In memory of Ben Hauben
To the Editor:
When Ben and Lana Hauben came to our fair town of Manchester in the 1980s, it, of course, had the same beautiful mountains, valleys, rivers, clean air, low crime and spirit of independence which we enjoy today.
What it didn't have is the thriving multi-faceted and vibrant tourist economy which today is the envy of every other small New England, no, make that, American town in the country.
What enabled Ben Hauben, in 1981, to stand at the junction of Route 7A and Depot Street and see something other than a sleepy yellow blinker?
Ben was a man of extremely clear-eyed vision with an entrepreneurial heart and soul already bolstered by his knowledge of his previous successes, who knew that the same natural beauty and Vermont elements which drew him and Lana here were a perfect platform from which to build something truly wonderful.
And build it he did. But to say that he had to apply a steely resolve in the face of fierce opposition from those who resented him as a New York interloper who was seeking to make changes they were not sure they could embrace, would be a profound understatement. But he never quit and so he prevailed. Little by little, over the years, Ben, through the success of what he has built, has massively won over so much of our local population without them perhaps even realizing it. And why wouldn't he when his success has provided jobs, tax dollars, philanthropic support and new human energy for them and their children ... I should say, us and our children. I don't believe it is an exaggeration to say that this one superb businessman has set our area on a trajectory of economic and cultural success which, while one could attempt to measure in the hundreds of millions of dollars directly and indirectly brought into our community over the years, is much more accurately measured, hard though it is to quantify, in the untold numbers of people whose lives and livelihoods, past present and future, have been and will be enhanced by the hard cold spade work done by Ben and Lana in the previously inhospitable New England soil, and which now has brought forth uncountable spring blooms of entrepreneurial and cultural success.
Ben has always been dedicated to building and doing with excellence, taking great pains to preserve the New England village feel to his commercial buildings. While lesser structures on South Main Street, built long after Ben's first buildings, are being torn down this month, due to functional obsolescence, I invite you to think of Ben as you see this happen and the fact that all of his structures endure with fine architectural details and vibrant and healthy businesses in them. So fittingly, his last great project, the Marble Mill, was the first and only building which Ben sadly, and perhaps prophetically, had his name engraved upon. The Marble Mill, beautifully executed and in itself, a great statement of confidence and exuberant entrepreneurial enthusiasm has proven itself to be, if anything had to be one, a wonderful parting embrace and brick and mortar love letter from Ben to the town and area he had grown to love.
Indulge me just a moment more while I tell you a little about the man himself instead of just his public successes. Ben was a man of keen and incisive intelligence who, it would seem, knew half of what you were going to say before you opened your mouth. Unlike the current writer, being a man of few excess words himself, Ben valued compact and concise communications which got straight to the point of the matter. To say he did not suffer fools gladly would be an understatement, as I can testify from having perhaps said something to him which he deemed foolish once or twice. His laser-like ability to get to the heart of the matter served him well in navigating the many forks in the road which a man of his business stature faced regularly.
Ben was a man who valued love, loyalty and integrity. It is no coincidence that he has some of the longest serving and dedicated staff members in his company and in his household. The stories of Ben's quiet generosity and caring for those who worked for him are too innumerable for this occasion, but they have been told to me as clearly by tears of gratitude as well as by the words of those who shared them.
Ben never needed a marching band to go before him to proclaim his generosity and his good deeds, nor did his unostentatious good taste require the approval of others, though he quietly enjoyed seeing others blessed by his efforts.
I will miss the moments when his name showed up on my phone succeeded by the kind of conversations I could have with nobody else. I loved Ben. A few months ago, when I told him about our Shakespeare troupe performing at the Veterans Hospital, he asked me one surprising question: "Lawrence, did you get hugs? You've got to get hugs." At that moment, and to this day, I believed that he was thinking of his dear wife and three beautiful daughters.
There is a beautiful concept in Judaism that the righteous live well beyond their lifetimes. There is no question that Ben's generosity, kindness, empathy, passion and dedication will continue to live on in all who knew him and loved him. Furthermore, there is a statement in the Talmud that "words from the heart, enter the heart." Ben's friendship and words of love have touched my heart and I will always carry them with me.
May Abba Father the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, bring comfort to all of those who mourn Ben Hauben; and may his memory be a blessing always and in All Ways.
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