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  • Staff file photo

    Participants in a recent Homeless Memorial Day vigil in downtown Nashua formed a circle while listening to each other's prayers and words of remembrance. This year's vigil is Monday at 5 p.m. at Main Street Methodist Church.

  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Dave Richardson listens as the names of New Hampshire homeless people who passed away this year are read aloud by Mary Levesque, Wednesday evening in front of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Nashua in memorial of Homeless Memorial Day.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Martha Coy chokes back tears as the names of those who were homeless and passed away in New Hampshire this year, Wednesday evening in front of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Nashua. Approximately 25 people gathered to remember those who have lost their lives to homelessness as part of Homeless Memorial Day, the longest night of the year.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Haley Coy holds a sign commemorating Mark Valley, the man who was beaten to death on Auburn Street in Nashua, this year. Nearly 25 people gathered near the Church of the Good Shepherd, Wednesday evening, in remembrance of homeless people who have passed away this past year as part of Homeless Memorial Day.
  • Staff file photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    This Dec. 21, 2009, photo shows Mark Vallee holding a candle while talking about the homeless during a vigil in front of Nashua City Hall.
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nashua vigil marks Homeless Memorial Day

NASHUA – Mark Vallee made it a point to visit the homeless vigil in Nashua marking Homeless Memorial Day.

He huddled over his candle in the cold and sometimes the snow and sleet and wind and listened to the prayers and the reading of the roll of the dead – a list of his friends and fellow homeless people who died in the previous year.

Vallee, who would have turned 52 last week, was one of the names on that list when homeless advocates homeless and formerly homeless people gathered outside the Church of the Good Shepherd on Main Street on Wednesday night.

“This has been a particularly hard year, because of Mark,” said Eileen Brady, who runs the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. “I don’t know a lot of people who weren’t touched by Mark.”

Vallee was brutally beaten to death this summer. A motorist found his beaten body lying in a driveway on Auburn Street the morning of Memorial Day. Police have charged Ricky Munster, 21, with beating Vallee to death with his hands, feet and a two-by-four, according to court documents. A grand jury indicted Munster on two counts of second-degree murder in August.

Vallee struggled with alcohol addiction and was a familiar figure for years in downtown Nashua, where he frequently panhandled for money.

His friends and family said Vallee, a skilled high school baseball player, battled alcoholism for decades, at times having success but never completely freeing himself from the addiction.

Nearly 150 people attended a memorial service for Vallee at St. Louis de Gonzague Church in July. Another service was held last week, on Vallee’s birthday, Brady said.

Brady showed off a hand-carved wooden sign made by one of Vallee’s friends, a man who was homeless with him in the 1990s and has since turned his own life around. The friend gave the sign to the soup kitchen.

An identical sign, which read “In memory of Mark Vallee,” with the dates of his birth and death, will be given to his family, Brady said.

Vallee was not the only homeless or formerly homeless person remembered during the ceremony.

Participants, this year standing in the cold and rain, read a list 24 names long of people who died in New Hampshire this year.

“It’s an invisible issue,” Brady said. “People get noticed only when something terrible happens, but people are always living in this situation. We try to give them some visibility, and people’s hearts are usually a little more open this time of year.”

Not everyone forgets them though, especially the workers and volunteers at soup kitchens and shelters.

Martha Coy, who works at the Maple Street shelter, knows many of the people on the list, including Vallee. Coy said for the past 15 years, Vallee would stop at the shelter but not be able to stay because he had been drinking. She would make him some soup and they would talk, often about his plans to get sober and turn his life around once and for all.

“He was one of the people who kept you going, who kept you working at it,” Coy said. “I think this is great because it’s a good time to remember people who seem to be forgotten. Unfortunately, it’s not as big as it should be.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).