Alderman Barbara Shaw, longtime educator and tenacious warrior for her city, has died

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Ward 9: Barbara Shaw

MANCHESTER, NH – Barbara Cartier Shaw, a longtime public servant and educator and sitting Ward 9 Alderman and has died. She was 79.

On Thursday Mayor Joyce Craig released the following statement after notifying her fellow board members and city department heads of the news:

“I’m heartbroken to hear of the passing of Alderman and State Representative Barbara Shaw. Barbara and I worked together for many years. She was a dear friend, and I will miss her deeply. As an educator and public servant, Barbara positively impacted the lives of countless Manchester residents. She was a strong independent thinker and always accessible. She understood what was best for her constituents – and always fought for them. Her kindness, dedication, and genuine love for Manchester were apparent in everything she did. My deepest condolences go to Barbara’s family, her pride and joy, and all those she impacted throughout her life.”

Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw

Shaw spent 45 years in the educational trenches, graduating from Central High School before heading to Plymouth State College where she graduated in 1964 with a degree in education. She returned to her alma mater to earn her master’s in education degree in 1980. She was a loving mother and grandmother, and generously shared her love for and pride in her family via her active social media posts.

Politically, Shaw served as Ward 9 Alderman since 2010 and was in her 10th-term as a NH State Representative, elected first in 2000. She was a member of the Hillsborough County Executive Board from 2004-2018, according to her official biography on the NH General Court site. In her capacity as a State Rep she served on many boards and committees, and ended her bio with her intention to “live life to the fullest.”
When asked in 2021 why she was seeking reelection as Ward 9 Alderman, Shaw said, “I am dedicated to serving the people of Ward 9 and this city. I want to continue to do the people’s work as long as I am able, giving back to this city where I was born and raised, the city and people I love.”
Fellow Alderman and State Rep. Pat Long said Shaw’s advocacy for her constituents was beyond compare.
“Barbara was this absolutely unique-in-a-positive-way person,” Long said. “I remember my first interaction with her. I was a chair of a committee in the city and I called to let her know I was thinking of meeting on Tuesdays at 6 and she said, ‘I can’t do that. You gotta change it,’ she said. She told me that she goes to church every day with her sister. So I say to her, OK, I’ll change the date on one condition. When you go to church, you pray for me. And know what she says? She says, ‘Do you think that’s really going to help?” Long recalled, erupting in laughter at the memory that captured Shaw’s humor and wry spirit.
Long said sometimes he’d get calls from Shaw when she was getting heat from constituents or fellow elected officials about various issues.

“She was her own woman. She did what she thought was best – not always what I thought or others thought was best – but she’d call me when she was getting crap from other people and I would try to smooth that out and let her know that she should just keep on doing what she had to do,” Long said.

He said Shaw called him on one occasion not long ago to say she was tired.

“She said she needed help and I asked her what was the matter. She said she was helping an elderly woman from her ward who had to move out of her apartment, and she was there helping pack her things. She said she was too tired to move the stuff. That’s Barbara. She didn’t make a few calls to get you what you needed; she was there, by your side, doing what was needed,” Long said.

He said they attended a function recently that was all about praising female candidates and she turned to him and said that, to her, it wasn’t about being a woman; it was about being honest, having integrity and taking care of constituents.

“That’s old school and that’s exactly Barbara,” Long said. “People like that are too far and few between. As elected officials, we lose that close touch with our constituents, but not Barbara. One of the flavors of the board is gone. Her unique voice will be missed and her advocacy was beyond compare. I can see why she kept getting reelected. She wasn’t self-serving. It was all about her constituents.”

Ward 9 School Board member Ben Dion, left, with his friend and mentor, Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw. Courtesy Photo

Current Ward 9 school board member Ben Dion says the news of Shaw’s passing, which he heard from a mutual friend of Shaw’s family, was an unexpected blow.

“I’m in total shock. I knew she hadn’t been feeling well but didn’t know to what extent. Last time I saw her and gave her a hug was at the holiday parade, as we were walking by,” said Dion on Thursday morning.

Shaw nominated Dion, a former educator, to sit on the school board when an opening for that position opened up following the resignation of longtime school board member Arthur Beaudry in April of 2021. Dion ran this past fall and was elected to serve a full term. He gives all the credit to Shaw, for seeing something in him.

“I moved into the ward three years ago, and invited Barbara to meet for coffee and just to talk about things. We had that kind of relationship where we’d call one another and talk, whether we agreed or disagreed, that never mattered; she was someone you could talk to, regardless of the issue,” Dion said.

“I considered her a mentor because she had confidence in me to nominate me for the school board. She really wanted me to get more involved with city politics, and being on the school board was the first step. I owe that to her, for believing in me,” Dion said.

Dion said she was as much a friend as she was a mentor.

“She really cared about the city, especially Ward 9. Barbara was passionate about making sure everyone’s voice was heard, even if she didn’t agree with you. She had the ability to be able to have the conversation, and I appreciated that about her,” said Dion. “In fact, I was just getting ready to call her and talk to her about the new school board appointment, to get her view on it.”

At-Large Alderman Joe Levasseur said he had just texted Shaw on Wednesday.

“It was at 10:17 a.m. I was concerned because she wasn’t at the last meeting, and I was worried she got hit with COVID again. But I found out it was a planned surgery and my understanding is she didn’t make it,” Levasseur said.

“But as far as someone I had to work with for over 10 years, nobody was more pleasant than Barbara. She had a great sense of humor and always followed her convictions, no matter who was pulling her in one direction or the other. She voted what she believed in, and we respected her for it. She was never mean, and always had the right temperament. You can tell why she was probably a really good teacher, she had a good temperament with the wise guys. She took you in stride and laughed along with you, and never took anything personal,” Levasseur said.

He also knew Shaw’s husband, Jeff Purinton, and described them as a long-time loving couple.

“Her husband used to park his tractor-trailer at Theo’s for many years, no charge. They were salt-of-the-earth and everything that Ward 9 is all about, a real mix of hard-working middle-class people and Barbara represented that ward exactly as she was, and how they expected her to,” Levasseur said. “Everyone thought so highly of her. She was always a sweetheart and a classy lady.”

Ward 8 School Board member Peter Perich, a retired Memorial High School administrator,  knew Shaw as a fellow educator.

“She was always there for us and fighting the battle for education and making sure we had what we needed, which is a hard battle the way the tax cap is. She was always there supporting what we needed and how we could get it,” Perich said. “It’s sad to lose someone who is a former educator herself, and also a friend. It’s going to be hard for the school board, and for the aldermen to adjust to her absence. She had the experience, for sure, and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.”


About this Author

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Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!