After volunteering, leading and recovering, Teresa Rosenberger gets high marks from the city

  • Teresa Rosenberger walks to the podium to receive the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award during its meeting at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord on Tuesday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Teresa Rosenberger accepts the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award on Tuesday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 11/16/2016 12:48:44 AM

Any sort of recovery from that brain injury 16 years ago would have been incredible. But what happened in this instance crosses the border, into miracle territory.

After all, Teresa Rosenberger couldn’t use a fork and knife following her bicycle accident suffered while riding with her husband, Eric Rosenberger. Walking through the aisles of a local grocery store became a major chore, and walking around the block more closely resembled the Boston Marathon.

These days, however, Teresa is directing and shaping economic and cultural paths for her beloved city, working on more boards than a California surfer. That’s why the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce named her its Citizen of the Year during its 97th annual meeting Tuesday night at the Grappone Conference Center.

It was a grand event for Teresa, whose three children entered the huge ballroom in a covert operation and sat at a back table, waiting for the family matriarch to receive her surprise recognition.

Then they surprised her on stage, with each of them having flown in at the eleventh hour to honor their mother.

“Enormously proud of her,” said Christina Rosenberger, who has a Ph.D. in art history and recently had her first book published. “She was always a role model in terms of civic engagement.”

Christina told me about growing up in Washington, D.C., where Teresa would take the children with her to deliver food to the elderly.

“She could have done it seven times faster without three little kids in tow,” Christina said. “But she wanted to show us the need to help other people and the importance of giving back.”

Meanwhile, Eric told me by phone before the banquet about that awful bike wreck in 2000, which to him stood out in her already powerful resume.

“Her major accomplishment was recovery,” Eric said. “Such an amazing recovery from her horrible and traumatic brain injury.”

Added Byron Champlin, Rosenberger’s colleague on the Concord planning board, “At one point we were chatting and she brought up the brain injury and I had completely forgotten about it. No one would ever know from sitting down and working with Teresa that such a significant injury, which might have impaired the faculties of another person, had happened to her.”

No, you wouldn’t, and so Rosenberger became part of a tradition, a nominating and selection process that features more secrecy than Trump’s transition plans.

Here’s the annual scenario:

For weeks, those privy to who won join the winner at the chamber’s banquet for a night out, featuring drinks, snacks, dinner and schmoozing. The inner circle of people play dumb, pretending they have no idea how the voting turned out.

This year, Bob Dunn, Rosenberger’s colleague at Devine Millimet in Concord, nominated her for the award and had to keep his mouth sealed the past few weeks.

“When solicitations came out this year, I had to go back and look to see if she had ever been given the award,” Dunn said. “I saw she never had been, and I was really astonished at that.”

Then, after a presentation including a slide show and a few speeches, someone, in this case Champlin, reads a prepared speech, slowly adding nuggets of background information as those in the crowd, most notably the guest of honor, begin to piece together the night’s great mystery.

This time, maybe it was the part of the speech that read, “A graduate of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, our honoree remains a faithful Tar Heel fan. Her career started at U.S. News and World Report in Washington, which led to the White House speech writing team where she served Presidents Nixon, Ford and Bush.”

Or perhaps this one gave it away: “A great measure of our citizen’s philanthropy is the extent of her involvement with so many local, regional and statewide organizations. She has served as the chairman of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, the Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association, the New Hampshire Historical Society and the Concord YMCA.”

Or, maybe, it was the part that stated Rosenberger had been affiliated with “the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, the Capital Region Healthcare Board and the Josiah Bartlett Center.”

“It’s wonderful to be in a small town where you can really try to make a difference,” Teresa said moments after the big announcement.

Her speech was smooth and effortless, unthinkable after that Sunday in 2000, when Teresa and Eric went for a bike ride to prepare for their upcoming trip through Spain.

They pedaled around the Concord Hospital grounds, where Teresa surged forward, out of sight. Eric caught up and saw something prone in the middle of the street. The figure was unrecognizable, both from a distance and up close as well.

“I didn’t know what it was and I get down there and there she was,” Eric said. “If you didn’t know her, you wouldn’t have recognized her. Her face looked like she’d just gotten out of a fight with Rocky Marciano.”

Her fight had only begun. Teresa, who had fallen off her bike after striking a speed bump, remained unconscious for two days and at Concord Hospital for a week. She rehabbed at home, learned to eat and speak, walk and think.

Eric said it took her about a year to regain some sense of normalcy.

“With her recovery, a lot of people would have caved in and said, ‘Well, I guess I’m the way I am,’ ” Eric said. “Teresa has a lot of spunk to her, and it’s good to have her as a friend.”

Since those dark, uncertain times, Teresa’s nonprofit and volunteer work have flourished, and she was recruited by Fairpoint Communications to serve as its New Hampshire CEO.

She’s now president of Devine Strategies in Concord, which put her in the position to push for legislation to open our State House to the public on weekends.

She serves ice cream to kids from her home each Halloween, too. And speaking of kids, Teresa and Eric’s three children made a mad dash to be here for the banquet.

Beyond Christina, Ian has a master’s degree and works in the intelligence community in Washington, D.C., and Lizzie is a teacher in New York City who once blasted off to the stratosphere, 45,000 feet above the Earth, as part of a NASA-backed program.

Three pretty tough kids. Just like mom.

“She would probably tell you one of her greatest accomplishments she ever did was the raising of her three children,” Dunn said.

Want more? As an extra ingredient to this Citizen of the Year recipe, Rosenberger has a sushi dish named after her at Moritomo, a local Japanese restaurant.

“She wanted to become educated and got a scorecard and went through every sushi dish,” Eric said. “It’s very good.”

And Tuesday night, others went through their own scorecards and gave Teresa Rosenberger high marks as well.

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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