As the Black Heritage Trail of NH (BHTNH) remembers the late Charles DeGrandpre, the organization announced the receipt of a legacy gift that will be used to build out a statewide historical marker program, according to a release.

The organization referred to DeGrandpre as the "champion" of BHTNH and said DeGrandpre, who died earlier this year, left a generous legacy gift for the nonprofit via his estate.

“We would not be where we are today without him; his legacy lives on in our daily work,” BHTNH Executive Director JerriAnne Bogis said in the release. "Presented by his daughter, Libby Giordano, to JerriAnne and Valerie, the gift will be used for Charlie’s favorite Trail program - expansion of the nonprofit’s Statewide Historical Marker Program.

"The program, which began with the iconic bronze site markers at 24 locations in Portsmouth, is one of the most visible and recognizable Trail programs and is seen as a foundational approach to expanding the nonprofit’s educational work across the state."

According to Valerie Cunningham, an incorporator of the BHTNH, it was DeGrandpre in his roles with the NH Charitable Foundation (NHCF) and its regional office, the Greater Piscataqua Community Fund, who initiated a diversity dialogue that would be formalized as the Diversity Committee and was funded by Irja and Frank Ciluffo, the release said.

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“Charlie was one of those concerned citizens who was so passionate about history," Cunningham said. "He - and his law firm - tactfully guided us through the process to become a real organization. He was always encouraging us to do our best. It was never about him. He’d see something in the newspapers and send a handwritten note or a little gift because he knew we needed that encouragement.

"We had no money, just homegrown talent, but he made us feel that our efforts were worthwhile. He had other people invest in our endowment - it was small, but it made us feel significant and stable and helped others see us that way too. And, he became a personal friend, the big brother I never had.”

Bogis said applying organizations can submit an application to BHTNH and the organization will cover half the cost of the market with the applying organization covering the balance. This is how BHTNH hopes to place markers across the entire state.

DeGrandpre, who was originally from Jaffrey, became immersed in both the Portsmouth and Manchester communities as one of the pre-eminent trust and estate attorneys in New Hampshire, per the release. He was former Chair of the New Hampshire Bar Foundation, former Chair of the Lou and Lutza Smith Foundation, former Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of Strawbery Banke, former Chair of the Board of Trustees of Canterbury Shaker Village, a former director of the University of New Hampshire Foundation, and longtime board member for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

BHTNH has its roots in Portsmouth, where the first known enslaved black person was brought from Guinea, West Africa in 1645. The organization is a 501c3 nonprofit that was founded in 2016 to promote awareness and appreciation of African American history and life to build more inclusive communities today, the release said.

For more information about the Statewide Black Heritage Trail Historical Marker Program and how you can be a part of it, please send an email to info@blackheritagetrailnh.org.

To make a gift to the Trail in memory of Charlie visit, https://blackheritagetrailnh.org/giving/

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