An octogenarian from East Concord remains on the go, for the sake of others.

  • Fran Philippe was instrumental in saving 272 acres at Broken Ground, turning land destined for development into hiking trails. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Fran Philippe loves to walk the Broken Ground trails in East Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Fran Philippe loves to walk the Broken Ground trails in East Concord. She was instrumental in saving 272 acres at Broken Ground, turning land destined for development into hiking trails. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Fran Philippe loves to walk the Broken Ground trails in East Concord. She was instrumental in saving 272 acres at Broken Ground, turning land destined for development into hiking trails. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/21/2023 10:00:22 AM

At 84 years old, Fran Philippe earned the right to change the name of the hiking groups she’s been leading for years.

After all, Philippe runs three to four miles each Monday through Friday. She was instrumental in saving 272 acres at Broken Ground, turning land destined for development into hiking trails.

And to Philippe, when you’re active like she is, names like ‘The Old Goats,’ or, simply, ‘The Goats,’ both of which were initially offered as names by members, did not sit well with this spry athlete from East Concord.

Philippe preferred a club name that would better reflect who she and the others hiking with her were. These seniors thumb their noses at aging and the manner in which they are expected to behave.

“The 4,000 footers were hard and others (seniors) were getting older,” said Philippe. “I asked if we could start with the name, ‘The Elder Goats,’ not the ‘Old Goats.’ ”

She’s our next Hometown Hero, nominated by her daughter, Laurie Sargent, who said, “She’s a voracious hiker and she takes people out on Broken Ground trails that she helped develop after saving the land, so she has input on that trail system.”

Philippe made her name in other areas as well. For example, she taught at Conant School for 22 years before retiring from teaching 25 years ago.

She worked at McGowan Fine Art and loved watercolor painting, and she worked for a frame shop for eight years.

In her later years, the community began to notice that they had a diamond in the rough in their community, an octogenarian with a bounce in her step, children in her heart, and a singular goal in mind: help those who need it.

She works at the Friendly Kitchen as part of a program with her church, the Unitarian Universalist Church. Now, she coordinates meals in the Kitchen. She’s been serving there for 40 years.

She volunteered to work for the Friends of Forgotten Children in 2017. She packed lunches and delivered them to schools, each one containing two breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners.

“On Monday morning, (the children) would not be able to do their best if they’re hungry,” Philippe said. “We make sure they have calcium, vegetables and low sugar.”

“Right now, I’m packing 58 of these bags,” she added.

Through her church, Philippe has befriended some refugees who live in the Granite State. Many families didn’t speak a word of English at the beginning. Philippe worked with people from Iraq and is currently helping refugees from Afghanistan and driving them to medical appointments or the pharmacy.

“She develops close ties with those resettling in the area,” Sargent said. “She helps them with life stuff, and that is her main passion right now.”

Elsewhere, Philippe fought hard to stop the development at Broken Ground. Now, she leads tours on the trail that she saved and helped make.

“I rallied to stop the 272 acres that would be affected,” Philippe said. “I worked at it for two years, went to all the meetings, took them to court.”

She won the battle in 2006. Now, she’s always on the move helping others, and she doesn’t look as though she plans to leave her world of volunteering anytime soon.

“She had input on the trail system,” Sargent said. “She loves to take people out and also enjoys hiking with the goats. She climbs like a goat. She is a goat.”

An elder goat, though.

Never an old one.


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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