Grandmaison Legacy Lives On

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By Mark Chag Jr., Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, September 5, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

FAVORITE SPOT -- The Grandmaison table at the Breaker's Cafe Lounge inside the Ashworth By the Sea in Hampton Beach. Longtime owner Norman Grandmaison, who passed away on Saturday, enjoyed h is dinner every night in thechairto the left which bears his name today.
[Atlantic News Photo by Trisha Dillon]

HAMPTON BEACH -- The metal nameplate is affixed to the back of the chair. Sadly, the chair is now empty.

It was Norman Grandmaison's favorite place to sit and eat dinner each and every evening, at a table just inside the doors of the Breakers Café Lounge at the Ashworth by the Sea.

Norman Grandmaison passed away early this week at the age of 79, following a lifetime of enhancing the lives of others.

Norman, along with his brother Paul Grandmaison, purchased the Ashworth in the summer of 1954, and brought the family's exquisite flair of fine hospitality to the Seacoast.

Paul's son John Grandmaison came aboard the management team in 1975, and oversaw day-to-day operations until the family sold the hotel two years ago.

Each night, the family would dine together in the Breakers Café Lounge, always sitting in the same seats, at the same table.

This week the chairs are in place, a candle sits on the table next to a vase with long-stemmed roses, while a reserved sign keeps the seats empty - awaiting the favorite customer who will not return, nor will he ever be forgotten.

Norman Grandmaison has been called the "Grandfather of the Community," among many other praises, and leaves behind a legacy of hospitality and devotion to Hampton Beach and the Seacoast at large.

"He was a terrific guy to work for. He was a mentor to me," says Ashworth by the Sea General Manager Peter Coutis. "Everyone loved him. He will be sincerely missed."

Coutis first went to work at the Ashworth in the 1970s, and saw it transform during the major expansion in 1980 when the Grandmaisons doubled the size of the hotel, as well as the complete renovation of the original building in 1986.

Norman was born in Massachusetts in 1929, came to Hampton Beach at an early age with his family, graduated from the University of New Hampshire, and was a Korean War hero and active member of his church, Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce and a long list of other community organizations.

He met his wife, Joyce, while she was working for the Ashworth, and she too joined the family in overseeing the success of the historic landmark which was constructed in 1912 - the same year that saw the opening of Fenway Park and the sinking of the "Titanic." The Ashworth was one of the first hotels on Hampton Beach and, thanks to Norman and his family, remains the finest.

"He owned the Ashworth by the Sea for 52 years. It is what it is because of him," Coutis says.

The family sold the landmark in 2006, but Norman couldn't stay away. Coutis says he was a frequent visitor, often stopping by where he was welcomed with open arms by the staff. He made what turned out to be his last visit his beloved hotel several weeks ago.

Perhaps what they'll miss most is his laugh.

"He had the best sense of humor in town," Coutis says, adding that when Norman was around, laughter was sure to fill the air.

When the hotel was sold, the new owners had nameplates put on the back of each of the four Grandmaison chairs at "their" table inside the Breakers Café Lounge, as well as a nameplate on the wall - much like the famous John F. Kennedy "booth" inside the Union Oyster House in Boston.

Boston had Kennedy. Hampton Beach had Grandmaison.

Norman's chair is empty. But his memory and the sound of his laughter will long live in the grand halls of the Ashworth - and beyond.

First Grade, Centre School
First Grade at Hampton Centre School
Miss Adeline C. Marston, Teacher -- 1935-36

Grade One -- Hampton Centre School -- Hampton, N.H.

Miss Adeline C. Marston, Teacher -- 1935-36

6th Row, l. to r.: Elizabeth Hersey, Althea Lamprey, Edward Bowley, John Trumbull, Betty Lou Freeman, Phyllis Blake, Fred Russell, John Holman, John Donahue, Norman L. Grandmaison, Darrell Roberts, Donald Walker, Robert Quinn, Gerard Grenier.

5th Row, l. to r.: Ronnie Wright, Mary Kuntz, Marie Kuntz, Bruce MacLaughlin, ?, Bill McIlveen, ?, ?, Richard C. Durant, Paul Rose, Clifford Eastman, Isabel Shaw, Lois Allen.

4th Row, l. to r.: Nancy Hoyt, ?, Barbara Garland.

3rd Row, l. to r.: ?, Geneva Roberts, Marilyn Morse.

2nd Row, l. to r.: Carlene Wise, ?.

1st Row, l. to r.: Nancy Wright, Dorothy Henderson, Merwyn Thompson.

[Courtesy school photo by John M. Holman, classmate of Norman Grandmaison.
School photo not in original article.]

Norman and Joyce Grandmaison / Atlantic News Courtesy Photo.
LEGENDARY -- Norman Grandmaison co-owned the Ashworth by the Sea in Hampton Beach for more than 50 years, bringing to it a charming flair for welcoming hospitality which it retains today.
[Atlantic News Photo by Trisha Dillon]
Norman and Joyce Grandmaison / Atlantic News Courtesy Photo.
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