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Remembering Robert LaChance

“I have had the privilege of serving on the CPG with Robert as well as working with him at the Nashua Public Health Department, before he joined the HIV Program at the NH State Health Department.  The memory that makes me smile the most when I think of Robert occurred during his time at the Nashua Health Department.  One Friday, after a challenging 8-9 hour day, I finally hung up the phone, gathered my purse and coat, turned off the office lights, and opened the door into the first floor hallway, hurrying to exit the building and get to my car.  At the exact moment I stepped into the hallway however, Robert was across from me, exiting the men’s bathroom.  Robert not only surprised me as I thought everyone else had gone home, he stunned me.  He was wearing a very beautiful, form fitting glittery evening gown with matching heels.  His makeup was applied flawlessly, showing off his beautiful eyes to perfection and his lipstick was the perfect shade to go with his gown.  His hair was coiffed in a style most becoming to his figure and style of dress.  Frankly, he looked better than I ever could in a similar outfit and walked better in those heels than I ever could.  He sauntered out of the bathroom, smiling and saying “Hi” as though there was nothing unusual about his appearance.  I managed to say “Hi” and within seconds recovered enough to ask him if there was anything he wanted to tell me.  I knew him as a proud gay man, but not as someone who preferred women’s clothing or identified as transgender.  Deadpan, he said “about what?”, then laughed the great laugh he had when truly amused.  He said the look on my face was priceless and went on to explain that he too was running late and decided to dress up before leaving as he was performing in Manchester in drag.  I have to say, he made quite the queen and I teased him for weeks about being prettier than anyone else who worked at the Health Department.  Robert’s sense of humor was awesome; always able to take a ribbing just as well as he could dish it out.  Robert was a very class act and I will miss him!” Lynne Weihrauch,  Nurse Practitioner (retired), DHMC

“I have known Robert for many years. We met here at the Nashua Health Department when he was volunteering in our HIV clinic. Robert had a great laugh and was very dedicated to prevention work in HIV. My fondest memory of Robert was spent with him outside of work. He loved to do landscaping. He in fact did the landscaping around my home. I remember him holding up his muddy hands and just loving it! There is a giant Hosta that Robert planted that is almost like an alien from another planet. I will always be reminded of his joy doing this work and the joy he had in doing prevention work in the field of HIV.  I told my great niece about Robert and she drew this picture that I would like to have included in the memorial. I am also including a picture of the monster plant. I have three of these babies around my home. I will always have a piece of Robert with me in his work.”Bobbie Bagley, Director, Public Health & Community Services

“Robert was a funny guy. He took his role at the State very seriously and would try to always be very professional and appropriate. Sometimes however, we would see a glimpse of the “true” Robert, especially when we had Community Planning Group retreats. I remember one particular occasion that we had prizes and Robert got a plastic pull string helicopter toy and he spent the evening shooting those plastic discs all over the place, including my hair. His laugh was contagious and we all had a grand time.” – Wendy LeBlanc, Vice President, Southern NH HIV/AIDS Task Force

“Robert was a part of my professional career in HIV/AIDS prevention from the start. He was my mentor, my guide, and my prevention contract support at the State of New Hampshire. Over the years, I worked with Robert on the Community Planning Group as well. I got to see many different sides of him. Although always professional, he relaxed a bit in his community work. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He was authentic and honest about himself, his perceptions, and feelings. One thing I remember Robert sharing was that he was NOT a touchy feely, or “huggy” person. He would scrunch up his face as he announced this, like hugging was grosser than a pail of creepy spiders. In between this standoffish front he projected, you could see a depth in his heart. He was very compassionate and sensitive to others. He was very committed to others feeling welcomed, safe, and included. You did not have to hug Robert to feel close to him, and to feel connected with him. He moved through this world focused on the people around him, the community he lived in, and what needed to be done to make others feel better, and communities work better for the health of all. Somehow, the world seems a bit colder now that I know he is no longer out there, among us. But, I know Robert would have none of that kind of thinking. He would remind me that I am still here, and we are still here, and we should stop this touchy feely crap and get to work.

I hope there is skiing where your spirit is, Robert. The mountains are high and white with perfectly packed snow and the lift ticket is for eternity. The air is crisp, but you are never cold and you are surrounded by love and laughter, as you have freely given all of us back here. I will remember you as you look in this picture. Smiling, the sun on your face, and always ready to share a good time. Peace be with you, Robert, and thank you.” Jean Adie, Outreach Specialist, DHMC