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Ray Duckler

Ray Duckler: This Thanksgiving, plenty to be thankful for

Thank you.

Isn’t that why we’re here, eating turkey and pie? Isn’t that what today is all about, the dinner between Native Americans and the Pilgrims serving as a metaphor for something grander, something bigger, something we can relate to, the simplest things?

What are you thankful for? Perhaps it’s the opportunity to spend the holiday with your family. Maybe it’s crowding into the kitchen, each member responsible for preparing something different.

Who’s cooking the turkey? Not too dry, please. Who’s making the gravy? No lumps. Never lumps.

Me? I’m thankful for a few tidbits in a never-ending search to avoid doing what we all do: take things for granted.

So today, let’s give thanks for:

∎ The BearCat story going into hibernation.

How many issues have captured the city’s attention like police Chief John Duval’s effort to buy a BearCat, an armored vehicle that can protect its occupants against heavy weaponry?

Protesters protested, residents signed petitions, readers contacted the Monitor, writing letter after letter, day after day.

The story’s drive and power moved forward like, well, like a BearCat.

Duval stood in the middle, a public official who had inadvertently fueled the controversy when, in the city’s grant application seeking federal funds for the vehicle, he listed the Free State Project, Occupy New Hampshire and the Sovereign

Citizens as challenges to law enforcement.

We need a BearCat to protect cops and save potential hostages, Duval said.

How dare you lump us into the same category as terrorists, Duval’s critics said, adding at a packed meeting that he should resign.

Finally, on Sept. 9, after Duval had apologized for his choice of words, the city council voted, 11-4, to accept the $258,000 federal grant for the BearCat.

The BearCat was coming. We could all move on.

Speaking of Duval, the chief announced his retirement last week, effective at the end of 2013, after two years as chief and 27 years as a cop.

Duval led the investigation that nabbed an alleged racist graffiti artist, he took the time to listen to everyone’s concerns, he commanded respect within his force, he paid his dues and he never shied from tough questions posed to him by the press.

Thanks, chief.

∎ The Concord High School football team, which deserves thanks for an inspiring work ethic that led to an undefeated season, just four years removed from a winless season.

The Tide’s effort was a shining example of what can be accomplished with hard work and guts. The boys were not afraid of failure, and they added to the story by dedicating the championship to the city itself.

The comments after Concord’s win over Pinkerton Academy five days ago in the state title game were about community and unselfishness, about the 5,000-plus fans who jammed Memorial Field.

Not about the players themselves.

“When you look around and see how packed these stands were and how long the line was out through the parking lot, I think that really shows how much we have the city behind us,” Concord linebacker Will Scharlotte told Monitor Sports Editor Sandy Smith after the game. “And that’s really great.”

Added senior Seimou Smith: “I could feel the love from the beginning of the game. It was truly done for the city today, and the city came out and we had a blast together.”

∎ The Smirnioudis family, owners of the Windmill Restaurant.

Yes, the patriarch who started a tradition here 23 years ago is gone, but today his wife and three sons will continue Louie’s vision of providing Thanksgiving meals for the homeless and needy.

Louie, who died from cancer last summer at age 60, never took his own good fortune for granted, because the Greek immigrant earned everything he had.

Today, wife Sophia, sons George, Kosmas and Michael, and longtime employees such as Sandy Wood will give of themselves before sitting down for their own meal.

∎ Thanks also to Mary Jane Wallner for her 40 years as the director of the Merrimack Valley Day Care Service; Brandon Richardson for running 215 miles to raise money for a little Franklin boy with cerebral palsy; and to everyone who thinks about themselves before others.

Hope your gravy has no lumps.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or or on Twitter @RayDuckler.)

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