Remembering the life and mission of Granny D

  • Doris “Granny D” Haddock. Ledger-Transcript file photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/6/2020 11:51:49 AM

To those who knew her well, she was simply Doris. But to the people around the country who were captivated by her 14-month walk to advocate for campaign finance reform, she will forever be known as Granny D.

Doris “Granny D” Haddock began her walk on New Year’s Day in 1999 at the age of 88. It was her way of bringing attention to the issue of campaign finance reform, something she felt so strongly about that she needed to make a bold statement.

Haddock, who founded Open Democracy, once said “Dear friends, we would never seek to abolish now what has become our dear United States. But it is our constant intention that it should be a government of, by and for the people, not the special interests. Our right to alter our government must be used to sweep these halls clean of greedy interests so that people may use this government in service to each other’s needs and to protect the condition of our earth.”

During her year-plus journey, Haddock celebrated two birthdays before finally completing her walk that took her on a southern route from Pasadena, California, to the Capitol ending on Feb. 29, 2000. But even at the age of 90, Haddock wasn’t ready to give up on what she believed in.

And though its been two decades since Haddock embarked on her one-woman march – which included walks of 10 miles a day –  and 10 years since she passed at the age of 100, her legacy, mission and message live on.

On Saturday, the annual Granny D Memorial Walk will be held from 1 to 3:30 p.m. in downtown Keene, a new location for the event, where the stories and fond memories of Haddock will ring out.

Libby Haddock, Granny D’s daughter-in-law, still remembers the conversation when Haddock declared she was going to make the walk. To say it was a surprise might be an understatement. Libby’s husband and Haddock’s son Jim, then gave her challenges to ensure she was ready.

Libby, who still lives next door to where Haddock resided in Dublin, said she had to practice for a year to build the stamina to walk 10 miles a day. He also reminded her that there might not always be a place to stay along the way, so she had to learn to sleep on the ground outside, which she also did.

“She was a pretty unique human being,” Libby said. “She was always kind of outstanding no matter what.”

Libby and Jim flew out to California with Haddock and together they drove the first leg of the walk to see what it would be like. Jim knocked on doors along the way asking for people to let his mom stay there for a night. During her February break from teaching, Libby walked with Haddock in Arizona and returned that June to walk 100 miles to Fort Worth, Texas.

“I realized at that time she had become an icon,” Libby said, as truck drivers honked when they passed and they never had to pay for a meal.

Francie Von Mertens of Peterborough also walked with Haddock, accompanying her in parts of New Mexico and Texas. While she was only along for a short part of the journey, Von Mertens was struck by how she could get her message across.

“So smart, so savvy, so well spoken. She was very much on this mission,” Von Mertens said. “I haven’t really met many people like her.”

Her only regret is she didn’t go back for more walking.

“She totally convinced me,” Von Mertens said. “She was always a very forthright woman ahead of her time.”

Libby saw the progress her mother-in-law made, but knows more can be done.

“Our No. 1 issue that’s not being talked about a lot is campaign finance reform,” she said. “But she really had the right idea.”

Ruth Meyer called Haddock her best friend. The two met in 2003, a few years after Meyer had passed on the opportunity to hear “this lady from New Hampshire” speak in Ohio. But when she and her husband returned to the Granite State, she started paying more attention to Haddock and what she was saying.

“It was then I knew she wasn’t just this old lady, there was something very unique and special about her,” Meyer said.

The two met and became dear friends and Meyer offered to volunteer at Haddock’s headquarters when she made her run for the U.S. Senate in 2004, in which she collected 34 percent of the vote.

They became even closer and soon Meyer found herself as a good sounding board for her friend. They took trips to speaking engagements in Wisconsin, Ohio and West Virginia. She went on road trips to states along the east coast to help register people to vote.

“It was important to her that every single citizen realized the government ought to be working for them,” Meyer said. “And in order to express that, it was important that everyone signed up to vote. All together, every one of those individual voices would be needed to save what she called our dear democracy.”

And even at the age of 90, Meyer can still feel the impact her mentor made on her.

“I think anyone whose life she touched were and are better because of her,” Meyer said. “Her being a part of my life and allowing me to be a part of her life, makes me realize how lucky I have been. She’s such a part of my life right now that every single day she’s with me.”

Meyer believes the world needs others like Haddock.

“Every country on the planet needs more citizens like Granny D if they want their government to truly represent their people,” she said.

Carol Wyndham of Peterborough first connected with Haddock when she was running for U.S. Senate. She almost immediately volunteered to help, walking with her all over New Hampshire.

Like Meyer, Wyndham took numerous trips with Haddock for speaking engagements in places like Denver, Florida, Oregon and Indiana, as well as to Concord.

“You couldn’t slow her down,” Wyndham said. “And it was a great, great privilege to be a part of it.”

And like many others, Wyndham isn’t about to let Haddock’s fight end.

“We’re going to yell and scream until we get it,” Wyndham said.

Saturday’s walk is also a celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Meyer remembers Haddock telling her a story about a conversation she had with her own mother about the first time she voted. In that story, Haddock recalled her mother asked Haddock’s father how she should cast her ballot. But Meyer also remembers Haddock saying it was the last time her mother ever asked someone for advice on how to vote.

Saturday’s walk will include socially-distanced groups of walkers with signs encouraging voters to vote in the upcoming Sept. 8 state primary and Nov. 3 general elections. Participants are invited to wear suffragist colors of white, purple and gold, and a limited number of suffragist-style sashes may be available. Signs will be available to carry, but participants may make and bring their own voting-themed signs as well.

There are two walking routes, a 3.5-mile roundtrip down West Street to the Route 9 pedestrian bridge, and a two-mile round trip down Main Street to the Route 101 pedestrian bridge, both returning to a rally in Central Square with speakers, music, and free ice cream.

The event is free, but participants must register in advance. Masks and social distancing are required. To register, visit OpenDemocracyNH.org. For more information, contact Doreen Desmarais, Open Democracy, at (603) 608-6211.


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