Congratulations, Pembroke; you’re the best

  • The clock tower in Pembroke’s downtown village is shown. “Reader’s Digest” recently voted Pembroke one of the nicest places to live in the U.S. Monitor file

Monitor columnist
Published: 10/15/2019 1:54:28 PM

Pembroke is a nice place to live.

In fact, there’s no place better in the Granite State.

So says Reader’s Digest in its November 2019 edition, which featured this headline: “50 Nicest Places in America.”

A town or city was chosen in each of the 50 states, with a city in Ohio called Columbiana finishing first in the country.

Resident Kellie Cholette nominated Pembroke for the honor, writing to the magazine, “This town is just a very tight-knit community and everyone I’ve met has been the nicest.”

The process included a nationwide search and more than 1,000 entries, which all had a common characteristic, a required criteria needed to make the cut: “Where people are kind and civility is winning,” according to Reader’s Digest.

Once the nominations had been submitted, Reader’s Digest editors and a panel of judges that included journalist David Brooks selected their favorite entries. Before anyone cries bias, that would be New York Times op-ed columnist David  Brooks, not Concord Monitor science columnist David Brooks.

 A nationwide poll attracted more than 45,000 votes, and Pembroke emerged as the winner in the Granite State, according to Reader’s Digest.

Cholette’s nomination letter said she and her significant other discovered nothing but kindness and camaraderie after they moved to Pembroke, writing, “My fiance and I were having a hard time viewing the fireworks from our house. Our neighbors spotted this and instantly got chairs out for us to sit with them.”

Cholette also cited the warmth surrounding Pembroke Old Home Day, an annual summer event with an array of activities: live music, hayrides, inflatable slides, bouncy houses, arts and crafts, mini-golf, tractor pulling, basketball tournaments, antique cars and those aforementioned fireworks.

Wrote Cholette, “We also have an old man about 80 years old that goes around streets near him and takes out your trash barrels if you forget and then will put them back once the garbage men come around.”

The town is home to a couple who adopted two neglected boys from a Ukrainian orphanage and addressed their developmental challenges before adopting two more; and a lawn-care professional who heard about a single mother’s fight against cancer and began mowing her lawn in the summer and plowing her driveway in the winter. No charge, of course. 

The Monitor wrote about Bridget Kelley Nafranowicz and her plowing and mowing angel, Bob Caruso, in February.

Elsewhere, Cholette mentioned nearly $20,000 that was raised through local donations after a family’s home was destroyed by fire.

Cholette also cited a pair of Pembroke Academy sports teams as further proof that her town deserved to win.

The boys’ basketball team won the state championship without any player averaging more than 17 points per game.

Player Sean Menard told the Monitor last winter, “We’ve got four or five guys who can put up 20 shots in a game. But we like to give up shots for the other person.”

And when the school’s cross-country coach was diagnosed with cancer, her runners organized a 5-kilometer run to help pay her medical bills, an event that was held annually for three years, until the coach died.

A critic on a message-board cited the opioid crisis and addiction as a drawback to the town, but that’s a problem affecting large sections of the country.

The rest of the messages were overwhelmingly favorable. And while many towns in New Hampshire have their own warm and welcoming Old Home Day celebrations, Cholette’s nomination had enough good stories to propel Pembroke to the top of the family magazine’s rankings.

And for good reason, residents said.

“I have lived in Pembroke for most of my life,” wrote Jonna Gaskell. “I’ve raised my children in this town and my husband is a police officer in this town. I could not be any prouder of each and every person that lives here. It is a tight-knit community.

“It is family.”

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