Scott LaCrosse, avoiding the spotlight, became big news

Monitor columnist
Published: 4/11/2019 4:49:33 PM

Col. Kevin Jordan of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department couldn’t help himself.

He had to start his eulogy for Scott LaCrosse with a joke. The one about modesty.

At the church in Loudon, Jordan did his best impression of his former colleague, who, at the age of 54 and only eight months after retiring, died earlier this month from what was described as natural causes. Jordan threw his arms up for emphasis. That’s what LaCrosse used to do when he was nervous. Then Jordan said what he and many others were sure LaCrosse would have said:

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I’m sure everyone has something else to do. This isn’t necessary.”

“He was wrong,” Jordan told me Thursday by phone. “It was necessary.”

Yes, it was.

When you’ve given 29 years to saving people and leading staff members into the wild under dark skies and exhibited strength and leadership, you’re given a send-off by 300 people, filled with tears for losing you earlier this month, yet also laughing at Jordan’s words because they rang so true.

LaCrosse hated attention.

“He would have been appalled by the outpouring,” Jordan said. “He never wanted the limelight.”

The spotlight, though, followed LaCrosse. To WMUR, where he did some on-camera freelance work. To a reality show called North Woods Law, where a segment featuring LaCrosse and other Fish and Game members, searching for a missing teen, evolved into a tragedy about suicide, its effect on family and the stigma attached to it.

Then, to this. Dying suddenly at age 54, with a wife and two children. Just eight months into retirement.

Jordan knew the church LaCrosse belonged to, the Family Bible Church in Loudon, was too small to hold all those moved by LaCrosse’s death. So he and the pastors involved chose the larger Faith Community Bible Church instead. That, it turned out, was a smart move.

“We were concerned we would not be able to get everyone in there, so we moved it and it worked out well,” Jordan said. “That was a snapshot of who he was.”

Jordan and LaCrosse met upon Jordan’s arrival at Fish and Game in 2005. They worked together. They lived near each other, in Loudon. They and their wives socialized.

“He was not above having a good time,” Jordan said. “And his level of professionalism and his dedication to duty is what I also remember. He worked hard every day, and he was friendly and open.”

Janice Morin confirmed that. She’s the administrative assistant for the Loudon Police Department. She said LaCrosse stopped in often, and his catchphrase became, “What’s new?”

“I will miss it,” Morin told me. “I will miss that and his smile. This is a devastating blow to my family and the whole community.”

Their children grew up together in town and shared a babysitter. The two families went camping together. “He taught me the dos and don’ts of camping,” Morin said.

This was a special relationship. The families’ children were hurt in a car crash years back, prompting Morin to tell me, “Our bond became even stronger. You live life every day because you never know, and unfortunately, our families learned that together.”

Jeff White of Loudon learned it two years ago. His 16-year-old son, Alec, died by suicide and was found in the Loudon woods by Fish and Game officials. During the two-day search for Alec in November of 2017, LaCrosse and White, strangers at the time, became close, in no time at all.

LaCrosse was a crutch for White, a sympathetic ear, a symbol of strength and leadership. He was there for White in an official capacity, the central figure in the search, and he was there for White on a personal level as well.

“It was a very limited friendship out of necessity,” White said by phone. “He led that search and he was a great leader. We were obviously suffering a tragedy and a loss, hoping our son was alive, and Scott was there. He took on the search like it was his own son.”

And he did more. It was LaCrosse who counseled White during the unthinkable, escorting him from the ambulance that was ready to move to the area in which Alec was found, preparing him, listening to him. Then, it was LaCrosse himself who drove the father to see his son deep in those woods, and it was LaCrosse whose gentle touch played a role in the aftermath.

“I will never forget what he did for us,” White said. “Never.”

The suicide became a central theme in North Woods Law. The producers wanted to use Alec’s death as part of the show. LaCrosse spoke to White, who gave the green light, with one stipulation: No exploitation, please. Use this opportunity to chisel away the stigma that comes with suicide.

The episode aired in March of last year. White was given a DVD, a copy of the show. He asked LaCrosse if he had seen it. LaCrosse said no. He asked LaCrosse if he wanted to borrow his copy, suggesting he watch it. Again, LaCrosse said no.

“He knew what he did, and he didn’t need to see himself on TV,” White said.

White went to last Saturday’s memorial service, joining a few hundred others. Law enforcement, uniformed and street-clothed, was there. Police lights swirled. A flag was presented to the family. A giant flag hung from the fire department’s tower truck.

The tribute needed to be done, those who were there said. LaCrosse had that sort of impact.

“It was amazing how many people he touched,” Morin said. “If he were sitting there he would have said, ‘You’re crazy to do this.’ He never wanted a pat on the back.”


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