mahar

Alexander Mahar

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BENNINGTON — Alexander Mahar, who died Monday, is being remembered for his kindness, devotion to family and friends, and unflagging community spirit.

The longtime president of Mahar & Son Funeral Home on Main Street, whose family has operated the business since 1935, was 82.

“Mr. Mahar was a true gentleman who touched the lives of countless people,” said state Sen. Brian Campion. “He was exactly the kind of person one wants by their side when facing the loss of a loved one. He will be greatly missed.”

“The chamber was saddened to hear of Alex Mahar’s passing,” said Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Matt Harrington. “The Mahar family has been a staple of Bennington for generations and is a name synonymous with civic service. When we think of Alex and the Mahars, we think of community involvement and the importance of family. We extend our deepest condolences to the family.”

“He was a truly exceptional man, devoted to family and friends,” said Kathleen Hoisington, whose real estate business was also located on Main Street for decades. “He possessed true humility and compassion and was profoundly spiritual, compounded by his love of a good time. Also, he was one hell of a golfer. I will miss him terribly.”

Hoisington said Mahar was a friend since grammar school and she considered Alex and his wife, Marilyn, “my dearest and longest friends.”

“It’s a very sad day,” said Town Manager Stuart Hurd. “Alex was a genuine human being. Caring, compassionate, humorous when needed. He and his family have been and will continue to be part of the fabric of this community. He will be missed and remembered.”

Like others, Select Board member Bruce Lee-Clark lauded Mahar’s efforts to raise money for Hospice programs by organizing a benefit golf tournament when Lee-Clark served on the Hospice board.

“That incident to me was magnified many, many times over the last 30 years that we’ve lived here,” he said. “That is, his values were values about care of everybody that walked into his business, care for the people, valuing the importance of each person.”

Lee-Clark added, “The other piece of it that strikes me is that it wasn’t just important to him to express those values; it was important for him to spread those to a very large family who are living out those values today ... It’s as if he has spread that throughout his entire family, and I think that is a real gift to Bennington that lasts and lasts.”

“Alex was a true gentleman,” said state Sen. Dick Sears. “I first got to know Alex and his family as a member of Mt. Anthony golf club. Whenever I think of Alex, I will always remember that smile. He was very welcoming, and I will never forget his compassion and helpfulness when my mother passed away.”

Mark Shea, president of the Hanson, Walbridge & Shea Funeral Home, said he first worked in the funeral business for Mahar, beginning as a teenager, and considered him a mentor.

“He gave me a good foundation” in the business, Shea said, and instilled a sense of values Shea remembered when he began his own business in 2004.

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“Alex was a good man for me to learn from, a quality person,” Shea said.

Jay Zwynenburg, president of Jay’s Art Shop and Gifts and Cards, said he had known Mahar since moving to Bennington in 1972 and once lived near the Mahar family.

Mahar was “an asset to our community,” Zwynenburg said. “He was always a solid person and I respected him. He was a real pillar of the community.”

Select Board member Jim Carroll said Mahar “was always kind and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He helped people at the most difficult times of their lives.”

That included serving “two generations of the Carroll family,” he said.

Thomas Dee, president and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, said Mahar “was a very strong, active presence who led by example — both on a professional and a personal level. He will be greatly missed.”

“Alex was an anchor, a compassionate friend to the entire community,” said historian Tyler Resch.

“I was fortunate to meet the Mahar family early in my 30-plus years in Bennington,” said former Select Board member Greg Van Houten in a letter to the Banner. “Though it took a while, the process was an evolving experience of welcoming grace over several years. It continues to this day with his grandchildren emerging as real friends with real contributions to the world.”

Select Board member Jeanne Conner said she has a memory of Alex Mahar from when she worked at the Bennington Museum and would see him from her office window often coming to visit a family gravesite in the cemetery nearby.

“I would see Alex often tending to the grave, putting in flowers and tidying things up,” she said. “I would just look out the window and think about what a wonderful person he was. In his own quiet, gentle way, tending to the grave. I just thought it spoke to the kind of person that he was.”

Edward P. Mahar and his wife, Olga, began the funeral business on Elm Street in 1935, and later moved the home to the current location at 628 Main St.

Their son Alex joined the company in 1959 and became company president during the 1960s.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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