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On the Move

The true definition of neighbor

In today’s hectic world, with an often transient population, the idea of neighborhood as we used to know it rarely exists. Do you know your neighbors, celebrate their birthdays, graduations, weddings, bring soup when they’re sick? Do you know their names? What is a neighbor?

A neighbor can be just someone who lives nearby, who waves when you walk by. Or it could be the person who gathers all in your immediate vicinity to visit or have a cookout. A neighbor could also be your best friend, the guy or gal you can always count on if you need help. Peter Burgess is such a neighbor.

The folks in Burgess’s neighborhood who have given up driving – or don’t drive at night or when there’s snow on the ground – all know that Burgess is happy to drive them anywhere they want or need to go, and that he does. He visits a hospitalized neighbor every afternoon.

When one neighbor could no longer keep her cat, Burgess introduced the cat to his Dachshund to see how they might get along. The animals became friends, Burgess adopted the cat, the neighbor is happy and they’re all living “happily ever after.”

At this time of year, Burgess sets his outdoor table – shaded by a large umbrella and surrounded by six chairs – close to the road at the end of his driveway to welcome the neighbors to gather around for a visit, to solve the problems of the world and to enjoy Burgess’s colorful gardens. Arthritis has limited Burgess’s gardening these days. A neighbor who lives down the road a bit, Tom Holdon, helps him keep it all trim.

Arthritis has also interfered with Burgess’s golf game, and a shaky hand prevents him from pursuing his hobby – painting. A talented painter, he shared some of his work with me. I enjoyed snow scenes, complete with skiers, a lovely flower arrangement and a spectacular view of Concord’s State House.

The Burgess family came to New Hampshire from Georgia during the Great Depression looking for better employment opportunities and a more peaceful atmosphere in which to grow a family.

Peter was seven years old when they came but still remembers violent times in the South and is glad he’s in New Hampshire to this day. He attended Concord schools and had a varied career, working at numerous local venues. He worked at Concord Press, Sprague Electric and the Tannery in Penacook.

He served in the U.S. Army in the infantry under General Patton in World War II, experiencing the Battle of the Bulge and the war-ending invasion of Germany.

Back home, Burgess spent 20 years as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, usually walking 20 miles a day and getting to know everyone on his route. Point out a house, and he’ll tell you who lived there and when.

His family owned and operated the pizza shop across the road from the Concord High School, and his mother was the “Ma” in Ma Burgess’s Variety Store. His father, a hunter, treasured the memory of hunting with Babe Ruth.

Peter, a widower, has a son who works at St. Paul’s School, a daughter who is a nurse at Concord Hospital, a grandson, a great grandson and two adopted granddaughters who came here from Cambodia.

Ignoring his limitations and sacrifices, Burgess fills his days with family and friends, doing for others
and enjoying membership in the Sunset Club, taking part in the group’s trips and playing Bingo at its new location at the Heights Community Center, the former Dame School.

As one of Burgess’s neighbors said of Burgess, “He’s just a good guy.”

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