Nashua DPW worker added to state memorial
CONCORD – Sixty-seven years after his death, Kenneth Ekmarck, an employee of Nashua’s Division of Public Works, was recently added to the state’s Memorial to Public Works Employees.
It was May 1956 when Ekmarck, 31, dropped his nine-year-old son off at Mount Pleasant Elementary School on his way to work.
Tragedy struck less than two hours later when Ekmarck was getting into a road grader to continue a paving project on Lund Road. In a fraction of a second, he slipped and fell right into the path of the 14-ton truck.
Despite six grueling hours in the operating room, doctors were unable to save Ekmarck and he was pronounced dead that afternoon.
Nearly seven decades later, he is the only Nashua DPW employee on the memorial.
On Sept. 12, former Gov. John Lynch gathered with state officials and DPW employees from around New Hampshire to remember the 52 public works employees who lost their lives since 1893.
“This memorial is for them,” Lynch said during the second Dedication of Names ceremony.
Lynch said that during his eight years as governor, New Hampshire had 13 federally-declared natural disasters. These included three 100-year floods and an EF2 tornado that tore through 11 communities in July 2008.
“Some will say that I was responsible for those natural disasters, but the public works employees were always there to help,” said Lynch.
He also remembered the havoc caused by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. He said it was only two weeks before the fall foliage season when the storm, packing winds of 60 miles per hour, shut down the Kangamangus Highway and the roads around Loon Mountain.
“We had tourists coming here from all over the world,” said Lynch.
Although the initial damage reports indicated that it would take a year to reopen those roads, the state Department of Transportation rose to the occasion and got the job done in 10 days.
DOT Commissioner William Cass said DPW employees perform dangerous tasks that are overlooked most of the time.
“Your important work is often taken for granted and goes unrecognized,” he said. “We want to make sure everybody gets home at the end of the day.”
Daniel Hudson, president of the New Hampshire Public Works Association, said being a DPW employee means being on call 24 hours a day seven days a week.
“Public Works requires sacrifice, snow storms don’t know when it’s Christmas Day,” he said.
The black granite memorial carved in the shape of New Hampshire was designed by Wilmot resident Kelsie Lee, who at the time, was a senior at Colby Sawyer College. It was completed in 2019 and includes six granite benches, a perennial reflection garden, four granite stones with the names of those who have passed away and 24 shovels, one for every hour that a DPW employee must be available to respond.