Nashua Elks’ ‘Youth Chairman Emeritus’ presides over his 47th Elks Hoop Shoot contest

Al Savage was getting antsy.

“It’s almost time to start. Let’s get these kids registered,” the venerable elder statesman of Nashua Elkdom barked at several men and women gathered near a long table set up at center court in the Chestnut Street Gym.

“Al gets impatient sometimes,” one of them quipped with a grin.

So when one of the braver souls informed Savage that one more brief formality needed taken care of before the 47th annual Elks Hoop Shoot could get underway, Savage glanced again at his watch and reluctantly acquiesced.

When it was over, not five minutes later, Savage wore a smile.

“I didn’t expect that … very nice,” he said in characteristic humble fashion. He glanced once again at that watch: “I’m glad it didn’t cut into my program.”

Rare is the man so focused on making things happen for the benefit of others – especially children and teens – that he appears relieved that a short recognition ceremony in his honor didn’t make dozens of boys and girls wait to step to the line and start shooting free throws.

But rare, too, is a man like Albert W. Savage, a can-do type of guy who never met a task too tough to tackle or a challenge too daunting to meet head-on, whether it be on behalf of the Nashua Elks Lodge, its membership, the community in general, or his own personal mobility issues that try, albeit mostly unsuccessfully, to keep Savage from doing the things he’s done as an Elk of more than 60 years.

No matter when or where I see Al these days he is quick to bring up the start of Biddy League basketball in Nashua back in the 50s. “Your father and I, a couple other guys, we brought Biddy (basketball) to Nashua,” he’ll remind me, going on to mention a few milestones along the way.

Bright and early Saturday morning, Savage settled in at the center-court table at Chestnut Street, shuffling paperwork and loading clipboards with entry forms for the kids, ages 8-13, who would soon be tossing basketballs at one of six hoops, hoping enough go in to punch their ticket to the district competition in Keene in January, and maybe even the state championships Feb. 3 in Concord.

The brief ceremony Saturday added yet another plaque to Savage’s seemingly endless collection of accolades, which, for as long as I’ve known him, he’s always appreciative, but also more eager to talk about all the lodge has collectively done for generations of local kids.

“Al, congratulations on your many achievements, and for being the Elks Nashua Lodge 720 ambassador to the United States,” longtime fellow Elk Leo Lebel said in presenting Savage the plaque.

The brass-on-wood award was made large enough to accommodate a list of Savage’s most significant accomplishments as an Elk; a complete list might fit on the side of a building.

Savage, in addition to being Hoop Shoot chairman, holds the distinguished position of Youth Chairman Emeritus of the lodge, according to the plaque, which was presented “in recognition of his personal investment and tireless efforts for the benefit of the youth of Greater Nashua over the past 60-plus years.”

A dozen examples of events, programs or organizations Savage either founded, or had a hand in founding, are listed: Elks Championship Field Day in 1955; boys Biddy Basketball League, 1956; State Decathlon and Heptathlin, 1957; Elks-sponsored Little League baseball team, 1963; Elks Cub Scout Pack 720 in 1964 and Boy Scout Troop 720 in 1965; debut of the Elks Trojans Junior Drum and Bugle Corps, also in 1965; Elks Pop Warner football program, 1969; Elks Hoop Shoot Free Throw contest, 1972; Nashua Elks all-girl all-star hockey team, 1973; girls’ Heptathlon, 1977; and the Elks Youth Soccer Kick program, 1999.

Atop the plaque under Savage’s name is a series of three-letter acronyms, which in Elkdom signify a high office either currently or formerly held.

Essentially, the more acronyms the more accomplished the Elk. Savage’s include PER – past exalted ruler; PSP – past state president; PDD – past district deputy; HLM – honorary life member.

In 1981, Savage and his wife of more than 60 years, Marion, were named co-Citizens of the Year by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, a rare accomplishment in that the award almost always goes to one individual.

Indeed, the Chamber folks got it right – Marion Savage, although not in the headlines as often as her husband, has done more than her share of volunteering for a wide range of organizations and causes.

That includes her lifetime membership in the Nashua Emblem Club, the Elks’ women’s auxiliary.

Al Savage, a Nashua native whose recollections of the great Hurricane of 1938 I wrote about on the storm’s 75th anniversary five years ago, followed his late father, Carl A. Savage, into Elkdom.

From what I can glean from Telegraph archives, the elder Savage was quite active in the lodge, heading up various initiatives and getting inovlved in others in the same way his son has done.

For years associated with the former Nashua Beef Company, a large wholesaler and packing plant that stood near the corner of East Hollis and Spring streets, Al Savage played football for Nashua High in the Buzz Harvey glory days.

Two unrelated stories in which he is mentioned appeared on the same page of the Aug. 21, 1944 Telegraph.

In one, Savage was among 13 veterans from the previous year’s NHS team who “greeted Coach Buzz Harvey at Holman Stadium this morning … “ on the first day of “dual session practices” for which Harvey was famous.

The other announced his victory, with Warren Hammar, in the three-legged race at the 43rd annual Elks clambake.

Al Savage, an accomplished man indeed – even before he became a Nashua Elk.

Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Sundays in The Telegraph. He can be reached at 594-1256, or@Telegraph_DeanS.