Sandown Loses Outstanding Volunteer in Eleanor Bassett

SANDOWN – Even into her final days and moments, Eleanor Bassett was double checking with her family and friends to make sure the Sandown food pantry was ready to provide meals for Thanksgiving.
It’s what she did. She looked out for others and worked to make her community a better place. Even when it became too much for her to leave her home to lead and assist her community, Eleanor was making phone calls, organizing people and carrying on with the work she had always done.

The beloved Sandown resident passed away in her bed on Nov. 20. She was 86 years old.
“Anything that was going on she was running it or helping out with it,” said her brother Carroll Bassett. Since she was old enough to do anything, she was helping, he said.
In her public life, Eleanor’s community spirit, coupled with a humility and an old New England work ethic, are the things most remarked about her. But she was also a woman who loved her family. Though she never married and had no children of her own, she was involved in the lives of her many nieces and nephews (45 of them) and all 15 of her brothers and sisters.
She was the fifth of 16 brothers and sisters and even in her early years she was looking out for her siblings and caring for them, said Carroll.
It’s what the Bassett family does – look after each other and their communities – and Eleanor was one of the most diligent. She was always checking up on the family, wanting to know how they were doing, and when her nieces and nephews came to visit, she always had something for them, said Carroll.
Sister-in-law Arlene Bassett said Eleanor made a point of keeping up to date with all of the family news and around the holidays displayed prominently all the family pictures sent to her.
She even made sure to attend all of the home baseball games of her grandnephew in Sandown, getting as close as she could to the field in her car to watch for a while.
All seven of her remaining siblings and their spouses were in town last week to say goodbye to their sister.
Throughout her life, Eleanor received a host of awards and recognitions bestowed upon her for her volunteer spirit. She was the Sandown Citizen of the Year in 1990, a New Hampshire Volunteer of the Year in 2007, and the fourth annual Hometown Hero in 2008 from Granite State Telephone, and in 2011 the Sandown Town Report was dedicated to her.
But she never did it for the recognition, said friend and Pastor Paul Sweet of the East Hampstead Union Church. According to Sweet, even after receiving the awards she never spoke about being honored, and eschewed the praise to focus on others who were doing good work too.
Her involvement in a church away from her hometown was a similar case of humility. While a longtime member of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Sandown, she moved to the Hampstead church because she knew its numbers were dwindling and the congregation was having a difficult time keeping it going.
Sweet said that Eleanor, even then in her 70s, worked hard to save the church but never took credit for it. She instead was thankful for all the efforts of those who helped in the work.
Sweet explained that while others see a problem and may say, “Should we do something about it?” Eleanor instead always said, “What do we do about it?”
It was a way of thinking that saw her always at the heart of a problem or need, working to make it better. And in so doing she had a way of pulling in those around her to help, whether they had intended to or not.
“She was a kind, gentle and very strong willed individual,” said Sweet. “I’ve been enriched by knowing her and the family she comes from, and the community is clearly enriched by having them in it.”
As Eleanor’s funeral services took place Monday, food pantry volunteers were busy in Town Hall organizing the meals. Louise Chartier, pantry volunteer and a good friend of Eleanor, said she would have wanted it that way, and was likely watching from above to make sure the meals were prepared. The work was the important thing, and providing for those who need support.
Chartier describes Eleanor as a friend and a mentor. She was one of the first to welcome Chartier into town when she moved to Sandown just a few years ago.
“She was a wonderful person. She cared a lot about other people and taught all of us to go a step further for everyone,” said Chartier.
Eleanor was always looking out for the needs of those in the food pantry, an effort she began in the basement of St. Matthew’s 40 years ago. She knew all of the pantry’s users well, and when someone couldn’t get out of their home, she’d visit and bring food and supplies to them.
But it wasn’t just the food pantry that kept Eleanor busy in town, though perhaps it is what she is best known for. She was a member of the Lions Club, 60 Plus Club and Mothers and Others. She was the Sunday School Superintendent, Parent Teacher Association President and Treasurer of the Old Meeting House Historical Association. Eleanor was the town librarian in its early days, was a volunteer for Community Caregivers of Greater Derry and served on many committees at both of her churches.
When asked about her civic efforts and the drive behind them, Eleanor always pointed to her mother’s and her father’s example. They were busy, community-minded individuals.
Carroll said Eleanor was just like their mother in that aspect – helping out was just natural for them both.
In one of her last public appearances, Eleanor had doctor’s permission to attend one event during the Old Home Days weekend. She and Arlene discussed it and Eleanor decided that the best place to go would be the Fire Department’s annual Chicken Barbecue, as there she could see and talk to the most people. She always wanted to know what was going on in town and with her friends and neighbors and was adept at keeping up on the news.
At times during the barbecue there was a line to talk to Eleanor, a small proof of how respected and loved she was in town.

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