Nancy Coutu

Nancy Coutu

Nancy Coutu Wildlife Scholarship at UNH Department of Natural Resources

This award was established in 1997 by the Department of Natural Resources in memory of Nancy Coutu who graduated from the wildlife program in 1993. Nancy was a special student who made teaching a delight. She reminded you that the “stuff” in class is important, but it is the “stuff” that happens when people get together that really makes our lives what they are. Nancy had an exceptional way with people and her enjoyment of life was contagious. When Nancy was murdered in the spring of 1996 during a Peace Corps mission in Madagascar, department faculty wanted to see something positive result from her senseless death. The Department of Natural Resources established the wildlife scholarship fund to provide an annual award in Coutu’s memory. The scholarship is given to a student majoring in Wildlife Ecology who exemplifies the spirit of Nancy Coutu. To us, it’s important that Nancy be remembered as a role model not only for her good service to her community, but for her enthusiastic zest for life and learning which we hope to foster in all our wildlife undergraduates.

Comments from a fellow park ranger and friend:

I had the pleasure of working with Nancy her first season at Hopkinton Lake during the summer of 1992 as a Park Ranger in Elm Brook Park at the Hopkinton-Everett Lake Project in Contoocook, NH. I have always deeply regretted that world events prevented me from gong back the next season to work with her again. She had a special way with people and kids. She was loved and enjoyed by all who knew her. It was truly a pleasure to have been able to work with her that summer. I consider myself fortunate that our paths crossed and that I had a chance to know her. She was always the ultimate optimist and worked hard, many times going out of her way to make our interpretive program the best it could be despite the lack of modern audio/visual facilities to work with. She even went off-project to post fliers about our programs. She loved the nature trail and enjoyed taking the kids out on nature hikes.

I remember one week she had scheduled a frog race for the kids and we couldn’t find but one frog in the park, so she went off-project looking for frogs for her kids to race and got stuck. She called me and I had to go get her unstuck. That is the kind of effort she put into everything she did.

She had a bubbly personality and jovial nature that you couldn’t help but like and a sense of humor that made here a joy to be around. Always laughing, always joking and looking at the lighter side of things. I look back on that summer with many fond memories of our joking & kidding each other and all the good times we had working together. I will treasure those memories & moments forever.

I remember we were sitting at the gate one evening just before closing time, all chatting, when my girlfriend at the time busted Nancy for her for her accent. Nancy laughed so hard that she fell backwards off the gate in slow motion, just like in a cartoon. Once we saw she was alright, we all had a good laugh at her expense.

She referred to herself as the “diesel darling” of Elm Brook because she loved to drive the Jeep pickup used to fuel the loader. We always joked with her about first being able to hear her coming when she hit the speed bumps with a KAWAMMM! Then sniff, aahh, the “whiff of approaching diesel,” and we know it was Nancy coming to the information booth. She would laugh and laugh.

In just four short months, that small group of three park rangers, none whom had ever worked for the Corps before, with myself being the only one having worked for the government in similar jobs before, but not as a naturalist, and Nancy being the only one who had actually been a naturalist at a resort, along with the staff at Hopkinton Lake, managed to amass a list of accomplishments that still stands 20 years later – unmatched by any Ranger staff I’ve worked with since. Next May 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of the day I walked into the office at Hopkinton Lake where I met Nancy for the first time and September when I walked out and into the history books not realizing I had just finished working with one of the best Ranger staffs I would work with since I started my career in 1983 at Dinosaur National Monument. Few of those feats have been bested individually and, collectively, no other Project has come close to matching what we managed to achieve in the Recreation management field. She was a big part of that effort.

Every time I’m in NH, I make it a point to return to Elm Brook Park and spend a few minutes at her memorial there to reflect and remember my time there working with her and to say a prayer for her. Thank you to all who made that possible.

While I never met any of her family, my deepest condolences go out to them for their tragic loss. The news of her death was a shock. I hope this letter gets passed on to them, as I want them to know that I truly enjoyed working with and knowing Nancy. She fulfilled her deepest desire, to make the world a better place, in ways that she never fully knew. She spread sunshine, laughter and joy to the hearts of all who know her and was liked by all that met her. I for one consider myself to be blessed and enriched by her presence. I hope the family finds some comfort in the knowledge that she did make a difference with her life. Thank you for sharing her with us. It took me till now to find this posting, but later is better than not at all.

Thank you Nancy for the laughs, the wonderful memories, the good times and the friendship. You were a terrific coworker. You made the world a better place with your presence and enriched the lives of those of us who had the pleasure and honor of knowing you. May God give you peace, comfort and reward you for your efforts to make the world a better place for all who met you. Rest in peace, Nancy. You are missed in this world by those who know you.

Thank You.

Rick Kennedy

AKA “Ranger Rick” of Elm Brook Park, Summer of 1992

Park Ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers, DeGray Lake Field Office, Arkadelphia, AR 71923,

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8 Responses to Nancy Coutu

  1. James Emerton January 30, 2024 at 6:03 am #

    I served in Madagascar as a PCV (2000-2002). The story of Nancy was both tragic and inspiring. She made such a huge impact on her community. I recently read the book her mother wrote and it really brought up a lot of memories about the Peace Corps in Madagascar.

  2. Natalia Coutu May 14, 2023 at 5:31 pm #

    Nancy Coutu was my aunt. I never got the chance to meet her but everyone says she was just the most amazing person. It’s incredible to see people expressing their love and care for her even years after her passing. Much love to everyone who shared their stories.

  3. Jon Shuttle March 28, 2023 at 6:24 pm #

    I walking today at Elm Brook Park and noticed a memorial on top of the hill. It was in memory of Nancy Coutu. I was impressed that such a young lady made so much of a mark on the park staff that they had a lovely memorial set up to her. Up arriving home I came upon this story which told of a life cut much too short. Thank you for reveling such a wonderful memory of a someone who was so special.

  4. Ann Marden August 29, 2018 at 6:18 pm #

    I have recently become the proud owner of an etching of a mother deer with two of her fawns… depicted in a woodsy area/forest.
    It was produced by LINDA in 1997 and was in memory of NANCY COUTU.
    I was fascinted with the etching and of course to find out who NANCY COUTU was.

    What a lovely, spirited woman she must have been.
    Feel honored to have been “connected”via an etching in her honor.

  5. Rhett Sibins December 24, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

    I knew Nancy from HS and saw her a few times after graduation. She was truely a wonderful pesin. I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of her life being cut short a such a young age. All these years later and I still occasionally think of her with a heavy heart.

  6. Doctor Lova zafison Jean rene August 8, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    hello!I’m doctror Lova zafison jean Rene of Beraketa Malio in Madagascar!I knew coutu,I send the message for family of coutu.

  7. Keith Dawson May 31, 2016 at 1:23 am #

    Didn’t know her personally, but I know she made a mark on my Doe’s (Donna Ellis) life. Wish I had met her.
    Rest In Peace, look over us.
    Keith “Doc” Dawson…


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