March 2024

Winter’s Solitude

Littleton, NH, lies on Route 302, near the Vermont State line. The blue-collar town is divided by the Ammonoosuc River, which flows from Mount Washington, some 20 miles away. In the spring, the river becomes a home to whitewater canoes and kayakers, as there are frequent rapids from Twin Mountain to Littleton. 

Seth Holcomb came to Littleton as a young physician fresh out of his Beth Israel Hospital residency in Boston, MA. He was a rising star with a bright future in research and academic medicine but chose another route. He was drawn to rural areas, which provided exciting recreation and a place to raise a family. His wife, Mary Ellen, shared his vision, and the two set off for Littleton, unsure what they would find.

For fifty years, Seth practiced medicine, and Mary Ellen worked alongside him as his office nurse. A talented man with a friendly demeanor, it was no surprise that Seth became a popular doctor in a town with few healthcare professionals. Did he make a fortune? No, he didn’t, but he loved his lifestyle. He enjoyed hiking, skiing in the White Mountains, and spending time with his children, Joshua and Kathy.

He remembered the day well. He had finished talking on the phone with his daughter, a chemistry graduate student at Duke. It was snowing lightly out, and the river had partially iced over. It was bitter cold outdoors, with the thermometer reading 8 degrees, when he walked to the kitchen to have coffee with his wife, Mary Ellen. 

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