DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

Opinion

January 3, 2013

Column: Cap Gay affair may have had role in Statehouse gun ban

I see by the newspapers that the legislature in Concord may reinstate the ban on guns in the Statehouse. Prior to 2011, the House and Senate had been weapon-free. The ban on guns only goes back to 1971 and was said to have been instituted because of Cap Gay from Derry.

Charles “Cap” Gay Jr. was born in Boston in 1907, the son of a plumber and an English-born mother. At 17 years old, he enlisted in the military and during the next 23 years served in the Coast Guard, Army and Navy. His last tour of duty was as master of the USS Haines, a destroyer escort. After a year of duty in the Mediterranean, it was sent to the Pacific Theatre in August 1945. While going through the Panama Canal, a very relieved crew was told of Japan’s surrender. The ship later sent back one of the first reports on the atomic bomb’s destruction of Hiroshima.

Gay retired in 1947 from the service as a result of war-related disabilities. He and his wife, Mary, moved to Derry in 1945, buying a home at 65 Birch Street which he later sold to former Heritage Commission leader Ralph Bonner. In 1950, the Gays built a home at 106 East Broadway where they would remain for the rest of their lives. While Charles had never been an officer in the navy, he had been a master’s mate, which rated him to pilot any tonnage boat in any ocean. Because of this rating, he was called “Cap” by everyone.

Soon Cap was joining into the town’s civil life. He was a member and frequently leader of the local Masons, Shriners, VFW and American Legion. For many years, he served as assistant town moderator and was on many committees and commissions. For a dozen years, he was member and chairman of the local draft board that was responsible for my becoming a medic with the Army sappers in Vietnam. In 1947, Cap was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives and would serve there for 12 terms. He served three terms as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He was a big man in Derry. I personally witnessed an incident where the State Department of Health closed down a Broadway restaurant and one telephone call from Cap got it reopened.

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