Bar News - February 15, 2017
Remembering Fred Hall: A Humble Hero
By: Dan Wise
Fred Hall Jr.
Rochester lawyer Fred Hall Jr., who died at his home in Rochester on Jan. 20, 2017, at age 96, lived a full life, but he was not boastful about it. Friends were not surprised that Hall asked for no eulogies and no special ceremonies at his funeral. “He was a modest, humble person,” said former law partner Donald Whittum.
If there had been a recitation of his accomplishments, however, it would have made for a long service.
Hall was, in many ways, a leader – a past president of the New Hampshire Bar Association, active in his hometown, a former Executive Councilor, delegate to three state Constitutional Conventions, and a major supporter of his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. But there were no “VIPs” recounting details of his life; by choice, his funeral service was simple and brief. His minister led prayers, and one of his daughters thanked caregivers and friends for attending to him in his last years. The service closed with the playing of “America the Beautiful.”
Aside from the flag draping his coffin, there were no overt references to his military service, which can be accurately described as epic.
In response to a historian’s request, Hall sat down to write about his experiences as an Army officer in World War II. Painstakingly plumbing his memories, comparing them to military chronicles and consulting the many letters he had written home, he took nine years to complete the memoir. His service included three invasions, including landing on the beach at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, as well as major campaigns in Europe and North Africa. His brave conduct and cool head earned him many military decorations including two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars and the French Croix de Guerre.
Admitted to the NH Bar in 1948, Fred W. Hall Jr. practiced as a lawyer in Rochester for 60 years. Apparently, vanity license plates in the 1950s were already a thing.
Hall’s memoirs, a 60-page typed manuscript, is detailed and matter-of-fact, even as Hall describes moments of what must have been chilling anticipation, frightening confusion, terror, and unforgettable violence and loss. Throughout this account, the level-headed lieutenant remains clear-eyed, and even wryly notes ironies in the fog of war. Here, his memoir relates the moments after landing on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944:
“Captain Dowd was killed about the time we reached the first line of obstacles [on the beach]. Out of the 28 men aboard my landing craft, 14 reached the rip rap [large boulders piled as coastal defense obstacles] including Hicks, Chandler and myself. Staff Sgt. Al Cimperman, my Operations Sergeant, made it behind me carrying our map case wrapped in canvas, which contained our assault maps showing unit boundaries, phase lines and objectives. I remember it seemed a bit incongruous under the circumstances.”
“The beach was in a state of confusion. We had landed at a point east of our designated landing area. We were under small arms and artillery and mortar fire… Once ashore, it was a matter of survival but I was so busy trying to round up unit commanders to organize their men to move along and eventually off the beach there wasn’t much time to think except to do what had to be done. The medics were helping the wounded. Some soldiers’ weapons had been jammed in the sand and they were trying to clean them. There wasn’t time to worry about the dead…”
Six months later, Hall would be part of another fierce and prolonged battle, the German counterattack known as the Battle of the Bulge. In Belgium, retreating German Army units had regrouped and then broke through Allied lines, sowing confusion by inserting troops wearing American uniforms. The winter conditions were harsh.
“I remember having our Battalion CP [Command Post] in an old house which offered refuge from the snow. We tried to get small groups of soldiers back there as conditions allowed,” he wrote as he described a movement to take over a nearby town. “We met heavy resistance and the deep snow hindered our ability to move. Our soldiers were out in the open with wet clothes and wet feet and came down with bad colds and trench foot. We needed dry socks and dry shoes and a sheltered place where small groups could dry out. We had more casualties from the weather conditions than the enemy.”
[Hall’s memoirs, along with a large collection of letters he sent and received from home, were donated to the Rochester Historical Society.]
Hall was born in Franklin, NH, in 1920. He graduated from Nashua High School in 1937 and from the University of New Hampshire in 1941. He joined the military upon graduation, shortly before the attack at Pearl Harbor.
His World War II service, with the famed 1st US Infantry Division, lasted until September 1945. He returned again to active service during the Korean conflict and retired in 1966 with the rank of Lt. Colonel.
In 1948, Hall graduated from law school at the University of Michigan and was admitted to the New Hampshire Bar the same year. He practiced law in Rochester for 60 years, as partner at the law firm of Cooper, Hall, Whittum & Shillaber, originally Cooper, Hall, & Cooper. (The name of the firm did not include his name; the founder was Gardner Hall, who was no relation.)
“He left a huge impact on many lives,” said Whittum. “He never boasted about things that happened, but he was the go-to guy. If you had a problem, he knew what to do. He was a man for all seasons – he did well on everything he undertook.”
His wife of 54 years, Jane Coe Hall, predeceased him in 2004. They raised three children – Marcella, Susan and John. Together, the Halls established the UNH Coe-Hall Fund for Campus Beautification and a Dean’s Scholarship Fund.
Hall served as director of the UNH Alumni Association and was a member and chair of the UNH Board of Trustees (1966–1973). He received the Alumni Meritorious Service Award and the Alumni Association Profile of Service Award. Hall House, a student dormitory, was named in his honor. In 1974, UNH conferred on him an honorary LLD degree. He was a recipient of the UNH Alumni Pettee Medal and a member of the UNH ROTC Hall of Fame.
Long active in political, educational and banking circles, Hall served as solicitor for Strafford County and the City of Rochester, and as a member of the governor’s council.
President of the NH Bar Association from 1965 to 1966, Hall led the Bar Association to support efforts for the state to seek funding for legal services for the indigent through the newly created Office of Economic Opportunity. Those early programs were precursors to NH Legal Assistance and the NH Public Defender program. He also helped found and was a generous and consistent donor to the NH Bar Foundation. His gift established the Judge William A. Grimes Judicial Excellence Award.
Hall was named Rochester’s Citizen of the Year in 2007 and he was awarded the Daniel Webster Council, Rochester Area, Good Scout Award in 2000.
Hall is survived by four children, Marcella Prachyl of Abilene, Texas; Susan Collins of Newfield, Maine; John Hall of Lee, NH, and Diane Moler of San Diego, Calif.; three grandchildren; two great grandchildren; along with other relatives and friends.
In memory of our colleague, the NH Bar Association Board of Governors has contributed to the NH Bar Foundation.
Dan Wise is the outreach and communications director for the NH Bar Foundation.