The SEA joined residents all over the state this week in mourning the passing of longtime Executive Councilor Ray Burton. Burton, who was 74, died early Tuesday after a battle with kidney cancer.
The former educator represented the sprawling District 1 for 34 years on the Executive Council. He announced a few weeks ago that his cancer was no longer in remission, and he would not seek another term. After the news of his death spread early Tuesday morning, tributes began to roll in from across the state.
“There are no words to express our sadness here at Glencliff Home,” said Cheryl Towne, SEA Director and president of Chapter 9 at the Glencliff Home. “Ray was the North Country’s biggest friend and champion. He will be greatly missed.”
Maureen Timmins, secretary of Chapter 1, developed a personal relationship with Councilor Burton over the course of their many respective years of state service.
“There are so many memories I have of my interactions with Ray,” Timmins said. “One that comes to mind often is of a conversation we had when he was first diagnosed with cancer. I wrote him a note reminding him I was a cancer survivor. I told him that he had to keep fighting, we needed him here.”
Timmins said Burton, who was renowned for his constituent service, shared a tip that proved valuable for her.
“Ray taught me to carry index cards,” she said. “If in my travels someone asked me a question, I gave them a card to fill out with the question and a phone number to get back to them.”
Timmins said she kept in touch with Burton even after she retired.
“I spent a lot of time in the North Country because my son lives there,” Timmins said. “After my retirement, I would call Ray to keep him up to date on things in the state offices in the North Country. I even checked in with him while I was wintering in Florida.”
“He will never be replaced, no one could come close,” she said.
Craig Downing, a member of Chapter 20, actually interned for Councilor Burton years ago.
“I met Ray Burton when he first ran for Executive Council,” Downing said. “I would have never gone to college without Ray Burton pushing me and encouraging me.”
“I do not know what my life would have been like if I had never met him, but it would have been greatly diminished without his advice, encouragement and friendship for the last 35-plus years,” he said.
SEA President Diana Lacey said Burton was a longtime friend of state employees and knew well the meaning and impact of public service.
“I am not capable of adequately describing how many lives he touched through his years of service; I doubt anyone could because it is so great,” she said. “I will miss him, and there are those among us that knew him far better. Rest in peace Ray; thank you for being so special.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan directed that flags be lowered to half-staff in his honor, and released this statement.
“Today we have lost one of the most dedicated, caring and unwavering public servants that the state of New Hampshire has ever known,” Hassan said. “For nearly 40 years, Ray Burton stood up and fought for the people and communities of the North Country with a passion that can never be matched.”
Funeral services are private, but a public memorial service is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at Plymouth State University. If you have a memory of Councilor Burton you’d like to share, we encourage you to do so in the comments below or on our Facebook page.