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The Villager NewsPaper talks about Joe Parris
A gift for 'The Mayor'
Wed, 07/02/2008 - 17:49
Posted originally at the Henniker| Village Newspaper:
Henniker fixture Parris is considered 'friend, father, brother'
By Michael Pon
If you want to find the ‘mayor’ of Henniker, just look for Joe Parris in one of his “hangouts." He’ll either be at the Henniker Farm and Country Store, his bench in front of the New England College (NEC) administration building in town, or at Pop Schultz Market, depending on the time of day.
“A lot of kids think of him as the mayor,” said Kevin Mock, owner of the Farm and Country Store. “He has a lot of contacts with the NEC kids. He sits in front of the administration building. That’s his spot, no one else sits there.”
“He’s everybody’s friend, father, brother – everything you want,” said friend Wendy Naughton. “There’s a lot of people who look up to him.”
“If you want an opinion, duck, he’ll give it to you,” said Kevin, who believes it was the NEC students who dubbed him the ‘mayor.’
“I wouldn’t dispute that at all,” chairman of the selectmen Tom Watman said of Parris' mayor status. “In fact we could issue a proclamation to make it official. He’s just a very nice guy. . . He and his friend have given me their support. Being the top selectmen is fine with me. He can be the mayor.”
Joe’s friend is Tom Gould, known locally as Dumpy. Although Joe frequents the Farm and Country Store alone in the mornings, he and Dumpy meet at the bench in town in the afternoon and early evening. There they spend their time talking with whoever walks by and bothers to stop and chat. If you ask Joe how he’s spent his time over the years, he’ll tell you this:
“A little bit of everything, and a whole lot of nothing.”
Fisherman, hunter, farmer, Joe has enjoyed his years in this part of the world, where people do all the things he loves. For a time, any hunter around town who needed an animal butchered came to him. But although Joe liked to hunt deer, there were certain animals he would leave alone.
“I would never shoot a moose. I would never shoot a bear. Two things I would never consider shooting,” Joe stated plainly.
It was in 1969 that Joe arrived with his wife Angela and their children from Medford, in the Boston area, to settle down in Henniker.
“I retired and I always wanted to go to the country, and I didn’t want to raise my kids in the city. And I went by a house, and I knew that was the one I wanted,” Joe recalled. “Half of these houses weren’t even here, three-quarters of them. It was a nice quiet little town. But now we have 99,000 people here and taxes going up and up and up.”
The Mocks have known him for five years now.
“He’s been coming to the store on a regular basis since the store started,” said Kevin. “People look for him when they come here. He’s part of the store. He comes in, has his coffee, chats with whoever comes through. He always sits on the dog food [bags on the loading dock].”
“If he’s not here by eleven we call,” said daughter Rebecca Mock.
“He’ll tell all the kids not to smoke any time he gets a chance,” said mother Peggy Mock.
Unfortunately Joe has emphysema and must breathe on oxygen now. So he makes sure every kid he meets gets the message: Don’t smoke.
Lately there has been a fund drive around town to send Joe on a deep-sea fishing trip out of Seabrook on July 27. Deep-sea fishing is one of the things he enjoys most.
“The kids are going to get me out,” Joe said, now that the secret is out. “I don’t go swimming. I have a lot of respect for the water. But I love to fish.”
“Response for his fishing trip has been phenomenal,” said Kevin. “Kids come in with their change and one woman who didn’t even know him, but her kid has been seeing him all around town and thought he was God.”
One very young boy with autism spent some time with Joe at the Store recently. His mother said her son rarely ever talks to anyone, but Joe brought him around. Within 20 minutes he had him talking.
“Any kid that comes in he makes a point of talking with, whether he likes their shoes or something they are wearing, or if it is a high five,” said Kevin. “He’s also our security, with Joe on the loading dock. He’s seen kids put stuff in their pockets and he’ll tell them in a friendly way: You didn’t pay for that.”
Joe does much the same at Pop Schultz Market, where he arrives nearly every night at about 7 o’clock. There, Lorinda Routon, who minds the store until closing, enjoys Joe and his friend Dumpy, who keep her company and keep an eye on the customers. This particular relationship with Lorinda, known as Rindy, has been going on or more than three decades.
Rindy came to Henniker as a freshman at NEC in 1971. At that time there was Stan’s Superette across from the NEC administration building. Rindy was living upstairs from the Superette in a girls’ dormitory in her first year of college.
“I remember my parents dropping me off, and my father went into the grocery store, and Joe was cutting meat, and he asked him to take care of me. And that was that,” Rindy put it. “I don’t think he has missed a night since I’ve been working. Any place in town I’ve been working he comes down and stays with me. It takes a pretty big snowstorm for him not to come. It is amazing - if he doesn’t come down he calls and says he can’t make it.”
During the winter, Joe usually passes up the bench in town to go straight down to Pop Schultz, but says he and Dumpy normally sit on the bench in town all the way up to New Year’s Eve.
“We’ve been sitting there 20 years,” Joe said.
Although it doesn’t seem that there is much that rattles Joe, Mindy knows of one that will raise the hair on his neck.
“The only thing I’ve known him to be scared of are snakes,” said Rindy. “He’s petrified. That’s the only thing.”
Otherwise Joe is happy with the life he leads with Angela on their five acres in Henniker.
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