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By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN â€“ As we enter 2012, itâ€™s appropriate to reflect on those who passed from our midst, how their lives changed North Kingstown and the tremendous void theyâ€™ve left in the fabric of the community.
In 2011, we mourned the loss of major activists, former government and societal leaders, a long-time resident famous for nurturing animals and the townâ€™s preeminent photographer of nearly 40 years.
All of them left legacies that will be indelibly written in the collective memory. They represented everything good about life in a small place.
Among those to whom we said goodbye were:
n MURIEL CAMARRA. Dr. Mirella â€śMurielâ€ť an outspoken public watchdog and advocate for the common man â€“ instrumental in reviving the North Kingstown Taxpayers Organization in the mid-1990s â€“ died Feb. 21 at her home on Narrow Lane.
Camarra, who grew up in Sicily, went on to obtain a bachelorâ€™s and two masters degrees and became an expert in budgetary matters.
n FRANK CAIN. The former Town Council president, longtime teacher and tennis coach, died on Feb. 22. He was remembered as someone who promoted a love of civic involvement among his students. He also founded the North Kingstown Charities.
n BILL ALSFELD. The former North Kingstown councilman and town manager died May 6 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. A Democratic Party stalwart, he was a close supporter and friend of Cain, especially when they served on the council together.
Alsfeld worked as a project manager for the giant A. Ahlsborg construction company, a job that gave him insight on building issues in town. He was a member of two menâ€™s social clubs and the American Legion.
n LES FLOOD. A popular character in Wickford Village, known for civic and political activities as well as fine woodworking skills, he died June 8, just three weeks after his wife of more than 60 years, Muriel. He had a degree in mechanical engineering, was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II and Korea, and had owned Wickford Shellfish. He was a leader of the Poplar Point Association, the Wickford Yacht Club and Smithâ€™s Castle.
Flood was also a Republican Party activist on the state and local levels and was a board member of Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island.
n DOUG ROTH. A lightning rod as a two-time School Committee member and, later, as a columnist for the Standard-Times, he lost his battle with a rare cancer at the age of 45 on June 11. He held a degree in journalism and his gift for writing showed in columns about family and confronting an illness he knew was unbeatable.
Roth had been employed as a senior marketing director at SAP Global. A scholarship benefitting North Kingstown High School students was established in his memory.
n RITA PERRY. When she died on July 13 at the age of 91, Perry had lived an extraordinary life. Sheâ€™d been a mover and shaker in the community, teaming with Helen Beaven, her friend of seven decades, to start the townâ€™s first Girl Scout troop, leading many PTAs and organizing fundraisers.
Sheâ€™d also been a member of the GOP Town Committee and owned her own business making custom slipcovers and window treatments for such well-paying clients as tobacco heiress Doris Duke.
n FRANK KNIGHT. The former town councilman, interim town manager, Chamber of Commerce president and longtime activist with the GOP Town Committee died July 14 at the age of 83. During his time on the council, Knight became a bridge between the sometimes contentious communities of townspeople and Navy families.
When his children were young, Knightâ€™s property became the gathering place for kids to go sled riding and ice skating. He and Frank Cain were notorious for battling it out during council meetings. Later they would meet in a local pub for drinks, slap each other on the back and laugh about their public knock-down-drag-out.
n DAVE BURNHAM. A political force in town for 20 years, a prominent businessman, contracting industry lobbyist and a farmer with deep involvement in 4-H, he died Sept. 12 at age 64 after a nine-month struggle with cancer. Burnham had been a School Committee member in the late 1970s and a town councilman for 10 years.
A collector of antique farm equipment who was dedicated to a simple life, Burnham surprised everyone by entering politics and proving to be a natural leader and problem solver. He was also known for using his tractor to pull wagons containing the non-marching Lafayette Band so they could play in town parades.
n ARCHIE MACLAUGHLIN. A larger-than-life persona with a great love of animals, he died Sept. 18, a week after a host of friends and family joined Archie and his wife of 65 years, Elizabeth, for a cookout. Before retiring to California some years ago, the MacLaughlins had been caretakers of the historic Casey Farm for nearly a quarter-century. They earned a reputation for leading marvelous tours explaining how Early American farms worked. They were also known as soft-touch animal lovers who took in stray and orphaned critters including a baby bear, raccoons and abandoned fawns.
MacLaughlin appeared in numerous PBS productions when animals and their handlers were needed. Their daughter, Liz, the North Kingstown animal control officer, said of her dad, â€śHe was Grizzly Adams before his time.â€ť
n RAY CLAYTON. On Christmas Day, the award-winning photographer, mentor, musician and Navy veteran, lost a brief battle with lung cancer at the age of 69. He had retired in 2008 after 32 years as a staff photographer for Southern Rhode Island Newspapers and returned almost immediately as a freelancer for the Standard-Times.
Beloved in the community and by generations of his fellow journalists, Clayton won 25 awards including New England Photographer of the Year in 1999. He was named Photographer of the Year six times by the Rhode Island Press Association.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at email@example.com.