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Ray Duckler

Ray Duckler: With Pope on hand, SPCA unveils its new facility

  • From left: former SPCA board president Ruth Coneys, City Councilman Rob Werner, SPCA Board President Chase Binder, benefactor Lyman Pope, Lyman's German Shepherd Maximilian, SPCA Executive Director Heather Faria, Concord Mayor Jim Bouley and Chamber of Commerce President Tim Sink celebrate the ribbon cutting during a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County on Silk Farm Road in Concord on Thursday, May 29, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    From left: former SPCA board president Ruth Coneys, City Councilman Rob Werner, SPCA Board President Chase Binder, benefactor Lyman Pope, Lyman's German Shepherd Maximilian, SPCA Executive Director Heather Faria, Concord Mayor Jim Bouley and Chamber of Commerce President Tim Sink celebrate the ribbon cutting during a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County on Silk Farm Road in Concord on Thursday, May 29, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Lyman Pope pets his German Shepherd Maximilian before a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County on Silk Farm Road in Concord on Thursday, May 29, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Lyman Pope pets his German Shepherd Maximilian before a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County on Silk Farm Road in Concord on Thursday, May 29, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Maximilian the German Shepherd lays down next to his owner Lyman Pope before a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County on Silk Farm Road in Concord on Thursday, May 29, 2014. <br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Maximilian the German Shepherd lays down next to his owner Lyman Pope before a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County on Silk Farm Road in Concord on Thursday, May 29, 2014.
    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • From left: former SPCA board president Ruth Coneys, City Councilman Rob Werner, SPCA Board President Chase Binder, benefactor Lyman Pope, Lyman's German Shepherd Maximilian, SPCA Executive Director Heather Faria, Concord Mayor Jim Bouley and Chamber of Commerce President Tim Sink celebrate the ribbon cutting during a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County on Silk Farm Road in Concord on Thursday, May 29, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Lyman Pope pets his German Shepherd Maximilian before a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County on Silk Farm Road in Concord on Thursday, May 29, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Maximilian the German Shepherd lays down next to his owner Lyman Pope before a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County on Silk Farm Road in Concord on Thursday, May 29, 2014. <br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

On the surface lies the stoic New Englander who’s close to the vest, doesn’t mince words and is modest, probably to a fault.

Beneath, however, is someone with an extraordinary love for animals, plus the wallet to keep locally orphaned cats and dogs comfortable while waiting for a new home.

His name is Lyman Pope, and he’s an 85-year-old retired real estate giant from Jackson. He drove down yesterday from his summer home in Ogunquit, Maine, for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new SPCA.

He entered the parking lot on a perfect afternoon, a white knight with white hair, riding in a Cadillac instead of on a horse, whose traveling companion was a German shepherd named Max.

“You see sad dogs here,” Pope said. “That’s because they’re mistreated. They have no lawyers, no one to represent them. That’s why I’m here.”

This is what Pope does in his golden years. He gives money, lots of it, to animal shelters, helping them expand into four-star puppy and kitty hotels.

He’s done it in Orleans, Vt., where his $1.5 million donation built the Pope Memorial Frontier Animal Shelter. He’s doing it in Rockland, Maine, where his $1 million pledge is helping to build the Pope Memorial Humane Society of Knox County.

And now here, with a $525,000 contribution already banked, an extra half-million promised after his death.

He deflects attention given to him, pointing to Heather Faria, the Concord shelter’s executive director and the biggest player in the arduous task of raising money.

But when pets in three states are living like kings and queens, with big, bright, clean rooms to play in, the person most responsible for bankrolling the projects will attract the most attention.

“We’ve had several attempts over the past 15 years to raise the money for this,” said Chase Binder, who’s been on the board of directors at the SPCA for five years. “The time never seemed to be right.”

Pope helped make it a reality, giving almost half of the more than $2 million needed to get the Concord job done.

“He’s amazing,” Binder said. “An amazing man.”

He’s distinguished looking, of course, with that full head of white hair. He wore a blue sweater and khaki pants, and showed great posture, especially for his age. He used a cane while walking, but the support he received from it paled in comparison to what he’s done for animal shelters the past few years.

He began donating after another German shepherd of his, also named Max, died about 15 years ago from Lyme disease. Pope learned that Max died needlessly, that with more research animals could bounce back from this illness. They could be cured.

“Veterinarians couldn’t diagnose it at that time,” Pope said.

He says he eventually visited all 38 animal shelters in New England, a man on a mission, spurred on by his love for Max. He visited the old Penacook facility, with its cramped conditions making it woefully inadequate. There, he met Faria.

Together, the dynamic duo has spearheaded the effort, and Pope admires the work and passion shown by the SPCA’s director.

“Heather is the star,” Pope said. “I want to be low key. There’s only so much you can do, and it’s a struggle to raise money like she did. People don’t always want to part with money.”

Board member Jim Zablocki of Weare marvels at what’s been done, remembering when it was all just a dream, far off on the horizon.

“We started like five years ago,” said Zablocki, a horticulture consultant. “I thought, ‘Oh boy, a long way to go.’ ”

Added his wife, Carol, a software consultant, “We had raised $10,000 that first year, and I thought we were never going to get there.”

But they did.

The buzz from yesterday’s opening-day crowd mixed with barking and meowing. Faria spoke to the crowd.

“We’ve been thinking about this day for a long time,” she said. “And a lot of you have been thinking about this for a lot longer. I have goose bumps. It’s hard for me to speak. We’ve changed Concord forever.”

Then she cut a red ribbon, Pope by her side. The scissor chomped down a few times before the ribbon split, but there were no awkward moments, not on this day.

Just music, ice cream and celebration over a new facility long overdue. After the ribbon fell to the ground, the crowd moved inside to see the dogs and cats, while Pope and Max walked to the parking lot for the ride back to Ogunquit.

No fuss, please.

“Did you get everything that you needed from me?” Pope asked.

I had, and I sure wasn’t alone.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments6

Wow. Here we have a story about a millionaire who gives a damn about our furry friends, and someone tries to turn it into Watergate II. JSHaas, what Mr Wyman Pope has done here is a good thing, a very good thing. All Concord citizens benefit, directly or indirectly, from his single act of selflessness. You have a lot of nerve suggesting Mr Pope's motives are self-serving. What have you done for your community, aside from lavishing copious posts upon us that appear to be lifted directly from the "Days of Wine and Roses" screenplay?

Thank you Ray for a great $story, but then which editor spurred you? onto that comment of to write: "He . . . showed great posture, especially for his age. He used a cane while walking," . Your newspaper and that of your sister publication, The "Valley News" seem to be fixated on this posture thing, as in to describe the "other" people bent over as in shame with their head held "low" while walking into court as if to denote some pre-indication of guilt, of when they bend over to pick up their change from the dish by the metal detector. "You people" are something else!

Could it be he is just a descriptive writer? Some times a good cigar is just a good cigar.

Yes, as in if that cigar was smoked in a free country, even if like made in Cuba, (;-) but that of like guilt by association, or it rubbing off on him. Maybe he's heard or read this "slant" so often to negative others that he seems to think that of to have to upright here. We presume that all of Pope's real estate dealings were above-board too. Remember how Judd Gregg TRIED to take some old woman's house and land?, and then blamed it on his brother. He was only a partner in the business. Sometimes I kind of wonder when somebody donates so much $money as to like that of buying an indulgence from the real Pope of to get their relatives through Purgatory. JSH, Protest-ant (;-) P.S. Another phrase comes to mind too of: behind every fortune is a crime. (;-) http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/09/09/fortune-crime/ not that this is my thinking toward Mr. Pope, but just having dealt with so many crooked politicians down there it nice to read a true story of caring. The shade of others ought not to darken the brightness here, like in innocent until proven guilty, but then in this Plantation of N.H. you have to prove your innocence, at least at the Federal level. Where do their bloodhounds take a dump? They don't have much land over there at 55 Pleasant Street. (;-)

Bout time the animal kingdom got their own Pope. God bless this man.

Perfect comment.

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