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Ken Schuster

March 12, 2008

Selectman's meetings minutes here.

Minister/Playwrite comes to South Newbury

   I walked into Gregory Marshall’s home, last week, and immediately felt comfortable. He laughs easily, and his whole face smiles. He appears to be in a permanent state of enthusiasm, despite some misfortunes. Like all of us, his life journey has intersected some crossroads. His choices of direction have led him to our community, where on March 16 Greg will lead Palm Sunday services at the South Newbury Union Church.  

    When Gregory was a Chemistry major at Dartmouth, he needed a quiet place to study. His dorm was a couple blocks from the United Church of Christ, so one day he stopped in. It wasn’t his family’s denomination, but he found it so welcoming that he became a regular. After graduating in 1968, he moved to Illinois, and taught chemistry. Anti-Viet Nam War sentiment was building, and his church was actively involved with “Peace Witness” work. It was his first involvement with trying to make a change, and it had a big impact on his life. He felt that bringing people together for peace-making was more fulfilling than teaching chemistry. 

    He came back to New England and enrolled in the oldest graduate theological institution in the nation, Andover Newton Theological School, in Newton, Mass. This time, after graduation, he stayed in New England gaining experience as an intern at a Methodist church, and part-time pastor at a Lutheran church. Then he was off to Maine as an Associate Pastor, and finally to Meriden, New Hampshire’s Congregational Church, founded in 1780. 

    In 1982, Gregory went to the Soviet Union on a “people-to-people” mission. A few months later, 10-year old Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, wrote a letter to the new Premier of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov. She was concerned about the USSR and the US getting into a nuclear war. About four months later, she received a response from Andropov. He said that the Soviets had no intention of doing such a thing, and he invited her and her parents to the USSR for a visit. Samantha toured Moscow, Leningrad and a state-run children’s camp, and became an international celebrity for helping to start a thaw in the cold war. Two years later, Samantha and her father were killed in a plane crash near Auburn. 

    A month and four days after 9/11, an aide to Senator Tom Daschle opened a letter in his Senate office. It contained anthrax, and 20 people on his staff were infected by it, including Gregory’s daughter, Jill. Luckily, she and the other staffers were treated in time, and they survived. Before 9/11, Greg had begun writing a play based on Samantha Smith’s adventures. Other things took priority, and the play languished mostly in his mind. The shock of almost losing his daughter re-inspired him to pick up where he had left off and finish writing. “Samantha’s Stars” will have its world premier Oct. 23, at 7 p.m., at Plainfield Town Hall. Performances will continue Friday through Sunday. For more information, call Greg at 298-8057, and visit to see the fascinating Web site.

    In the meantime, say “Welcome!” to Greg at the South Newbury Union Church next Sunday.

Minister Greg Marshall works on a Russian translation for the October debut of his play, “Samantha’s Stars.” He will conduct the Palm Sunday service at the South Newbury Union Church.

About your roof…

     Alex Azodi is the owner and principal engineer of Omega Structural Engineers, in Newbury. He is also Vice President of the trade organization, Structural Engineers of New Hampshire (

As the snow was approaching record depths, last week, I asked Alex about how to deal with all that weight on our roofs.

He said that metal and non-metal roofs have the same supporting structure, but metal roofs shed snow more quickly and therefore have less buildup.

     Alex emphasized the importance of having a structural engineer review plans for a new structure, or to look at an existing structure that has symptoms of movement. (He’s overloaded, and can not accept new clients.) He said that architects have some basic structural background, and they usually know their limitations and recommend a structural engineer when something is too complex. New Hampshire does “not require that one be a registered architect to design a residential building. They are called ‘designers,’ and design a structure based on what they’ve seen being done in the area.” For example, lumber yards can design buildings. Most of the time they’re fine, but they’re not engineered for unusual situations like we have now.

“This winter we’re even approaching getting past engineering. Codes are based on historical data, and extensive research has been done by many people over years and years. Snow is based on historical data of accumulations in regions, plus exceeding that by two percent every 50 years. This year, we’re already exceeding a 100 year snow load.”

I asked if there’s any advantage to heating your attic to warm the roof. He said that it depends on the particular roof. Some roofs are insulated, and little if any heat can reach the surface. But, if the heat can migrate to the outside surface of the roof, it will help shed the snow more quickly.

Problem signs include a beam deflection, ceiling cracks, ceiling peeling or bowing, creaking sound, doors that stick, and any other signs of movement. Often, problems are where snow accumulations are heaviest, at roof irregularities such as dormers and where roofs abut each other. If you see a a problem, immediately shovel the area and contact a structural engineer to take a look.


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