EPPING — For decades Democratic presidential hopefuls including Harry Truman, Bill Clinton, Fritz Hollings and Al Gore made it a point to campaign in Fecteau's Store.
When General Wesley Clark failed to make a visit to the store during the last election, he received an earful from Marguerite (Fecteau) Vallone who reportedly told Clark at another campaign stop: "I'm mad at you, you haven't come to my store." Clark showed up at the former Main Street store later in his campaign and marveled that there was so much merchandise.
While the store closed in 2004, the Fecteau family has not gotten out of the political game. Only the venue has changed.
Susan McGeough — whose grandfather Tom Fecteau started the family tradition of supporting Democratic politicians — and her husband, Jim, played host to former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards over the weekend at their White Gate Farm on Prescott Road. It was the first time the couple has hosted a candidate at the farm and they spent days preparing, Jim said.
The entire family pitched in to mow three acres of lawn, ready a field for parking and hang Edwards' banners on their barn. Marguerite, who is Tom's daughter, and her husband, Andrew, were busy mixing up last-minute pitchers of lemonade just before Edwards' arrival.
The tradition started with Tom, who rode the train with Harry Truman during his campaign and brought John F. Kennedy around the area during that election. Many candidates never forgot his help, his son-in-law Andrew Vallone said, adding they still receive cards from candidates who remembered Tom.
"He passed away and he was still getting correspondence from them," Andrew said.
The political bug resulted in Tom's election as a state representative, followed by his son Lionel's election as a state representative and granddaughter Susan McGeough's election and then great-grandson Matthew Vallone's election as a state representative. And Susan's brother Mark Vallone is now the chairman of the town's Democratic party.
During the 1984 presidential election, the NBC's "Today Show" broadcast from the store and Susan's house with candidates. The family still laughs about Fritz Hollings' declaration that if he were elected president he would pave the road to Susan's house because it was so bumpy.
Susan and Mark's children also became involved in the campaigns of several Democrats when they were just in elementary school.
"When our kids were young, they would discuss politics all the time," Susan said.
Mark's son Matt was only in Grade 1 when he decided to support the campaign of Jesse Jackson. He made signs for Jackson and took up a collection for his campaign. Determined to present Jackson with the funds, Matt climbed up on his father's shoulders with his jug of money when Jackson made a campaign train stop in New Hampshire.
Jackson ended up pulling Matt up to sit by him.
Susan's son Patrick raised money for Al Gore when he was in elementary school.
When Al Gore was campaigning in 1988, Susan hosted a coffee reception for him. Several of the local women from the historical society, including curator Madelyn Williamson, were unable to attend because they had a meeting. Upon hearing this, Gore picked up a plate of brownies and headed across the street — his Secret Service agents in tow — to visit the historical society.
With the younger generation of the family as involved as past generations, it's likely future candidates will also make a point to stop in and pay a visit. "The beat's going to go on," Mark Vallone said.