Chip Rice, lawmaker and friend to many, dies at 76

  • Chip Rice and his wife Ann in this courtesy photo. COURTESY—

  • A courtesy photo of Chip Rice. COURTESY—

  • Democratice state rep. Chip Rice died Wednesday at age 76. Courtesy

  • Chip Rice and his wife Ann with their dog in this courtesy photo. COURTESY—

Monitor staff
Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Democratic lawmaker Chip Rice of Concord, who died Wednesday after a long fight against lung disease, rarely made it anywhere without slamming on the brakes.

You know the type. The person who can’t seem to walk from Point A to Point B without a delay, a distraction, a smile, a handshake.

The person who never, ever avoids eye contact when seeing a familiar face at the grocery store, choosing to engage, listen and learn, not hide in the frozen-food section.

Rice’s three kids didn’t always enjoy the delays their father created like a stop light, but they knew this was the role he had adopted, and there was no use trying to change him.

In fact, they wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

“It was embarrassing as a child,” Carl Rice said Friday, laughing. “He was always stopping and talking to people, and we’d say, ‘Dad, let’s just go.’ In different parts of the country, people would say, ‘I met you in Europe.’

“And we’d be in California!”

That’s why the celebration of life Thursday at the Kimball Jenkins Estate should be crowded. Rice always stopped to say hi, and people he’d met in Wales or Scotland or Germany or Ireland were always welcome to stay at his house while visiting the States.

Now it’s time to say goodbye to Rice, who was 76. He suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, which had slowed him down the past few years, according to his wife, Ann Rice, the state’s deputy attorney general.

Chip Rice died while serving his eighth term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. He was also a one-term state senator and once ran the Community Action Program in Rockingham County.

Elsewhere, Rice was the CEO of Bancroft Products, which was the predecessor to today’s Granite State Independent Living Foundation (GSIL).

That says a lot. Under the Bancroft-GSIL umbrella, Rice threw himself into the world of rehab for people with vocational disabilities, into incorporating refugees to the American culture, into teaching those same people to speak English, get them on their feet, build their confidence, help them adjust to a powerful culture shock.

“He’s going to be missed,” said Rep. Mary Jane Wallner of Concord, a longtime friend. “He was very sensitive to the needs of people and he spent a lot of time looking out for those who might not have had certain advantages.”

Added Ann Rice, “He was always advocating for the disenfranchised, education policy, the New Americans programs, refugees in Concord. That gives you an idea of what his foundation was all about.”

That foundation ran deep, hitting layers of social consciousness at a time when others weren’t ready to move there quite yet.

Rice sponsored discussions around the city, always passionate about dialogue, exploring the cultural unknowns, forever asking why we were doing something one way while another way would prove to be better.

“He organized community discussion groups,” Ann Rice said. “One year it was New Americans and another year it was gay and lesbian rights.”

“I’m now more engaged in politics, so I’m sad he is not here to talk to me about it,” said Rice’s daughter, Kari Rice, who’s in town from Oakland, Calif. “I feel my father was ahead of his time.”

Kari, a marketing director, and Carl Rice, a summer guide for trips on the Colorado River, are both here from California. So is Rice’s other child, Andrea Freeman, a nurse at Concord Hospital.

Over the next six days, they’ll greet family and friends, appreciate their condolences, reminisce, cry and laugh.

They’ll talk about their father’s never-ending fight for the underdog, like the time he wrote to the Monitor’s letter-to-the-editor section complaining about the absurd interest rate refugees were paying to purchase a car.

“The dealership was where the yoga classes were held,” Kari recalled. “They did not appreciate his letter to the editor and he was not welcome to that class anymore. He was willing to make those kinds of sacrifices.”

The kids will also talk about their father’s love for a good practical joke. Chip always left his keys in the car, so, Kari figured one day, why not hop in and drive the car to another parking spot while dad was shopping at a local grocery store?

“I watched for him to come out to see his reaction,” Kari said. “I totally learned from him to do something like that.”

And, undoubtedly, all those chance meetings around the streets of Concord will surface as well. When Chip and Ann and the kids were out and about, Chip’s foot was always near the brake

“The thing that gave him the most energy was meeting people,”Ann said. “It was painful walking down the street with him, because everyone knew him.”