CONWAY — The Mount Washington Valley lost a lion of a business and community leader last Saturday with the passing of 90-year-old real estate icon Dick Badger, founder of Badger Realty of North Conway, Jackson and Berlin.
His son Dr. Angus Badger confirmed his father had undergone heart surgery last Thursday at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, and died two days later.
“We want to thank Dad’s cardiologist, Dr. Mylan Cohen, and the staffs of Memorial (Hospital in North Conway) and Maine Medical for his care,” said Dr. Badger, of Jackson.
Along with Angus, Dick Badger is survived by his wife of 57 years, Mary McCloskey Badger, other sons Scott Badger, also of Jackson; Matthew Badger of Honolulu; and Chris Badger of Waitsfield, Vt.; and nine grandchildren.
Dr. Badger thanked the community for condolences that have been posted on social media and also thanked family friend Dr. Bob Bach for spending time with Dick and Mary Badger in recent days.
Scott Badger, co-owner of Lupine Pet of East Conway, said of his dad, “I never saw him put himself ahead of anybody else. He gave more than can be measured to more people than can be counted.”
Brenda Leavitt, general manager of Badger Realty, said she and her husband Rich Leavitt visited Badger at Maine Medical prior to his surgery and on July 12, the day after the surgery.
“When we visited Dick on the eve of the surgery, he was sitting there, being Dick. He was talking and asking what projects we had lined up next,” a tearful Leavitt said Monday, calling Badger her friend, mentor and surrogate dad.
She said despite his being in declining health recently, Badger — who founded Badger Realty in 1965 — continued to come to the office one or more days a week.
Six months ago, Leavitt said, he finally agreed to move his office to one on the first floor (to his original office, where he interviewed Leavitt about coming aboard in 1981).
“Although the last few months, he might come in a few hours, maybe one or two days a week, I can assure you he was at home working on his computer, answering emails,” said Leavitt.
Even when he didn’t come in, she said they would talk every day. “I would seek his advice, or we would address a problem or talk of good things, and he’d ask me how many listings we had. But no, he was never retired; he used to say, ‘I want my paycheck the first of the month, and I’ve got to earn it!’”
Norman Head, who with wife Kathleen Sullivan Head have worked at Badger for 38 years, said, referring to health issues he battled: “I would not be here today were it not for Dick Badger.”
“Both Dick and Brenda were so supportive, and they never gave up,” echoed Sullivan-Head.
Growing up in Massachusetts, Badger’s love of skiing brought him to the valley in 1946. After a stint in the Marine Corps, and sojourns to Aspen, Colo., Camden, Maine, and Worcester, Mass., he returned to the valley in the Sixties, working as a ski rep.
He married Mary McCloskey of Ottawa, Canada, in 1962.
He first sold real estate at Pinkham Associates, where he sold $1 million worth of residential properties. He went out on his own on Sept. 5, 1965, where he became known not only for his community generosity but also to his employees — yearly staff trips to places like Aruba and Bermuda became a beloved perk.
Jac Cuddy, executive director of the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council, a former banker and past Conway selectman, said Badger carried on the tradition of community caring set by past business leaders like Carroll Reed, Bob Morrell and Arlond Shea.
“He was one of the old guard that did so much to develop the community as a whole that made contributions that made a lot of the programs that we value available,” said Cuddy.
“He was in here at the Technology Village a few months ago, taking one of the Boot Camps we were running. He was still active, learning and wanting to learn more,” Cuddy said. “He had a thirst for knowledge and wanting to learn about new opportunities.”
Janice Crawford, executive director of the MWV Chamber of Commerce, said, “Dick was always there for me to go and check on some historical aspect to a decision I might be considering.”
Carl Lindblade, former general manager of the Red Jacket Mountain View, praised Badger for his “innate ability to achieve great things in business by empowering and enriching others and not caring a tad for who gets the credit.”
Upon learning of Badger’s passing, Paul Mayer of Black Bear Realty shared on Facebook that Badger was his hero. “When your biggest competitor is also your mentor, it’s special. The White Mountain Board of Realtors has lost a great man.
“I spent many hours driving to Concord with this guy and working on valley education and real estate issues,” Mayer added. “He never stopped entertaining me with his life stories, sailing to the islands and his desire to keep the MWV an ethical real estate market.”
Other comments on Facebook echoed Mayer’s.
“A big void in our little valley. RIP Dick!” wrote Scamp Campbell of Bartlett.
“The valley lost a giant of a man,” posted state Rep. Anita Burroughs of Glen.
Jackie Sparks, former director of Children Unlimited of Conway, wrote, “He was an amazing man and a gift to you (the Badger family and business family) and this Valley.”
Beth Carta-Dolan of Joseph’s Spaghetti Shed of Glen, wrote, “I never saw Dick Badger without a smile on his face and a sparkle in his eye! Thinking of all his family at this sad time. I hope knowing that he lived such a full life will help ease their sorrow.”
Badger’s community spirit will not long be forgotten, Leavitt told the Sun. “For me, the only way I can put in context his passing is to go back and read the words to the Dan Fogelberg song, ‘The Leader of the Band.’:
“The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
“But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
“My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
“I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band.”
A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled to be celebrated at 2 p.m. Friday at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church in North Conway, to be followed by a celebration of life at Cranmore’s Zip’s Pub from 3-7 p.m.
A private burial will be held by family members in Jackson. Furber and White Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.