Monitor bids farewell to Ray Duckler

Ray Duckler

Ray Duckler

By JONATHAN VAN FLEET and STEVE LEONE

Monitor staff

Published: 05-20-2024 10:02 AM

Ray Duckler, the Concord Monitor’s undisputed leader in bylines published at the paper, is calling it a career.

Duckler’s service to Concord area readers and New Hampshire journalism has spanned almost four decades and has included an impressive list of awards and accomplishments. In 2017, Duckler was named the recipient of the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s Bob Wallack Award, an honor that “celebrates the accomplishments of someone who, over a sustained period of time, has faithfully served the community for which they are responsible and has played an active, constructive role in contributing to its quality of life.”

He deserved it.

Duckler’s ability to tell a range of stories is unmatched.

Some made readers laugh out loud, like his personal reflections of his new shorter commute after the Sewall’s Falls Bridge was finally reopened. “Those (extra) 3.4 miles per day, driven over those 23 months, averaging those five work days per week, equaled about 1,600 miles. Further research revealed that I could have driven to Miami and halfway back during the extra time it took me to reach work.”

Others made readers question how the heck he got that interview. Ray was the first to note that the daughter of Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley was living under a bridge in Concord. He spoke with her about her famous father, the strained family relationship and her hopes for the future in a powerful account of how mental health and homelessness can touch all families. He went to great lengths to connect with her well-known parents, who acknowledged the situation they and other families face.

Duckler is known for his willingness to get the story. He’ll knock on doors, including the time he visited a church in Charlestown, NH, to confirm that a priest implicated in the region’s Catholic sexual abuse scandal, was working with children in another house of worship. He crawled his way up an I-93 embankment to capture a photo of a Friday night crash that snarled traffic.

As a former sports reporter, Duckler knows his way around a media scrum. Members of the national news media were boxed out on many occasions when Duckler was on assignment to cover a political candidate. He couldn’t have gotten any closer to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

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Most importantly, Duckler gave his sources the ability to tell their stories. He followed longtime Monitor Editor Mike Pride’s sage advice, “Show, don’t tell.”

But after all those years in journalism, he never turned his nose up at a story, no matter how large or small. He’s written more Hometown Hero stories than the rest of the staff combined.

He covered the stories of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, NBA player Matt Bonner, countless veterans and members of the “Greatest Generation,” and even a worker at the Dunkin Donuts on Manchester Street who fought off a burglar with a spatula big enough to swat a fly the size of a bullfrog.

He was drawn to the news of the day. He wanted to explore the lives of people affected by it. He wanted to plant his columns in that quiet place where people keep their feelings but often don’t say them out loud. Until someone asks.

For those who worked with Duckler, they knew a man who loved the Grateful Dead, cats and lots of coffee. A die-hard Yankees fan, he learned to blend into the often insufferable Red Sox Nation, while always keeping his allegiance lighthearted. As a New York Giants fan, he got to smile as his team played the spoiler for the New England Patriots – twice.

He was curious about coworkers and their families. He was one of the first in the newsroom every day and would volunteer to cover any breaking news without question.

When he was out getting food or pumping gas at Thirty Pines, he’d often forget that he’s a minor celebrity in Concord. He’s written about hundreds if not thousands of people who live and work here. And everyone else he didn’t write about saw his face in his photo next to his front page columns.

Over the years, Duckler wrote about relationships. He wrote about people. He wrote about broken hearts, grief, love and triumph.

“The intimate relationships I formed while reporting on people with health issues forced me to take nothing for granted,” Duckler said. “I hope I impacted them in a small, positive way… guess I’m going down the road feeling good.”

The Concord area knows itself better because of him. The Concord Monitor owes him a mountain of gratitude for his dedication and hard work.

Few of us have ever received a standing ovation for our work. Duckler deserves one more than most. Look around Ray, we’re all standing and clapping. Thank you for everything.