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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Influential clerk’s memory honored at Nashua High School North as road changes to Titan Way

When members of the Nashua High School North student senate approached Judie Druding several months ago with a delicate question, the first thought that popped into her head was “why?”

But it wasn’t long before Druding’s initial opposition to the students’ request to change the name of Chuck Druding Drive, the school’s main access road, to “Titan Way” gave way to a sense of support. ...

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When members of the Nashua High School North student senate approached Judie Druding several months ago with a delicate question, the first thought that popped into her head was “why?”

But it wasn’t long before Druding’s initial opposition to the students’ request to change the name of Chuck Druding Drive, the school’s main access road, to “Titan Way” gave way to a sense of support.

“I was hesitant at first, but once I talked to the kids a few times, I agreed with what they wanted to do,” Judie Druding said Tuesday morning at an elaborate, student-run ceremony that made the name change official.

Chuck Druding, who was 61 when he died in August 2001 after battling cancer, was the clerk of the works for the district’s massive, $70 million school construction project that transformed a sand and gravel pit off Broad Street into a four-grade high school that has won awards for its architecture and academic achievements.

But to each of the several speakers at Tuesday’s ceremony, Chuck Druding was a lot more than the man who oversaw the project.

“Typically, clerks of the works operate mostly behind the scenes,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Conrad told the roughly 120 attendees Tuesday morning. “But Chuck was different. He was so passionate, so engaged in what he was doing. Chuck was one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve met.”

The roughly 30-minute
program doubled as North’s 10-year celebration, which student senate members Sara Horne and Marcel Laplante referenced in brief remarks.

Horne also traced the history of the name change idea, telling attendees it came up for discussion in early 2013. The goal, she said, was to select a name that would shout “school spirit” while continuing to keep the memory of Druding and his contributions alive.

The process “took us outside our group,” Horne added, as a city street name change needs to go through the Board of Aldermen. But beyond satisfying the legal process, the senate – and most students – agreed that Druding’s name has special meaning to their school and that any name change should get the blessing of is family.

Judie Druding, who now lives in Hopkinton, was joined by several family members, including her sons Rick and Jim and daughter Carin. They posed for photos with school officials, holding the handsomely designed encasement in which the street sign in Druding’s name is displayed.

Students also unveiled the granite monument that was installed as an additional way of keeping Druding’s memory alive. It stands about two-thirds of the way down what is now Titan Way, next to what’s known as the lower baseball field.

Emotional moments were common during the ceremony, peaking when Rick Druding approached the microphone to speak about his father.

Overcome with emotion, Druding gave way to North interim Principal Marianne Busteed, who read the remarks that Druding had prepared.

“My father’s life was far more than his physical being,” Druding wrote. “He had a passion for his job, which I’m sure was quite evident to everyone he worked with.”

A big fan of circuses, Chuck Druding was known for his frequent trips to regional circuses with groups of kids in tow, his son wrote. “The smiles on the kids’ faces always put a big smile on his. He loved the circus and making kids happy.”

He recalled in the remarks how a meticulous Chuck Druding ordered an entire carpet torn out of a school in Concord because of “one little defect.”

Druding also oversaw the significant renovation to Nashua High School South that occurred at the same time that North was built.

Before leading the NHS North project, Druding, who in 1985 became a clerk of the works for school building projects in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont after years working for and owning construction companies, was hired to oversee the renovations and addition to Amherst Street Elementary School.

“When we were ready to hire a clerk for Nashua High North, we didn’t hesitate,” Conrad said. “We knew Chuck was the right man for the job.”

Peg Reynolds, the school district’s director of secondary curriculum, recalled Druding as a “man who loved to chat” and “a teacher.”

“I’m not a contractor, so I don’t know a lot about these things,” Reynolds said. “But every time I asked a question, Chuck explained everything to me, and he didn’t make me feel silly for asking. He was a patient man who answered all my questions.”

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau praised the students for undertaking the name-change project.

“To have kids want to share their school spirit is wonderful,” Lozeau said. “They did it in such a way that they made sure the family understood and approved. They struck the right balance.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).