s library task force. She was currently a member of the city’s Board of Ethics.

Donald Robb retired as a sergeant from the men’s prison in Concord in 1999, after nearly 25 years, and was still pitching in the adult softball league in Concord. He also golfed every day he could.

The couple bought a home in Florida after their retirements and tried living there part of each year. They gave that up after their grandchildren arrived because they missed them too much, the family said.

Michael Robb, 40, of Concord, said yesterday “the only silver lining” is that his parents didn’t still have their 7-year-old granddaughter Ella in their car when the vehicles collided. Robb and his sister, Erin Scaggs of Chesterfield, and Ella’s mother were struggling with more than their own grief yesterday.

“It’s not lost on us that another set of people are feeling the way we are feeling,” Robb said. “There is a whole other family going through what we are going through. We are only half the people that are suffering.”

Undetermined cause

The Hillsboro police said the two couples were headed in opposite directions when one of their vehicles crossed the center line and hit the other about 5 p.m. The police said yesterday they haven’t determined which vehicle strayed across or why. They did say alcohol does not appear to have been a factor.

The Monahons were well-known architects and community members in Peterborough. Richard Monahon had been working with volunteers in Bradford to restore the town hall. “He did an incredible amount of work, much more than his fees because he was so committed to historic preservation,” said Bradford resident Eileen Kelly.

The Monahons were headed home from a day of skiing at Mount Sunapee. Friend Joslin Kimball Frank of Keene had skied with them and was behind them when the crash happened.

“It had been one of those gorgeous days,” Frank said yesterday. She and the Monahons had tea at the mountain before heading home, and Richard Monohan said he couldn’t remember the last time he had skied so well. “He was ecstatic,” Frank said.

She said the two cars crashed as the Monohans’ car was about to turn off Route 9, at the exit where Route 202 heads south toward Peterborough.

“Everything was fine,” she said. “The road was dry. It was light outside. It appeared his car may have drifted over into the other lane. It all happened so quickly. I think a blinker went on. Then there was an explosion as these cars hit. It was just awful.”

Communities suffer

The deaths shocked and saddened friends in both couples’ communities.

Lt. Paul Cascio, who worked with Donald Robb at the prison, said that despite the sometimes negative prison environment, his colleague was always upbeat. “He really loved his career,” Cascio said in a statement issued by the state employees union yesterday.

After Donald Robb retired, Cascio would see him around town. “He always remembered my name and always stopped to talk,” Cascio said.

Mark Dartnell of Concord played softball with Donald Robb in the local adult league.

“He was just like one of us kids,” Dartnell said. “We all admired his ability at that age. And if he wasn’t playing for us (on our team) he was always watching us play.”

Brenda Mary Robb worked as a special education teacher on the state hospital campus until 1984 and then moved to Rundlett, which was a junior high school at the time. She started the same day her son started there as a student, he said. She retired in 1998.

The couple retired but didn’t slow down.

The Robbs helped their son with landscaping chores, and Brenda Mary Robb worked part time at Michael’s arts and crafts store in Concord because she enjoyed crafts so much. She traveled frequently with the local chapter of Always an Adventure.

Through that club, she discovered she loved kayaking.

Concord Mayor Jim Bouley met Brenda Mary Robb when he was a city councilor because they lived in the same ward. When he was looking for someone to appoint to the city’s ethics board, she was an obvious choice, Bouley said yesterday.

“I wanted a cross-section and (the city manager) had already nominated two lawyers,” Bouley said. “I wanted a non-lawyer who was just a common-sense type person, who was involved in the community but not necessarily involved in city government. She fit the bill.”

Jim Eaton of Concord met the Robbs through their son, Michael, when he and Michael were in eighth grade. Eaton spent considerable time at the Robbs’ home growing up.

“I would walk in with Mike and (Brenda Mary Robb) would make me lunch and sit me down like I was one of their kids,” Eaton said. “They had a pool in their yard and it was pretty much open invitation.”

Bonnie Howard of Somerville, Mass., graduated from Concord High School with Scaggs. The two played softball together.

“Don (Robb) was one of our coaches and her mom was always in the stands,” Howard said by email. “Don loved playing softball, and enjoyed teaching us East Concord girls how to play.”

‘He was the core’

Megan Rheinhardt of Bow played on the adult softball league with Donald Robb and said he led the team to many championships. The players called him Donny, and she said they will take the diamond next year with him in their hearts.

“He could out-pitch, and in some instances out-hit, many of the younger members of our competitive co-ed softball league,” she said in an email. “He was the core of our team and led us and mentored us as softball players. Whenever our team was down, we would all say, ‘Let’s do this for Donnie Robb.’ ”

The Robbs met in North Haverhill, where they both went to high school. They lived in Concord for nearly 40 years, their family said. He loved the Red Sox, she the Yankees. They went to Florida each year to watch spring training.

Michael Robb said his parents lived frugally, and as a result were able to retire well before they reached 65. “They earned themselves the life they wanted,” he said.

The Robbs leave behind their son and his wife, Melissa; and their daughter and her husband, Jason Scaggs, as well as the Scaggs’s two children, Ella and Pearl, 1. The family said funeral arrangements will be announced later this week.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins. Reporter Dave Anderson of the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript contributed to this story.)

Legacy Comments1

Back when all of Rt 202/9 from the exit 5 off roamp of I-89 to Hillsboro was called Death Alley the state decided to fix the problem by placing rumble strips down the center of the road even if it is a passing zone. There is also rumble strips on the shoulders all the way. They also removed about 5 miles of passing zones. The end result is a dramtic drop off in head on crashes. The trouble is the rumble strips stop at Henniker Street exit in Hillsboro which is about 2 miles East of where the crash happened. There has been multiple deadly head on crashes in the segment between Henniker Street and the Rt 202/9 split and yet the state never put in a rumble strip down the middle and on the shoulders here even after the road was repaved last year. Maybe it is time to do it before someone else gets killed.

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