NASHUA – Barry Joseph Palmer, 83, died Sept. 21 at home, with his wife and daughter at his bedside, after a yearlong battle with cancer.
Barry was born in a Manchester hospital but was a lifelong Nashuan. He was a seasoned journalist, a decorated soldier, a songwriter, a community service leader, and a man of God. He was married for 58 years to Nancy, raising two children, Kathleen and Barry.
His family will remember his wincingly funny dad jokes and having a song to insert into any conversation; the smell of Captain Black cherry tobacco surrounding him; his diehard fandom for Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe; his voluminous knowledge and reading of US history and presidents specifically; and his daily drives around town.
Barry was a newsman for more than 35 years, starting with the Nashua Telegraph, to WSMN radio and its publication The Broadcaster, and finally the Union Leader. During his career, he interviewed Presidents Richard Nixon (twice), Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. He also interviewed countless celebrities including Milton Berle, Donald O’Connor, Johnny Cash (twice, once in Korea and once in New Hampshire), the Lone Ranger Clayton Moore, Roy Orbison, Tammy Wynette, and composer John Williams. He even got a hug and a kiss from Dolly Parton- which he would tell anyone and everyone, given the opportunity.
He was an Army soldier for 21 years – on active duty for six years, the NH National Guard for seven years, and the Army Reserve for eight years, which included three years at the UNH Army ROTC program as cadre. Decorations included the Meritorious Service medal, Army Commendation medal, NH National Guard Commendation medal, Korean Defense Service medal. Outstanding Volunteer Service medal, and many others. He also received the Expert Rifleman’s badge.
Barry was also a songwriter; for decades, he amassed a collection of country and spiritual songs. At the urging of his wife, he went to Nashville and had the incredible opportunity to have his music recorded on three albums with Country Music Hall of Fame members the Jordanaires – Elvis Presley’s longtime back-up group. One of his songs, “Live Free or Die,” was elected by the NH legislature as a state song in 2007. He also wrote “White Mountains” and “To New Hampshire With Love” as well as many religious songs, country tunes that could easily be on the radio and love songs to his wife and family.
Barry served his community as a politician, a veteran and as a church member. Active in veterans groups, he was twice elected Commander of Post 483, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and twice elected Commander of Post 3, American Legion. He was a member of the Catholic War Veterans, Military Officers of America Association, and many others.
In the political arena, Barry served two terms as a New Hampshire State Representative, serving four years on the House Judiciary Committee. Among his successes was speaking out on the House floor against a bill aimed against the gay community, effectively killing the bill.
He also received appointments from three governors: Gov. Walter Peterson to the NH American Revolution Bicentennial Commission; Gov. Meldrum Thompson Jr. to the Governor’s Crime Commission; and Gov. John Sununu to the Human Rights Commission, where he served for 13 years, the last seven as its chairman.
Barry earned two degrees from Notre Dame College: BA in behavioral science and a BA in religious studies. He completed a course in EMT and became a Certified Medical Technician. He also completed a radio broadcasting course in Philadelphia from Broadcast Coaching Associates, which he used when he covered the State House for WSMN news.
A practicing Roman Catholic all his life, he was a parishioner at the former Saint Casimir Church, and more recently, Saint Patrick Church. He taught CCD at Saint Casimir, and was a member of the Saint Patrick Church Parish Council.
He is survived by his wife Nancy, daughter Kathleen, grandchildren Davis and Autumn, his sister Sandi Kolt and daughter-in-law Nancy Palmer. He was pre-deceased by his son, Barry David Palmer.
A visitation will be held on Friday, September 29, 2023 from 2-4 PM and 5-7 PM at Zis-Sweeney & St. Laurent Funeral Home, 26 Kinsley Street, Nashua, NH. A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, September 30, 2023 at 10 AM at St. Patrick Church, 29 Spring St., Nashua, NH, with a burial to follow at Holy Cross Cemetery, Ledge Road, Hudson, NH.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.ZisSweeneyFuneralHome.com for the Palmer family. Barry Joseph Palmer
Published by InDepthNH.org from Sep. 25 to Sep. 26, 2023.