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A Life: Arthur W. Mudge, 1929-2014; ‘Most Faithful Boy’

  • Arthur Mudge, of Hanover, in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

    Arthur Mudge, of Hanover, in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

  • Arthur Mudge hikes Mount Cardigan in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

    Arthur Mudge hikes Mount Cardigan in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

  • Arthur Mudge, of Hanover, in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

    Arthur Mudge, of Hanover, in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

  • Arthur Mudge, of Hanover, in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)
  • Arthur Mudge hikes Mount Cardigan in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)
  • Arthur Mudge, of Hanover, in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

Hanover — If Art Mudge ran across a road that he had not been down before in his beloved state of New Hampshire, he’d take it.

It didn’t matter if the side trip might take him and his traveling companions miles, if not hours, out of their way; he saw it as an opportunity to explore, a chance to learn something new.

Not only did Mudge, who died May 23 at 84, get to know all the back roads, but he also hiked the state’s mountain trails and summited all of its 4,000-foot peaks.

That sense of exploration and desire for knowledge was a driving force in his life. It led him to a career in law and foreign service and a deep understanding of the cultures, people and politics of Latin America and Africa. He was fluent in Spanish, and had a strong grasp of history as well as the events of the day, his friends and family said.

He also had a passionate pursuit of nature and being outdoors. And he liked a little competition now and again. He was an expert birder and an avid tennis player.

“He really enjoyed this world, and he saw a lot of it. He was always up for an adventure,” his daughter Becca Mudge said.

Beyond New Hampshire, he climbed other peaks in the Appalachians, Alps, Andes, Himalayas and Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.

“When we climbed Kilimanjaro, we reached what everybody thought was the top — it was so high that we were having a hard time getting oxygen — and Art pointed over to a rim that was higher, and he said ‘let’s go climb it, that’s the real top.’ We climbed to the top. Nobody else in the group would do it. They were having a hard time breathing. But not Art. He would always find the highest point, and say ‘let’s do it.’ That’s the way he was,” said his longtime friend and hiking buddy Jack Middleton.

After Mudge retired from 18 years with the U.S. Agency for International Development, he returned to his law practice with the Concord firm of Sulloway and Hollis, where he’d been a partner before going into government service. He opened an office in Hanover and served as an international legal consultant, doing work in Latin America, Africa and the Soviet Union.

He also recalled the skills he’d learned during his years at The Choate School where he served as newspaper editor, and became a regular contributor to the Letters to the Editor section. He wrote Op-Ed pieces in the Valley News and fired off missives to the New York Times and other publications.

“He was a Renaissance man in the truest sense, and his interests influenced the way we looked at things,” his daughter Katy Mudge said.

“He loved to help others and had a great many interests, particularly international issues. He taught courses through ILEAD (Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth), and he loved that. He thought that was a very exciting opportunity.”

When he wasn’t teaching, he took ILEAD courses, his friend and fellow ILEAD teacher Roland Kuchel said.

“He was clearly a person who never stopped inquiring. He was very involved in the issues of the day, foreign and domestic, and he continued to learn right up to the end of his life.”

Mudge was a fiscally conservative Republican, a veteran of the Korean War who was staunchly against the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq and any military involvement that wasn’t for humanitarian purposes. He was a strong advocate for women’s equality, for helping the under served and giving a public voice to those who didn’t have one.

If his choice of topics for his thoughtful letters and essays is a measure, Mudge’s interests were wide and his expertise was deep. In the last decade or so, Mudge’s topics ranged from the Middle East to New Hampshire school funding and chastising the Republican members of Congress, either for their efforts to intervene in Terry Schiavo’s life support or trying to repeal the federal estate tax.

“We hear a lot about patriotism these days, and a lot of flags are waving in the breeze. If you really care about our country and its future, vote out this Bush administration whose ‘tax shifts’ from a wealthy but powerful minority are increasing the bill-paying burden for the vast majority of our people, particularly their children and grandchildren,” he wrote in August 2004.

In 2003, he changed his voter registration from Republican to undeclared, and said that he liked Howard Dean and Ramsey Clark on the Democrats’ side, noting that Clark had a better chance of beating Bush. When former President Jimmy Carter offered in 2008 to talk with Hamas on behalf of the U.S., Mudge liked the idea, although it was staunchly opposed by the political right.

When he was a young lawyer practicing in Concord, he was very conservative, his longtime friend and law colleague Kimon Zachos said.

“But over the years his thinking moderated. He was seriously committed to helping his fellow man, and he had a reasoned approach to an argument. I’ve never known him to lose his temper. He had a calm demeanor. He was a good man to have at your back. He would support you and stick with you. He was a good friend, and I miss him.”

“He did change over his lifetime,” Becca Mudge said.

“I think his viewpoint changed because he had all daughters and from living abroad. But growing up, we didn’t really know his viewpoint, because he always presented both sides. He thought it was very important to get a number of viewpoints.”

He was devoted to his wife, Mary, to whom he was married for 61 years, and his daughters, and other family members. He was loyal to his friends.

Art Mudge was born in Andover, Mass., where his father was an engineer in the textile business. During the Depression, textiles didn’t fare well, and his father was laid off.

The family moved to their summer place, a farm in Northwood, N.H., to subsistence farm and keep food on the table.

Those were important and enjoyable years for Mudge.

“Art and all of us gained a great love for New Hampshire from our father, and he got the love of nature and hiking from our mother,” his sister Nancy Mudge Sycamore said. “We’d go on after-dinner walks with our mother in Northwood. We had an old set of opera glasses that we’d use to look at the birds, and we both loved that, but Art really did.”

“He went to Camp Pasquaney (on Newfound Lake in Hebron, N.H.,) in 1942, which was the same camp that our father had gone to in 1911, and he received the top honor of being named ‘Most Faithful Boy’ (his last year as a camper in 1946). And I always thought that summed up who he was.

“Whatever he put his heart into — whether it was being the voice for those who weren’t being heard or those who were generally disadvantaged — whatever cause he believed in deeply — he was faithful and supportive to the last. He was a most faithful boy.”

Mudge stayed faithful to that camp from 1942 until he died in 2014, as a camper, counselor, adviser and trustee.

After graduating from Choate, Mudge went to Princeton and graduated with a degree in geological engineering. He got his law degree at Harvard after serving with the Army Corps of Engineers in Korea.

“His Korean War experience led him to join USAID. He saw such a level of poverty in Korea that it led him to pursue a career in helping in the developing world,” his daughter Katy Mudge said.

Peter Kranstover arrived in Sudan on his first assignment with USAID, not too long out of college. Mudge was the mission director, and he immediately took steps to make sure Kranstover and his wife were comfortable.

“He was a real gentleman, but he had an impatience with pretention and rudeness. He was quite droll. The sort of person who had good judgment and who could bring people together. The sort of guy you’d like to hang out with,” Kranstover said.

When he retired from USAID and moved to Hanover, Mudge began giving back to the community, helping non-profits and working in other community activities.

He chaired boards at Camp Onaway (for girls) in Hebron, The Circle Program for at risk girls in Groton, N.H., the Josiah Bartlett Center and the N.H. Chapter of the World Affairs Council. He served on the boards of Camp Pasquaney, Upper Valley Land Trust, N.H. Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.

“Maybe it’s because he had all daughters that he was a great advocate for women having an equal role in society. He felt the same about everybody, particularly kids from all backgrounds, having equal opportunities. He was a real champion for that,” said Vin Broderick, director of Camp Pasquaney and a friend for more than 30 years.

“He had a delightful, full laugh and had that dry wit and great humor, even in our last visit a week before he died,” Broderick said.

“He saw humor in everything, in nature when he hiked. He found a lot of humor in life,” Katy Mudge said.

Warren Johnston can be reached at wjohnston@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.