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Girls Soccer falls to Brattleboro

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Woodstock mountain bike team shines in home race

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Justin Kennedy, Cannabis Cultivator

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YOH Theatre Players kick off their season with Radium Girls

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Vulnerable Windsor woman is victim in major fraud case

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School Board tabs Bristow as new chair, Ford as vice chair

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Sgt. Swanson officially cleared in Woodstock shooting

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Robin VonEsch

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Wasps Field Hockey remains undefeated

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Amelia Peters — South Pomfret’s own wild horse whisperer

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News

Vulnerable Windsor woman is victim in major fraud case

West Windsor

A New Hampshire man has pleaded not guilty in the U.S. District Court in Burlington to six felony counts of fraud in connection with claims that he stole money and property from an elderly Windsor County woman in May, court records show. Nicholas Melanson, 40, now of Manchester, N.H., is accused of manipulating the 75-year-old Windsor woman with cognitive deficits to write checks as part of a major fraud scheme, the federal indictment said. The Vermont Standard has opted not to identify the woman, whose name is included in public court and police records. The woman, who lives alone, had accounts at financial institutions, including the Mascoma Bank and the People’s United Bank. Melanson used at least two other unnamed individuals to complete the federal fraud, the indictment said. It noted Melanson used phone calls and electronic messages to carry out the fraud between May 11 and May 19. Windsor Police conducted a wide-ranging intensive investigation into a fraud complaint. The investigation revealed the Mascoma Bank reported the victim wrote $430,000 in checks to four people and one business between April and May, court records show. Another seven checks totaling $206,782 were scheduled to be mailed in May when intercepted by investigators, Windsor Police Chief Jennifer Fank said in public court records. Melanson is facing five state criminal charges, including three felony counts in Vermont Superior Court in White River Junction. Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Zukauskas charged Melenson with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, abuse of a vulnerable adult, false pretenses, false information to police and identity theft to commit grand larceny, court records show.

Read more in the October 6 edition of the Vermont Standard.

School Board tabs Bristow as new chair, Ford as vice chair

West Windsor

The Windsor Central Supervisory Union School Board (WCSU) voted unanimously Monday evening to name Keri Bristow of Woodstock as its new chair, replacing Barnard representative Bryce Sammel, who stepped down last week after serving as the board leader since March 2020. Bristow, who had been serving as vice chair of the WCSU Board, accepted the proverbial gavel from Sammel, who remains on the school district’s governing body and who nominated Bristow to succeed him. After electing Bristow, the board then chose Woodstock resident and current Board Clerk Ben Ford to be vice chair in Bristow’s stead. It has yet to be determined if Ford will continue to serve as clerk of the board or whether both Bristow and Ford will continue in key leadership roles as chairs of the school district’s Configuration and Enrollment Working Group and Finance Committee respectively. The two newly named WCSU leaders will serve for five months until the WCSU District Annual Meeting in March 2023, at which point a new slate of officers that could include Bristow and Ford will be chosen for the following year.

Read more in the October 6 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Sgt. Swanson officially cleared in Woodstock shooting

Woodstock

Two independent prosecutors have ruled Woodstock Police Sgt. Joseph Swanson was justified when he returned fire at a local gunman, who fatally shot his mother’s friend outside a Slayton Terrace residence in June. Vermont Attorney General Susanne Young and Grand Isle County State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito said on Tuesday afternoon that they both came to the same conclusion following their independent reviews of the Vermont State Police investigation. Both said Swanson’s actions were proper and within the law. Jay Wilson, 45, got into a dispute with Dieter Seier, 67, of Cornish, N.H. It eventually led to a wrestling match in the driveway at the home, officials have said. During the struggle Wilson pulled out a handgun and fired multiple shots killing Seier. Seier had accompanied June Wilson, 73, the suspect’s mother, to the home she owned, but her son lived in, police said. She was planning to provide her son her car to replace his 2002 sedan. The homicide-suicide unfolded as a dispute began. Seier came to her aid and jumped in front of her. A struggle ensued and Jay Wilson pulled out a handgun and fired at least two shots. The first 911 call was from Jay Wilson, who reported a man had just left the residence, that he had been wrestled to the ground, and beat him into the dirt, the prosecutors said. They said Wilson believed he had to defend himself.  Swanson, a 15-year police veteran, was the first to arrive at the scene about 1:20 p.m. He found Seier face down on the driveway. Swanson got out of his police cruiser, drew his service pistol, and approached Seier to provide first aid. Multiple witnesses reported Sgt. Swanson was shot at while on the scene, both during his initial approach and after he sought cover, DiSabito and Young said in a joint statement after they compared their reviews.

Read more in the October 6 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Old gas station demolished, will be retail complex

A former service station and auto repair shop at 67 Pleasant Street at the foot of Hartland Hill Road at the eastern gateway to Woodstock Village is being demolished to make way for a new, 2,440-square-foot building and adjoining, 900-square-foot service annex. The new complex will eventually house four as-yet-undisclosed retail operations, according to paperwork filed with the Village of Woodstock by the project developer, Eva Veson of Pleasant Garage LLC.
The Woodstock Village Design Review and Development Review Boards gave their unanimous approvals to the project as presented by Veson and Pleasant Garage LLC’s architect, Belinda Watt, last spring. Demolition of the one-time Gulf service station commenced earlier this month with the stripping of recyclable building materials such as the siding from the exterior of the old structure. On Monday, a crew began toppling the old building using an excavator.
The new building, which will house the proposed retail outlets, will consist of a 30’ x 82’ gabled structure located parallel to Pleasant Street at the northeast corner of the one-third-of-an-acre site. A flat-roofed service annex at the southeast corner of the lot will measure 22-feet by 41-feet. The building will be offset by an exterior courtyard covering just over 1,600 square feet.

Read more in the September 29 edition of the Vermont Standard.

TEDx is off to a ‘great start’

Woodstock

“Are you nervous? I’m nervous,” said the Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley as he took his place on the familiar red dot of the TEDx stage. Rev. Dunkley was one of fourteen speakers at the inaugural TEDxHartlandHill conference, held at Billings Farm & Museum last Saturday. The “x” in TEDx indicates an “independently-organized TED event” held under the auspices of the larger TED organization of thought-provoking talks and conferences. The theme of the Hartland Hill event was “Home, Heart, and Hearth” and centered on what it means to have a vibrant, healthy community. Rev. Dunkley did not seem at all nervous as he reflected on what it means to show yourself to be worthy of forgiveness. He acknowledged the difficulty of trying to make sense of the world without our reactions getting in the way. And he advocated for a kind of “radical forgiveness” that requires us to “not let our outrage pull us back into the maelstrom.”

It is difficult to imagine a more incongruous transition from Dunkley’s reflection on compassion, or a person seemingly more unworthy of forgiveness than Tony McAleer — a former neo-Nazi, white supremacist, member of the Aryan Brotherhood, and Holocaust denier. But McAleer took the stage in the intimate space of the small theater with a calm and open smile. He stood next to a stool upon which rested the menacing black leather boots that he used to wear in his previous life, perched atop a copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” “People often ask me how I lost my humanity,” McAleer said. “I didn’t. I traded it for acceptance until there was nothing left.”

Read more in the September 29 edition of the Vermont Standard.

School board chair steps down

When Bryce Sammel was unanimously elected as the chair of the Windsor Central Supervisory Union (WCSU) School Board in March of 2020, the district was in a state of significant flux. Former WCSU Superintendent Mary Beth Banios was about to be named as the next superintendent of a school district in Massachusetts. Internal dissension among board members of the then-nascent unified school district, representing seven towns in the Upper Valley, was palpable. And an exploding global pandemic was destined to profoundly impact schools and education throughout Vermont and the United States for several years to come.
Sammel, a Barnard representative to the 18-member WCSU Board, announced last weekend that he is stepping down as chair of the school district’s governing body after two-and-a-half challenging but productive years of serving in that capacity. His successor is slated to be chosen at the school board’s next monthly meeting on Oct. 3. Sammel will remain on the board as one of two representatives from Barnard, but will no longer chair the body, effective immediately. His present term on the WCSU Board concludes in 2024. “I’m stepping down for personal reasons,” Sammel said in a phone conversation Tuesday evening. “I am taking on more responsibility at work and I’m also looking at going back to school myself,” he added.

Read more in the September 29 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Welch explains implications of recent legislation

Legislative and White House action on key aspects of President Joe Biden’s agenda has heated up markedly in recent weeks with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Honoring Our PACT Act, and the student debt relief package put forward by the President. The Standard reached out to Vermont U.S. Rep. Peter Welch last week to learn his perspective on this spate of activity on the part of both Congress and the White House. Here’s what Rep. Welch had to say.

Q: What three aspects of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act will have the most immediate impact on working and middle-class Vermonters? How?

A: The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) lowers health care costs, brings down prescription drug prices, and makes investments in clean energy more affordable. Specifically, the bill finally allows Medicare to negotiate with Big Pharma to lower drug prices, which saves American taxpayers $260 billion. I have been working to give Medicare the tools it needs to protect patients from Big Pharma’s rip-off prices since I first arrived in Congress, and it has finally arrived in this bill. The IRA also capped out-of-pocket drug costs at $2,000 per year for seniors, allowing for them to save thousands on life-saving medications. The bill also continued the expanded tax credits to reduce health care premiums for 23,000 Vermonters who are enrolled in coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. This will save those Vermonters over $1700 in their annual premium. This bill is also a game changer for combatting the climate crisis. The IRA provides point-of-sale tax credits for those who purchase new or used electric vehicles (EV), which will help make the transition to an EV more affordable and accessible. It also helps individuals who make clean energy improvements on their homes, and for emissions-free electricity sources and storage (things like wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) The benefits will be felt throughout our communities for years to come. 

Q: The White House and supporters have touted the potential impact of the Inflation Reduction Act in lowering the cost of prescription drugs, particularly for Medicare recipients. But does it apply to a wide enough range of medications? And how will it impact everyday Vermonters who are not Medicare recipients?

A: This bill and its progress is only the beginning at bringing down the cost of prescription drugs across the board, and Big Pharma has been attacking me for saying that. Why? Because they’re nervous — it’s just the start of loosening their grip on charging whatever they want for the prescription drugs that we need. This bill is a huge step forward and we’re going to continue fighting to lower the cost of prescription drugs for all of Vermont’s working families. 

Q: The Honoring Our PACT Act, passed by Congress early last month, significantly expands benefits and services for veterans exposed to toxins, such as those stemming from burn pits in war zones. What benefits will Vermont veterans now be able to access? 

A: This legislation is going to have an enormous impact on our veterans, notably our veterans who served in the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It establishes a presumption of service-connected disability for veterans who become ill from toxic burn pit exposure, which means it eliminates the red tape for millions of veterans who need care and benefits now. This legislation would not have passed without the fierce and persistent advocacy of Vermont veterans and their families, like Pat Cram and June Heston, whose husbands lost their lives because of exposure to toxic burn pits overseas. It was also in large part due to Vermont veteran and Hartford firefighter Wesley Black and his family. Wes lost his life to cancer caused by the toxic burn pits, but his tireless work to get the care for veterans that they need and deserve led to the passage of the PACT Act. 

Q:  Does the student debt relief package announced by President Biden last week go far enough to address the high cost of a college education? What more is needed in terms of federal action, especially for those low- and moderate-income Vermonters who are still seeking to enroll in college or post-secondary education programs?   

A: The way we finance higher education is broken in many ways. The step taken by President Biden is a good start because it will help 77,000 Vermonters who have on average over $37,000 in student debt. But this does not address the core issue of making higher education more affordable in the long term. We need to create a system that gives everyone a chance at pursuing a higher education that is affordable and accessible. One way to do that is through the Debt Free College Act, which I have co-sponsored. It would incentivize states to achieve debt-free college by unlocking matching federal funds. I’ve also cosponsored the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act to double the Pell Grant award and tie grants to the inflation rate. There is more we need to do to ensure Vermonters’ can afford to get the education they need and want. 

Features

Justin Kennedy, Cannabis Cultivator

Bridgewater

BRIDGEWATER — Justin Kennedy readily admits that he was “a handful” behaviorally when he attended Woodstock Union High School (WUHS) around the turn of the millennium. The fifth-generation Vermonter has attention-deficit disorder (ADD), which was particularly troublesome during his high school days 20-plus years ago.

That’s when his mother, whom Justin describes as “a naturalist,” turned to school counselors and asked what they suggested for treating her son without turning to the go-to drugs for ADD, Ritalin and Adderall, to which she was adamantly opposed. “What do you do with kids that are really high-energy?” Joni Kennedy asked WUHS teachers and staff. “We put them in hands-on classes — art, horticulture, things like that,” came the reply.

“I took a lot of art classes and enrolled in Horticulture I and II. I got to really love plants at a young age,” Kennedy recollected as he led a visitor on a tour of the cannabis cultivation operation at his Backwoods Farm in Bridgewater last weekend. “I found a love for cannabis around that same time,” the 38-year-old farmer added, noting that the medicinal use of marijuana was also very helpful in curbing his ADD. “It really helped me dial in and stay focused,” Kennedy offered.

Read more in the October 6 edition of the Vermont Standard.

YOH Theatre Players kick off their season with Radium Girls

Woodstock

  • radium-girls-illus-1

 The YOH Players of Woodstock Union High School/Middle School are off and running with an ambitious and varied season of offerings. Their first production of the year, “Radium Girls,” based on a true story, is coming up on Oct. 14 and 15. It is a fast-moving, powerful, “highly theatrical” ensemble piece with its roots in one woman’s struggle to obtain justice after her continued exposure to radium as a factory worker.

The upcoming production of “Radium Girls” is a history lesson of its own. The play, written by D.W. Gregory documents a little known true story from the 1920s. Female laborers in a plant that made luminous watches were poisoned by, and died, as a result of the radium-based paint that they were using to paint the dials of the glow-in-the-dark watches.

Read more in the October 6 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Amelia Peters — South Pomfret’s own wild horse whisperer

  When young Amelia Peters adopted the first of the five wild mustangs now under her loving care and watchful eye, it offered what could prove to be the learning experience of a lifetime.

Together with her older sister, Endine, Amelia – then just 12 – was being homeschooled in the fall of 2020 by her mother, Cathy Peters, and father, John Peters Jr., during the pandemic shutdown at Woodstock Union High School/Middle School. An enthusiastic and accomplished horseback rider since she was a small child, Amelia had begun competing in regional equine eventing competitions earlier in 2020, contending in the dressage, stadium jumping, and cross-country competitions that are part of the three-part equestrian eventing discipline, first on one of the family’s quarter horses and then on a thoroughbred.

But following a series of conversations with her parents, Amelia soon opted for a different type of horse to raise, train, and potentially compete with in eventing — the wild mustang, technically a feral animal, adopted through the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its wild horse and burro management program. The BLM manages and protects the wild horses and burros on nearly 27 million acres of land across 10 Western states.

“You need a pretty agile horse for those three eventing disciplines,” Cathy Peters told a visitor to the family’s Runamuck Farm in South Pomfret as she gazed appreciatively at her daughter and the five wild mustangs now under the teenager’s expert tutelage in a dedicated paddock. “We had domestic quarter horses, but they are not big on the jumping part. [Amelia] rode some of them for a while, but she didn’t have a lot of good luck with that. She ended up on a thoroughbred, which was okay, except the horse was older than we would have liked and nervous. We knew we needed something else for Amelia — and nothing that we ended up exploring was really right or it was way out of our budget. I had wanted a mustang since I was a kid — and so we talked about maybe trying that. Amelia knew somebody whose daughters do eventing and they bought a mustang that was really good with kids, wasn’t very big, liked doing everything, and, as is the case with mustangs, was pretty inexpensive.”

The brown mustang, a yearling named Chess, was the first wild horse in Amelia Peters’ soon-to-expand herd of mustangs. Amelia adopted Chess through the BLM and the family ventured off to a holding facility in Wisconsin to pick the horse up and transport him back to Vermont. But because the mustang was so young, Amelia couldn’t ride him in competition. That’s when the nimble young equestrian found out about events called Extreme Mustang Makeovers — competitions involving adult and youth riders who’ve adopted or purchased a wild mustang, spent no more than six months domesticating and training the horse, and then working with the animal in the competitive arena, performing a range of handling exercises, riding tasks, and tricks. Adopted from a facility in Ohio, a gray mustang named Lucifer was the second wild horse in the South Pomfret teen’s burgeoning herd. “He is so smart and so sweet, so cute and mellow, not at all like his name,” Cathy Peters joked about Lucifer, dubbing him her daughter’s “favorite horse.”

The term “horse whisperer,” popularized by a 1995 novel by Nicholas Evans adapted for the screen by director/actor Robert Redford in a 1998 film of the same name, is frequently used to describe a trainer who adopts a sympathetic view of the motives, needs, and desires of a horse, based on modern equine psychology. Sagacious, articulate, self-motivated, and mature well beyond her 14 years of age, Amelia Peters is an exemplary whisperer. The first step in bonding with and training a wild mustang entails simply having the horse allow itself to be approached and touched by its handler. The challenge of “gentling” the horse comes next — a much more holistic, empathetic name for what those uninitiated to the equine world might think of as “breaking” the animal for riding, labor, or other endeavors. While grooming another of her five charges, six-year-old Sierra — the latest addition to Amelia’s corral — the teen spoke enthusiastically, with first-hand, seemingly intuitive knowledge, about the process of gentling a largely feral horse.

“It depends on the horse. Foxy, (a tall, red, one-year-old mustang), and Lucifer were both pretty easy,” Amelia offered. “Foxy was super people-oriented from the start, so I didn’t really have to get her used to being around me. She initiated touch — I didn’t have to teach her that it was okay for me to be in the corral with her or to be touching her. Lucifer was more reserved, so I had to approach him instead of the other way around. He wasn’t skittish, but he was almost shut down. They don’t really acknowledge what is happening,” Amelia added, calling attention to a behavior wild horse trainers see frequently. “Some horses just tune out, so I was able to touch him all over on the first day, but he wasn’t really there for me. He was still afraid — he just didn’t show it in a big way. He didn’t run away or anything, but he wasn’t really engaged.

“You have to work to open them up and find out what their personality is for training to really take hold,” Amelia continued. “Lucifer was a little bit like Foxy in a way, in that he would touch me and take food from me, but anytime I would try to approach or touch him, he would just take off. And then there was Atlas. He would come and investigate me — he’d touch me and take food from me. But any time I would try to touch or approach him, he would just take off. So I got him used to being touched from a distance with a long whip or a stick — obviously not hitting him with it — just to get him accustomed to it with my being a little further away. Once I could touch him and he realized I wasn’t going to eat him, he was fine,” she added with a hint of laughter.

Amelia Peters adheres to a training philosophy known in the horse world as R-Plus – “positive reinforcement training,” as she describes it. It’s similar in technique to the training used with dolphins, who also have a propensity to shut down cognitively and emotionally, rather than engage in actual training, instruction, and learning. “It’s behavior and reward — when they give you a behavior you want, you give them a reward for it. When horses are afraid, a lot of them will just freeze — their eyes may be glazed over, they’re not blinking, their lips may be tight. They’re just standing there, thinking if they do [disengage] everything will be okay. And when you let them go, they take off, having not really learned anything,” Amelia explained. Sierra, it turned out, had received some training earlier in her life from a trainer who did not use techniques similar to those of Amelia and, though the Peterses take pains not to criticize the earlier trainer, they do note that Amelia has essentially had to “reprogram” the older horse to train it by her hand. “She has taken longer to train and proceeds more slowly than the others,” Amelia says of Sierra.

What is it that Amelia Peters loves most about her horse whispering ways and the beloved mustangs in her charge? “They’re a blank slate,” she commented. “When you buy a horse that is already trained, it may be easier in the beginning, because they already know stuff,” she added. “But eventually you find out the holes in their training where they haven’t fully finished a behavior or it may be that something was not necessarily taught wrong, but just not in the way that you would have wanted to teach it. Regarding a horse that hasn’t been trained, they will learn a behavior quickly if they haven’t already been taught in a previous way. They’re just an open canvas for teaching all kinds of things.”

Citing the mustang’s wild roots as a plus and not a minus in many instances, Amelia added, “They’re usually pretty sure-footed, so they know where they are placing their feet, and they’re usually built pretty well. They have to be to survive in the wild. Natural selection will pick the ones that are the best fit for the environment in which they are supposed to live.”

Remember that inaugural Extreme Mustang Makeover event that Amelia and Lucifer entered in the fall of last year, several months after the gray mustang first came under the compassionate care of the South Pomfret teen? Amelia finished in second place in the youth division in her first effort at competing on the makeover mustang circuit. Because of ongoing pandemic restrictions, the event was held virtually, with competitors taping their performances and then submitting them to competition organizers in New Jersey. “She did all of her patterns [with Lucifer] and it was raining all week, so we had to use the indoor facility at Highland Farm [in Royalton] for the videotaping,” Cathy Peters recollected. “But it worked out pretty well. Lucifer wore a costume with devil’s ears and he did all these tricks and [Amelia] came in second [out of ten competitors] on the first wild mustang she had trained entirely by herself.”

In addition to the copious work she does with her own mustangs — and all the time it takes out of each day for continued homeschooling with her mom, including math and science studies with difficulty levels well above those customary for a first-year high school student — Amelia Peters further fuels her passion for all things equine by working part-time at Highland Farm in South Royalton and at Skyline Dressage, acclaimed equestrian Susan Armstrong’s training facility in North Pomfret. Theres she acquires additional dressage training in the summer and takes on jobs riding other people’s horses, exercising them as needed. She also volunteers with the Rising Action Mustang Society (RAMS) in New Haven, Vt., where she does manual labor such as mucking and trains some of the RAMS mustangs.

Assertive, independent, and insightful, Amelia Peters regards her training, adoption, and animal husbandry operations as separate from her parents’ work as second-generation Vermont farmers. She’s even dubbed her efforts with their own monikers: Honeydew Mustangs (or HD Stangs for short) for her equine activities and Honeydew Goats for her caretaking of her family’s goat herd, which she also tends. It’s still early — Amelia will not turn 15 until November — but it’s highly likely a career working with horses is in the motivated teen’s future, whether as a veterinarian, farrier, or farmer. Cathy Peters speculates as much.

“The jobs don’t pay very well,” Amelia’s mom said. “It’s hard work and it usually doesn’t come with health insurance. So the question becomes does she want to go to school and get a job that pays well so she can support her habit or not get paid and just live a life kind of like ours, where when you are a farmer everything pretty much goes back into the farm. But you like farming, so you keep doing it anyway. She talks about what she wants to do, but she’s only in ninth grade, so she’s got plenty of time.”

As Cathy Peters headed off to help with autumn harvest activities at Moore’s Orchards in North Pomfret, which is owned and operated by her mother, Emily Grube, she was complimented on the two highly eclectic and engaged young women she and John have raised on their family homestead. Amelia’s older sister, Endine, who graduated from WUHS/MS in June, is an accomplished sculptor whose works have been exhibited at Artistree. She also teaches welding and has strong interests in building and construction.

“We’ve just fostered their ideas and allowed them to do their fun things, which is good because it’s one of those things that maybe a lot of people aren’t lucky enough to be able to do,” Cathy Peters said of her two daughters. I guess that’s good parenting, but we’re some pretty unique people ourselves. I’m pretty bland and plain, but the two of them are pretty fun.”

Looking back at the corral where all five mustangs were huddled around Amelia as she continued to care for them on Sunday afternoon, Cathy Peters concluded, “See — they all love her because they know that she’s doing fun things and they want to be a part of it.”

All apples, all the time

Nothing says autumn in Vermont like the taste of sweet apple cider and the smell of fresh-baked pies and apple cider donuts. Labor Day weekend marked the beginning of apple-picking season and our region offers many opportunities to enjoy a quintessentially Vermont fall experience in the coming weeks.

Arriving with Europeans in the sixteenth-century, apples slowly made their way north to New England, and by the 19th century, just about every farm in the state had an orchard. Today, Vermont orchards produce about 40 million pounds of apples every year, with the state’s orchards growing more than 150 different varieties of apples. But it’s a relative newcomer — the Honeycrisp — that has quickly become one of the most wildly popular varieties. 

Read more in the September 29 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Beloved crossing guard offers smiles and safe passage

When four-year-old Carter Ralph arrived for pre-K class on the first day of school at Woodstock Elementary School (WES) on Aug. 30, his friend — Mr. Wes the Crossing Guard — was there to greet him, fully bedecked in a pirate costume.

“Mr. Wes is my friend. He gives me gifts and toys to play with,” a bashful, soft-spoken Carter shared on Tuesday morning as he arrived at school hand-in-hand with his mother, Marianne Ralph, and older sister Ella, 6.

For two generations of WES students and their families, Wes Hennig is a beloved figure, kindly mentor, and steady friend, whether at the helm of the elementary school’s maintenance team or, since his retirement from that gig two-plus years ago after 22 years, as the jovial, grandfather-like man who, as the local crossing guard, greets students, families, and staff coming and going from WES each day of the school year. To Woodstock kids from 4 to 24, he’s known simply and affectionately by the name by which they’ve always known him:

Mr. Wes.

“He deserves to be recognized,” Principal Maggie Mills commented at the end of the school day last Friday, shortly after Wes Hennig concluded another five-days-a-week stint as the WES crossing guard along South Street just outside Woodstock Village. “He’s just such a great presence. My only hope is that he’ll keep on doing it. He certainly doesn’t need to do it, but I think he just loves to be connected to the school and the kids in some way,” Mills added. Wes Hennig’s commitment to connecting with WES children at their own level dates back two decades and more. “He was always working on projects with the kids, such as building birdhouses or working with mentees to repair furniture. He was a really important mentor for the students while he was here. He also has extensive knowledge of history, especially of Vermont during the Colonial period and the French and Indian War,” the WES principal raved.

Marianne Ralph waxes ecstatic when she talks about young Carter’s affection for Mr. Wes — and she asserts that it’s a two-way street. “I think when another adult goes above and beyond for a kid, as parents and a family, that’s something you’ll remember forever. I know that Carter will always remember it. He’s only in pre-K, but he totally clicks with Mr. Wes and loves to see him every day. It’s just such a special part of living here. Carter is young, he loves costumes and dressing up, and he always wants to bring something to show Mr. Wes each day,” Ralph enthused. “Mr. Wes will always ask, ‘What is it you have for me today, Carter? Can you show it to me?’ He’s just the sweetest man.”

One of young Carter Ralph’s prized possessions is a toy treasure chest, replete with sparkling “jewels” that Mr. Wes gave to him at the very end of the last school year. Carter acknowledged the gift anew on the first day of school in late August when he greeted Mr. Wes at his post along South Street, just outside the playground and main entrance of WES, excitedly waving a small pirate flag. “Carter was so excited to be here,” his mother recalls. “Every time you go to the school, in the morning or afternoon, it’s always, “Mr. Wes, hello, how are you?’ He knows everyone – all the kids, all the parents.” About that pirate flag Carter was sporting? Mr. Wes gave his school-crossing charge “a huge pirate flag, a Jolly Roger flag” just a few days ago.

Drawing on his innate talent, outgoing demeanor, penchant for colorful costumery rooted in his varied historic reenactor roles, and abiding love of children, Hennig considers it a special privilege to continue serving the school where he has worked for nearly a quarter of a century. “I try to make the kids happy — you know, make them smile,” Mr. Wes said against the backdrop of Tuesday’s unpredictable weather, which had the crossing guard dressed in rain gear and his mini-minions gearing up for a last-minute dash into the school before Maggie Mills took to the intercom to remind everyone that classes were about to begin. His philosophy as a crossing guard is largely the same as it was when he served on the maintenance staff at WES for more than two decades. 

Mr. Wes offered, “When I was a custodian, I knew a lot of the kids. I helped them at the bus stop and I played with them on the playground. I used to dress up back then as well.” Henning continues to play the role-playing card in his relatively new position as a crossing guard, too. “I dress up at Halloween. I play Santa at Christmas. And come St. Patrick’s Day, I sometimes dress up as a leprechaun. Back in my time in maintenance, I’d go into classrooms when nobody was there during the day and turn a few desks upside down, because leprechauns are associated with pranks.”

“It’s all about the kids,” Wes Hennig likes to say. “It is pretty scary to start school, especially on opening day, so I try to keep them from crying, help them feel more comfortable at school. I get to the point where I know the kids very well and I get to know the parents well, too. Even the parents call me Mr. Wes. It’s very respectful.” In fact, no matter where he goes in Woodstock, including to his twice-a-week, part-time stint as a stock clerk at Mac’s Market and while working as an elected constable in Barnstable, even 20-somethings who knew him as young kids still refer reverently to Wes Hennig as “Mr. Wes.”

Just before WES Principal Mills welcomed students to another day of classes over the P.A. system on a rainy Tuesday morning, a parent eyeballed Wes Hennig in his crossing guard rain gear, checked out a photographer who was taking pictures of the man at work, and quipped, “You should see him in his full regalia when he’s really dressed up.” Immediately after that, a young boy bolted over the crosswalk, passed the crossing guard, then paused curbside to catch his breath, look back and say, “Have a great day, Mr. Wes.”

The truth is that any day when Wes Hennig greets parents and children at WES, no matter the weather or time of year, is a great day indeed.

Lifelong friends and family recall Ernest Kendall

Family, lifelong friends, and colleagues recall Ernest Whitney Kendall as a man of few words, yet someone to whom others listened raptly whenever he spoke because he was for them an inspiration, a sage, and, in the words of many, the hero of a lifetime.

Ever curious and engaged, Kendall was a graduate of Woodstock Union High School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California grad school, an internationally renowned geologist, an inveterate explorer of faraway places and foreign cultures, a deeply devoted family man, and a passionate amateur historian whose heart always resided in his native Vermont, no matter where his peripatetic travels took him, his beloved wife, Nancy, their four children, and six grandchildren.

It’s fitting then, in the wake of Ernest’s passing from cancer in Houston, Texas on Aug. 8 at the age of 81, that those who knew him best — his childhood friends and longtime relatives from Bridgewater, Woodstock, and beyond — paused last weekend to remember a remarkable life well lived and a person who inspired them endlessly. Here, in their own words, are their fondest memories and recollections of a man who left an indelible mark on their lives.

 

Jeanette Sawyer, President, Bridgewater Historical Society

Fellow Student with Ernest Kendall from Kindergarten through High School

“I lived at one end of town in the early years, and he lived at the other. We didn’t play together a lot early on, like all those kids in the village did, they played ball and that kind of thing. Ernest lived right across from the [Bridgewater] Mill, where his father worked. I remember him being a giant to me because I was short. He was tall and a nice-looking young man. He was always kind of my hero because he was never mean to anyone. He was an angel in many respects. He was brilliant — I always envied his having this knowledge of so many things. But he wasn’t someone who wanted people to know that; he wanted to just fit in and be a regular person, but he was very special.”

Reminded that Ernest was described as “a bad insurance risk” in the Class of 1958 Woodstock High School Yearbook, the Bridgewater native and history sleuth chuckled. “He was a little bit of a daredevil,” she quipped. “[Ernest] spent four years on the high school ski team and may have skied at a breakneck pace.” Next, touching on the years Ernest and Nancy spent volunteering with the Bridgewater Historical Society and its museum after they returned to Vermont following retirement, Sawyer continued:

“[Ernest and Nancy] lived here in his old home in Bridgewater about half the year, starting maybe twelve years ago or so, after they returned from their second time in the Peace Corps, and they became Historical Society members right away. That’s just who he was. There’s a lot of teamwork at the Society and no matter where Ernest and Nancy were — even the other half of the year in Texas or when they traveled, they would always share their thoughts. Ernest was a very quiet person, he wasn’t a chit-chatter, but he would always speak up with his viewpoint on what we were doing, and it would always be right on. All of us really respected him when he spoke and we listened carefully, because he was usually right about most everything. Not much had changed in the 50 years or more since high school.”

Noting Ernest’s love of Africa, dating back to his initial foray to Ghana with the Peace Corps in the early 1970’s, Sawyer marveled at the fact that the Kendalls went back to Africa for one last sojourn in the last months of Ernest’s life. “They had a very international worldview. The stories that came out of all their trips were often funny, but also instructive. Nancy recently told me that Ernest planned all their trips — he’d be planning them and not saying anything, and then suddenly it was, ‘Here are the tickets!’”

“We all just had so much respect for him.”

 

Linna Kendall Kite, Ernest’s Older Sister, 85

“We grew up right across the street from the [Bridgewater] Mill. When Ernest started [school] I believe it was still just a two-room school. We were there through the eighth grade, both of us. There were three grades of difference between us in school. It was just the two of us — no other siblings. Dad was the superintendent at the mill and did the fabric design.”

“Bridgewater was a nice small town back then. A lot of people lived in mill housing, up and down. It was a nice small town — the church was active and so on. My brother was active with the Civil Air Patrol in high school. He was a freshman when I was a senior. He was on the ski team for four years. Our father was very instrumental in that. Father loved to ski and so both Ernest and I skied and loved it, too. (Ernest) never played basketball, although he was certainly tall enough to do so. He went to the Bridgewater School — Jeanette Sawyer was in the same first-grade class as Ernest — and then he went to Woodstock High School.”

“My father grew up in Boston and after college he came up here in the 1920s and he was there at the mill until shortly before it closed. My father’s father — Ernest’s and my grandfather — was a conductor on the railroad and my grandmother was a milliner and had a studio in the center of Boston. Dad graduated from Lowell Tech and came to Vermont in maybe 1923 or ’24. Our mother was a Vermonter — she grew up in Taftsville, one of the Whitneys.”

“Bridgewater was such a nice place for Ernest and I to grow up. As kids, we all got together and played. There were the pickup baseball games and the easy walk to school. Ernest had such a love of history and I just thought of something that goes to the historical side of him. He gave to the [Bridgewater] Historical Society a baseball that my father had — the towns used to have baseball teams, this was back during the war and maybe before that, I’m not sure. But our father had coached the Bridgewater town team and they beat Woodstock one time and Ernest got that ball — it was signed by all the players from Bridgewater and it made a big impression on him. There was a lot of competition between the towns back then. After my father died, Ernest got the ball and took it to the historical society and now it resides in their collection. It’s a little bit of the history he was a part of.”

 

Sarah Kendall, Daughter

“My grandfather, Dad’s father, was the last general manager of the Bridgewater Mill. When my grandfather died, my grandmother moved into one of those three duplexes right up the road from the mill. That’s where Mom and Dad spent about half of each year since retirement, splitting their time between Texas and Vermont.” — Sarah

 

Nancy Kendall, Ernest’s Wife of 55+ Years

“We lived in Berkeley [while attending the University of California] during the Free Speech Movement [of the 1960s]. I was a social work student and a colleague of the Black Panther leader Huey Newton, who was a fellow student of mine when they started the food program in Oakland. Ernest was in graduate school at the time. It was a pretty heady time.” — Nancy

“[Ernest’s] father was in the creative part of the Bridgewater Mill. He designed the cloth, he ran the mill itself. There was a financial director, a businessperson, and then there was my father-in-law, he was the creative director and oversaw the daily operation of the mill. My mother-in-law — Ernest’s mom — was a housewife. For some years before she married, she was a secretary. Then she married and raised two kids — that’s what she did. She was a very, very smart woman, valedictorian of her high school class in Woodstock. Her maiden name was Helen Whitney.” — Nancy

“We came home every year for [the Woodstock Union High School] Alumni Day and they usually conned Ernest into being on the parade float in some form. He always helped to build the float, too. We were in the Peace Corps again after we retired, spent two years in Romania, just before we returned to Bridgewater. We didn’t have a home in Texas because we had sold it, but we still had the old home in Bridgewater and returned there to that duplex right near the mill. They’re called the veterans’ homes, because they were built by the mill for returning veterans after World War Two. When the mill went under, my mother-in-law, even though my father-in-law had been a chief over there, [the mill sold] everything and she didn’t have a pension. One of the officers of the mill arranged to make those houses available for various workers, and that’s how she got to live there. My [late] husband is one of the only ones left of the original bunch living there.” — Nancy

 

Theresa Fullerton, Coordinator, Woodstock Alumni Association, Class of 1958

 “I’ve known Ernest Kendall since back in grade school when you get right down to it. I happened to have lived way up at the end of West Bridgewater and he was in the village, but we were classmates. We all came together at [Woodstock] High School. We all graduated in the same class [of 1958]. I reconnected with Ernest in more recent years after he and Nancy came back to the area after his career with Union Carbide, retirement and their second time in the Peace Corps.”

“At one of our earlier alumni gatherings — it might have been the twenty-fifth or something like that, back in the ‘80s, we got the idea to do a big gathering every five years or so, and Ernest and Nancy were always there for that. And then everybody started to retire and stuff and we set up an annual lunch day at the [Thompson] Senior Center and they’d be there for that, too. No matter where Ernest was, he’d always come home for those gatherings. It always made for such interesting stories.”

“Ernest was a quiet, quiet man as a young person. But when he spoke he had all of our attention. And that continued all along. Nancy was great, too. They were both always great about keeping us caught up. They’d have us in stitches about some of the challenges and problems they would have in all their travels. And Ernest would always have a hand in the parade float on Alumni Day. He and our classmate Tom Dutton, who has done a lot of work on the float these last years. Bruce Gould, too, was another friend of Ernest’s. He was class president our senior year. He’ll be at our annual dinner this weekend. We’ll all miss Ernest. It’s been really interesting, even though we’ve lost quite a few of our class members.”

 

Carol Whitney, Ernest’s Cousin, Retired Math Teacher, Hartford Schools

“Our mom — Ernest’s aunt — was the oldest [child] in our family and my dad was the youngest, so I was a good bit younger than Ernest and Linna. Their mother, my Aunt Helen, was an interesting person in her own right. She had to apply to go to high school. This was back in a time when women didn’t automatically go to high school, so she had to apply. And she graduated valedictorian of her class, probably around 1920. She was an impressive lady and she tried to bring us a little bit of class. We resisted with every fiber of our being, but she tried! I’m saying this because our branch of the family always looked up to [Ernest’s and Linna’s parents, Helen and Charles], because they always strove to do great, wonderful things and set a real standard for their family and for all the rest of us. And the children really carried that on.”

“I can remember when he was in Africa — after the Peace Corps, working for Union Carbide, I think, by that time — Ernest would tell these exotically wonderful stories of what he was doing there. I was maybe seven or eight years old and it was magical. He’d send us these trinkets like ivory bracelets and little dolls and just eye-opening wonders of another world that we couldn’t even imagine. I know that one time he had dinner with a tribal chief and there was a boa constrictor there and we all got a picture of him with this ginormous snake. It was amazing and eye-opening for this little white girl in rural Vermont. I remember Aunt Helen, when [Ernest’s and Nancy’s] son Andrew was born, and Nancy had to take her own bedding and linens to the hospital, poor Aunt Helen was verklempt about all of that and she got the vapors just thinking about it. But again, to me, as a young girl, it was just so magical.”

“[Ernest] was a magical presence in my life. And yet whenever you talked with him, he was just so down-to-earth, you wouldn’t have known how special he was. I had a sort of hero worship of him. When he was a child, he didn’t speak for a long time and there was concern that he never would. But when he spoke, he spoke in full sentences!”

“I keep coming back to that word ‘magical.’ It was always amazing to sit and listen to his stories of all the places that he had been, such as when he and Nancy went to Romania with the Peace Corps again after their retirement, to work with the Roma people. It was all inspirational, aspirational stuff. Our parents all grew up and went through the whole Depression Era thing and so none of them could go to school because they didn’t have any money. So they instilled in all of us this deep longing for an education. We never felt ourselves poor, but we thirsted for that education, the cousins.”

“The last time I really sat down and talked with Ernest was at a dinner after they returned from that final trip to Africa this past year. He just reminisced about so many things, so many fond memories of Africa. I never heard him say anything negative about it. He just loved to travel, experience new things. I remember after my dad passed, he and Nancy kind of took my mother on as a sort of duty. She was a real crazy wild woman, the opposite of my dad and a quiet person like Ernest. When dad died, Ernest and Nancy took my mom to Acapulco with them. I would have been horrified to take my mom to Acapulco — she just had way too much fun wherever she went! She had the hoot and holler and time of her life in Acapulco. That’s just the way things were with my cousins. They were wonderful to my mom and always included her in so many things. They wined and dined her at the Woodstock Inn and treated her like royalty.”

“That’s the thing about my cousin Ernest. There weren’t a lot of words, but the actions were always there, the important things were always there, and the respect, the caring, and the attention to detail. It just meant the world to us. At the end, there weren’t words, because the truth was deeper than anything we could have said. If you want to talk about lives well-lived, this man for me was truly a hero.”

Ascutney mountain bike skills park open, flow trails to follow

West Windsor

Three weeks after its unveiling to riders at the Eastern regional edition of the Flow State Mountain Bike Festival, the Andrew Goulet Skills Park at Mt. Ascutney is enticing enthusiastic riders of all skill levels to test their mettle on the berms, drops, and jumps of the newly opened bike park.

“It’s set up in three different lines for the expert, intermediate, and beginner,” Aaron Day explained as he surveyed the new mountain bike skills facility from atop the park. Day, a West Windsor resident and technical education teacher at Windsor High School, oversaw the construction of the newly opened skills park on behalf of the Ascutney Trails Association (ATA), the non-profit outdoor education and recreation organization that collaborates with Ascutney Outdoors (AO) to populate the mountain with year-round activities and programs. With the skills park now completed, Day continues to coordinate the development of three “flow trails” and a climbing trail at Ascutney that are expected to be completed this fall. “It was really fun to have the park open for the Flow State Festival, which drew nearly a thousand bikers from all over the Northeast to these slopes at the end of last month,” Day added enthusiastically. “It’s been very positive and rewarding to get this [skills park] open after all the work that went into it.”

With all its dips, banked turns, and angled, wooden jumps, the park looks daunting to non-bikers and the uninitiated. But that isn’t the case, Day stated. “When it was first built, everyone was thinking, ‘Wow, I am not going to be able to ride this.’ What’s interesting is that it was built to be very forgiving. Even though the jumps seem very big, they kind of catch you. If you don’t have enough speed, you’re not going to crash, you’re just going to roll. You may not get the amplitude you want, but you’re going to be safe. It’s a great place to learn.”

The skills park, which was excavated and constructed over the course of two months beginning in mid-May by the Powder Horn Trail Company of Belmont, N.H., is the only mountain biking facility of its kind between Keene, N.H., and a comparable park at Killington. Built using packed earth and timber, the park at Ascutney, which runs parallel to one of the mountain’s downhill ski trails, measures 315 feet long by 75 feet wide — approximately the full length and half the width of a football field. The park offers riders a decidedly different, more contemporary take on the conventional biking experience of traversing an extensive mountainside trail network complete with wildly uneven terrain and rocky outcroppings, served by a lift. “It’s termed ‘slope-style’ mountain biking,” Day explained. When it turns to competition, which hasn’t yet occurred at the Mt. Ascutney site, Day said riders are evaluated on their technical skills and ability to navigate jumps, drops, turns, and berms, rather than on their speed in completing the course in the quickest time.

Sports

Girls Soccer falls to Brattleboro

Woodstock

The WUHS girls soccer team won at Brattleboro earlier in the season, but the Colonels turned the tables in a 2-0 win at Woodstock Monday afternoon. One goal in each half was all the scoring on this pleasant autumn afternoon.

“I thought we might have challenged them better on the scoreboard,” said Coach Greg LaBella, “but I was not dissatisfied with our performance. We defended well enough. The process of building and improving as a team continues.”

The first tally came at the midpoint of the first half. Goalkeeper Violet Tuckerman was able to get her hands on a hard outside shot, but it squirted away and slipped into the goal just inside the left post. Up until that point, the visitors had been controlling play a bit more than the Wasps. But for the remaining three-fourths of the game, it seemed that Woodstock maintained possession more often, but was unable to generate good scoring opportunities.

“Their defense was good,” said junior striker Chloe Masillo. “It was hard for us to get a through ball. They’re a strong team and I think they played a little more aggressively than they did when we played them before.”

Read more in the October 6 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Woodstock mountain bike team shines in home race

Woodstock

The Woodstock mountain bike team continued its success by capturing its third victory in the Vermont Youth Cycling (VTYC) race series at the Mount Peg trails last Saturday. Eleven teams competed with nearly 180 participants from grades 5-12. Woodstock used its home course advantage to retain the top spot in the series followed by Borderline Racing (Hanover/Norwich) and Stowe Mountain Bike Academy. 

The race course at Mount Peg is considered the most challenging and technical in the VTYC cross-country mountain bike series compared to the previous races hosted by the Craftsbury Outdoor Center and the Kingdom Trails in East Burke. The course is notable for its long ascents of nearly two hundred feet per mile followed by a mile-long flowy singletrack descent littered with rocks, roots, and berms. Knox Meadow’s well-worn winding path allowed for ample passing lanes and cheering as racers lapped the course and sprinted to the finish.

Read more in the October 6 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Wasps Field Hockey remains undefeated

Woodstock

On Wednesday Sept. 21, the WUHS Field hockey team traveled to Fair Haven to take on the Slaters for the second time this season. After a few last-minute bumps in the road to get to the game, the Wasps got off to a slow start. They played a very defensive game in the first quarter with strong play from Emma Allegretti, Georgia Tarleton, Charley Crowley and Kamryn Jillson. Natalie Parent got the scoring started in the second quarter, coming off a pass from Hannah Gubbins. The first half ended with just a 1-0 lead. 

Read more in the September 29 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Obituaries

Robin VonEsch

Robin VonEsch     May 17, 1966 – August 6, 2021

Robin VonEsch passed away unexpectedly on August 6, 2021.

Robin VonEsch was born May 17, 1966 to George and Lynne VonEsch, of Smithtown, New York. Robin is survived by her mother Lynne VonEsch, Denver, CO, sister Carole Horvath (VonEsch), Dillon, CO, niece Stephanie Horvath, Dillon, CO, among many aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends Sarah, Charlie, Katie, Gordon, and Jeff VanAuken, Gloucester, MA, Jeff Worthen, Rolla, MO, Jody Jeffers and Amanda, Seattle, Washington, among many others. George VonEsch passed prior to Robin.

Robin attended Hartland Elementary School, Woodstock Union High School, and then on to the University of Vermont.

Robin was an adventure-seeking person. As a child, she was exposed to the world of travel and exploration by her parents; traveling in a van across the United States. Adventures would continue as a history buff with historical reenactment of different battles locally in Vermont along with the Yorktown Battle, which occurred with the VanAuken Family and their cannons. This love of adventure continued on her own as she biked across Europe the summer before college. She came home sophomore year in college saying she wanted to play on the Club Ice Hockey Team at the University of Vermont and became an amazing skater. Robin was always up for hikes to random places, she loved Mexican food, margaritas, reading, needlepoint, gaming, and gardening. She had an amazing green thumb!  After college her adventures lead her into the Navy for 16+ years traveling all over the world, ending up in the Seattle area, surrounded by amazing friends, Jody, Amanda, among many others. Recently she relocated to Missouri to be with her dear friend Jeff Worthen who made her very happy and complete. Her heart was filled with kindness and honesty, and she was very genuine. Robin was a kind gentle soul who would do anything for anyone.

Please join us for a memorial service to celebrate the life of Robin VonEsch. Robin’s memorial will be on Sunday, October 9, 2022, at 1:00 pm at The Riverside Cemetery. We will be there to remember our wonderful sister/relative/friend who will be greatly missed. Please bring your fondest memories and photos (young and old) of Robin to share with family and friends. All are welcome.

Following the memorial service, we will be celebrating Robin’s life with pictures, food, family, and friends at The Thompson Center (Senior Center) located at 99 Senior Lane, Woodstock, Vermont.

Contact information: Carole Horvath (VonEsch) carolehorvath@hotmail.com

An online guest book can be found at cabotfh.com

Nancy Bartlett

Nancy Bartlett 1959 – 2022

Nancy Bartlett passed away peacefully at her log cabin on September 11 as a result of radiation side effects on a brain tumor in 1996. She was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania on July 7, 1959, and was the youngest of three children. She was preceded in death by her parents and survived by her husband Patrick Bartlett, a sister Linda Ramis and a brother Charles Rothrauff.

Her family moved several times during her early years before settling in Potsdam, New York in 1966. She attended the Campus Elementary School and graduated from Potsdam Central High school in 1977 where she played high school soccer and track and started dating her husband Patrick in 1974. She attended Radford College in Virginia, Morrisville College in New York, and finished at Castleton College in Vermont with a Bachelor’s degree in Art in 1981. She married her high school sweetheart, Patrick, in 1982 and moved to Mt. Hunger road in Barnard. She and her husband began cutting trees for their log cabin in 1984 while on Mt. Hunger and in 1986 purchased 11 acres on Greengate Road in South Barnard to build their log cabin on. They moved into their cabin in the fall of 1987 where she lived out her life.

She began work in Vermont at Killington Peak restaurant, Gillinghams Store, Woodstock Pharmacy, McDonald Real Estate Appraisers, Bartlett Forestry & Wildlife, and Taftsville Country Store. While working for Bartlett Forestry in the 90s she was one of the pioneers in learning and teaching many Vt consulting foresters, that had little computer knowledge, the Arc View forest computer mapping program. That was the beginning of the end of the paper-hand drawn forestry maps era to the very accurate GIS -GPS computer-generated forestry maps era.

Her love for the outdoors began in Potsdam where she took up fishing on her own as a teenager on the Raquette River and taught herself how to clean and cook her fish. She became an avid bow hunter in her 20s with her husband and harvested many deer with her bow and arrow in N.Y., Vt., and Ohio right up to the fall of 2021 in a wheelchair. She was also a crack shot with a rifle also filled many tags with her 30-06 and 50 caliber muzzleloader. Her middle name was Anne and many of us that hunted with her called her Annie in the woods, after the famous Annie Oakley. She rarely missed. She loved every form of fishing – year-round, foraging for morels in May, hunting wild turkeys, gardening, and raising dozens of pets over her lifetime.

Donations may be sent to: “GMCC (Green Mountain Conservation Camp) Endowment Fund” to help purchase equipment for the young adults that attend these camps to learn about the Vermont Outdoors and how to be an ethical hunter. Please mail your donation to: VT Fish and Game; Att: GMCC Endowment Fund; 1 National Life Drive Davis 2; Montpelier, Vt. 05620.

The first celebration of her life party will be held at the Barnard Town Hall in Barnard on Sunday, October 2nd, from 11 am to 3 pm. The second one will be held at the Firemen’s Field Day hall in Parishville, N.Y on Saturday, October 29th from 11 am to 3 pm.

Jane M. Wood

Jane Mathews Wood, 99, of Woodstock, VT, passed away on September 2, 2022 after injuries from a fall.

She was born on Staten Island, N.Y. June 22, 1923, the second daughter of Richard W. and Angela (Brown) Matthews. Jane was a graduate of Curtis High School, the Ann Reno School for Early Childhood Education, and the Teachers College at Columbia University (earning a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree in childhood education).

On March 23, 1946, she married Robert W. Wood on his return from military service in the Philippines. Mr. Wood joined International Paper Company in 1948 and the family moved first to Middlebury and then to Woodstock, VT, where they built their home on Church Hill Road. When her sons were young Jane participated in the Elementary School PTA and volunteered at the school library. She enjoyed paddle tennis, playing golf, and daily walks. In 2010 Jane moved to the Homestead Assisted Living facility and was always very appreciative of the Homestead staff. Her family thanks the Mount Ascutney Hospital doctors, nurses, and staff for their assistance and care.

Jane was preceded in death by her husband, Robert, and by her sister, Geraldine Engelhardt. She is survived by her sons, Wayne Wood of Arvada, CO, and Gary Wood and wife Judith, of Canaan, NH; and by her two grandsons, Paul Wood of Eagle Point, OR, and Marc Wood of Middletown CT.

A private family burial will be held at the family lot in Riverside Cemetery. Arrangements are by Cabot Funeral Home in Woodstock. An online guest book can be found at cabotfh.com

Karene W. Burrell

August 18, 1940 – September 4, 2022

Karene W. Burrell died September 4, 2022, at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

She was born on August 18, 1940, the daughter of W. Stanley Wood and Geraldine Smith Wood, in Randolph, Vermont.

She grew up in the town of Randolph, VT, and after graduating from Randolph high school she attended and graduated from the Sheldon Academy of Beauty in Burlington Vermont. After obtaining her beautician’s license Karene would practice for over 50 years. She went on to have a salon in her own home in Barnard for over 40 years. She married Albert Newton Burrell on December 1, 1961 in Randolph.

She enjoyed camping and being with her grandchildren. She enjoyed going to their plays, concerts, and sporting events. She liked going to local events to listen to music and dance. She enjoyed working on her puzzles with family and friends.

She is survived by a son Todd Burrell and wife Lisa of Pomfret, a daughter Lisa Southworth and husband Gary of S. Royalton, a sister Beth Wood of Randolph, and 3 granddaughters: Jessica Burrell, Mara Southworth, and Blake Southworth. She was predeceased by her husband Albert Burrell.

A graveside service will be held at 1:30 pm on Saturday, October 1st at the Pleasant View Cemetery, Randolph, VT.

A celebration of life will be held on October 15th from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at the Bethel White Church.

Annual Appeal

Please don’t wait until it’s too late

As our annual appeal enters its final week, we’d like to thank those of you who have thus far stepped up to assist us with your donation. We shoulder our ongoing financial burden all year long – trying to produce quality local journalism for our community even though the traditional advertising revenue funding model for newspapers has deteriorated — and it’s gratifying to know that we have friends who readily answer our call for help, who care as much as we do about the role the Vermont Standard plays in keeping our community strong. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It’s a fact; we simply cannot keep doing this without you.

But now we face a real sense of urgency. I promised that this annual appeal would only last four weeks so you wouldn’t have to hear from me constantly about our need. And indeed, this is my last appeal article in ’22. But our revenue shortfall is daunting, and it leaves us in a very precarious position. If we’re going to sustain the Standard, we absolutely need more capital to work with.

Today, I’m hoping to attract the attention of more of our readers who care deeply about each of our local towns (Woodstock, Hartland, Pomfret, Bridgewater, Barnard, Reading, Quechee, West Windsor, Plymouth, Windsor and Killington) and the greater community that we’re all a part of. I’m trying to reach more of the people who truly appreciate the way the Standard helps residents stay informed and know about and support one another. I’m trying to tug on the sleeve of more of those who — if ultimately the paper cannot make it without them — would very much miss the Standard once it’s too late. I’m trying to remind all of you who love us, warts and all, to make a donation.

Now.

It’s a fact of life. There are lots of other important things to do and spend money on. They’re all vying for your attention at once. Fundraising appeals like ours can easily get shuffled to the bottom of the pile. But today I hope you’ll understand that our need is absolutely critical. Without your help we won’t be able to put the plans in motion that can help sustain local journalism in our community for the near future and long term.

So far, the response to our 2022 appeal isn’t as strong as it was last year. I hope that’s simply a result of distractions at this time of year or procrastination and not a drop-off in the community’s endorsement of our mission. I hope you agree that certain things in our busy lives are worth taking a moment to support, and local journalism is one of them.

For more than 40 years, Vermont Standard president Phil Camp has dedicated his heart and soul to this endeavor in an effort to give back to his hometown. He’s joined by the Standard’s staff and key supporters who have literally gone all-in, doing whatever it takes in an effort to keep this community treasure going strong against stacked odds. And I believe that if there’s any one place in the country where local journalism can be sustained despite the very difficult financial obstacles newspapers face, it would be here in this community that embraces its paper so enthusiastically. A place where both full- and part-time residents routinely support the people, organizations, and institutions that make this community so phenomenal. My guess is that there are still a lot more people who are willing to help the Vermont Standard than we’ve heard from thus far.

We sincerely appreciate your consideration.

If you’re willing to make a donation to our 2022 Annual Appeal, please send us a check at PO Box 88, Woodstock, VT 05091 or go to our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website to make a contribution with your credit card.

The Standard is not a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your gift can’t be deducted from your taxes, but your gift will help ensure that the Standard will be around to serve our community for a long time.

Trying to avoid becoming a “ghost” story

By Dan Cotter, publisher

Many years ago, while discussing the Troubles in Northern Ireland with a good friend, he said to me, “anyone who thinks they know the solution doesn’t really understand the problem.”

That quote crossed my mind this week as I contemplated the grave challenges we face in the newspaper industry – both throughout the country and right here in our community.

Just to review, newspapers in general, and our Vermont Standard, have troubles of their own. We have a revenue shortfall. The funding that traditionally supported local journalism has been drying up. Over the past twenty years in particular, big box stores, chains, and now online sellers such as Amazon have wiped out most of their competition, especially the smaller independent retailers and service providers who loyally supported local newspapers with their weekly ads.

And newspapers used to receive a substantial amount of classified advertising revenue too from help wanted, auto, and real estate/rentals ads, and private parties selling used merchandise. Today, those classified advertisers use a variety of online and digital marketing options instead of or sometimes in addition to a newspaper.

And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic set the national and local economy back in many ways, and it has had trouble rebounding due to staff shortages and supply chain issues. Newspapers rely on advertising dollars that just aren’t being spent in this economic environment.

Acting as though they don’t really understand the problem – which is a revenue problem – many newspapers throughout the country have carried out hardcore expense trimming and staff reductions in an attempt to balance the budget. For example, just in the past few weeks, the largest newspaper company in the country laid off 400 workers. At the Standard, we’ve done our share of trimming expenses as well.

But despite the belt-tightening, the numbers don’t add up. Without an infusion of revenue, losses pile up. There aren’t enough expenses or personnel to cut without crippling the organization. You simply cannot save your way to prosperity, much less fund new initiatives. Something tends to give.

The remaining skeletal staff at these papers — once strong and proudly serving their communities with news, information and commentary that helps their readers understand local issues and each other so that they can make good decisions and solve problems they face together — can no longer adequately cover the news.

In industry jargon, we call these “ghost papers.” They’re now just shadows of their former selves, barely worth taking the few minutes required to read them cover to cover. And that loss of quality local journalism leaves behind a void in the community and a breeding ground for misinformation and division.

It’s estimated that as many as 20% of the newspapers in the country are now ghost papers.

The problem we’re facing isn’t that we need reliable, local journalism any less. We need it more than ever. With all the forces at play in our country that tear at the fabric of our democracy, citizens surely need a publication to turn to that tries each week to foster better understanding in their community. With all the “crisis fatigue” we experience in the national news today, we no doubt benefit from a regular dose of what’s often uplifting news about our neighbors and community to help us maintain balance, perspective and hope.

There’s certainly no drop-off in consumer demand for the local journalism we provide. The Standard’s circulation and website visitation volumes remain steady.

But our true problem is that the funding mechanism that served us well for so many years has deteriorated, and so we need to support local journalism in a different way. Unfortunately, very few newspapers have found ways to solve their revenue problem. More than a fourth of the country’s newspapers have gone out of business. And too many of those that remain have severely diminished their paper with drastic expense cuts that gutted the paper of the very journalism it is supposed to be providing. Leaving behind, well, a ghost.

The Standard is trying to avoid that trap. We want to sustain the paper as well as the quality of the local journalism we provide. Improve it even. The Standard exists to serve its communities, and now we need the community’s assistance to help us keep it going.

You can help by continuing to read the Standard and patronizing our advertisers. If you’re also in a position to advertise, please do so. And right now, please consider making a donation to our 2022 Annual Appeal. If you’re able, please send us a check at PO Box 88, Woodstock, VT 05091 or go to our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website at www.thevermontstandard.com to make a contribution with your credit card.

The Standard is not a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your gift can’t be deducted from your taxes, but your gift will help ensure that the Standard will be around to serve our community for a long time.

Connecting people is important, irreplaceable

By Dan Cotter, publisher

It probably comes as no surprise that at a small newspaper like the Vermont Standard, everyone on staff has to do a little of everything and wear many different hats. But what is a bit surprising is that one of my favorite responsibilities at the paper is to post the obituaries on our website.

As I edit them, I really enjoy learning about the people who passed away. I’ve found that nearly everyone has an interesting story. The obituaries are usually submitted by family members, and the love they express for their dearly departed and their touching descriptions of lives well lived are quite inspiring. It amazes me when I read about all these remarkable people who lived in our area – their impressive accomplishments, their friends, relatives and pets that will miss them so much, their passions, their personalities, their favorite sayings, etc. It’s a good reminder that, despite all the tragic, discouraging events and bad actors we hear about in the national news every day, most people around here are upstanding and admirable.

Like I said, posting obituaries is one of my favorite duties. It makes me feel more connected with this place and the people who make it special.

I suspect that this type of highly-personal local news content is what the majority of our readers like most about the Standard. Whether it’s the stories about area residents who passed away or articles about fascinating people still in our midst — ordinary people doing extraordinary things — or the photos we present of individuals, often children or seniors, participating in local activities… I think it’s those stories about our lives playing out together and our shared experiences that help us appreciate one another and live together in harmony.

For 169 years the Standard has been telling stories every single week that help connect those who live here. Perhaps we’ve even told your story at some point along the way.

It’s classic local journalism.

In telling the stories of the people in our community, the Standard helps everyone to know each other better. Although it’s not our sole purpose, it’s one of our most important purposes. It’s one of the main functions we’re trying to preserve when we conduct our annual fundraising appeal.

Without meaningful human connection, towns are merely geography. But when we’re all better connected by the type of content published in the paper and on our website, we’re a vibrant community that values and respects each other. And therefore, we’re able to tackle the issues and concerns we all must face together.

Despite the evaporation of the advertising revenue that traditionally supported newspapers and the economic devastation wrought by the COVID pandemic that exacerbated our revenue problem, we are working hard to keep the Standard afloat. Across the country, newspapers like the Standard are disappearing at a rate of two per week. In fact, according to a report issued recently by Northwestern University, 336 weekly papers like ours, serving small communities in the US, have shut down since the end of 2019.

There’s no question, we cannot sustain the Standard alone. We urgently need your help. We hope you’ll consider making a donation to our 2022 annual appeal. If you’re able, please send us a check at PO Box 88, Woodstock, VT 05091 or go to our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website at www.thevermontstandard.com to make a contribution with your credit card.

The Standard is not a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your gift can’t be deducted from your taxes, but your gift will help ensure that the Standard will be around to serve our community for a long time.

Recently, one of our donors mentioned to me that his grandchildren were once featured in a photo on the front page of the Standard. It was a nice memory of a wonderful moment for his family that the paper captured and shared with the community.

That’s what I’m talking about. How essential it is to have local journalism that helps us share our lives with our neighbors. Just like when we get to pay tribute to our cherished loved ones for all to see upon their passing.

With this fundraising appeal, we’re trying to ensure that residents of our community will always have the Standard as a place to connect with one another in a truly meaningful way. Please join us in this important mission if you’re able to.

Our '22 annual appeal begins with gratitude

By Dan Cotter, publisher 

Last year at this time, when we made our first annual appeal, what stood out to me was how incredibly kind and generous our readers are.

A couple of hundred Vermont Standard readers who live locally or read the paper from afar to keep up on goings-on in the area took a few minutes to write a check or enter their credit card on our website to help us keep local journalism alive. Contributions ranged from ten dollars to gifts of thousands of dollars. And many came with a note of appreciation for our work and encouragement to keep doing it despite our daunting financial challenges.

Phil Camp and I were stunned at how good people were to us and how much they valued the service that our small but talented team provides to the community. We alternated between gasps, high fives and even a few tears as we opened the mail or checked our website for contributions each day during those four weeks.

Your help strengthened us financially and it strengthened our resolve to continue trying to find a way to sustain the journalism that has informed and connected residents in Woodstock, Barnard, Bridgewater, Hartland, Killington, Plymouth, Pomfret, Quechee, Reading, Windsor, West Windsor and points between and beyond for 169 years.

I got the impression that many of our supporters were not just donating from their excess. They were actually sharing what they have with us. A big difference.

It felt like people were digging deep, as if it wasn’t just another handout for some good cause to them. It seemed more personal. Some told us that the local news coverage we produce plays a big role in how they experience, understand and enjoy the community. They claim that reading the paper is an integral part of their weekly rhythm and something they look forward to

Those kinds of comments inspire us. To keep going. To do better.

It seemed like many were picking us up, sharing our pain and joining our fight to keep the Standard going – as our friends, as our partners, as our backers. It felt like they were investing in us and counting on us to stay strong to help the community stay strong.

We are humbled, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.

I like that term, sharing. It reminds me, Phil and our staff that we’re not in this alone. That the responsibility to produce – and pay for – the local journalism that makes life here better is not just our problem. Rather, a lot of people who share in the benefit of our journalism are invested, and they’re offering whatever they can share to help keep this going.

Thank you, friends.

As the Standard begins its 2022 Annual Appeal, I hope you’ll take a moment to consider whether you’re willing to share some of your resources with us so that we can continue informing and fostering a wholesome connection among our neighbors in the communities we serve.

For the next few weeks, we’ll use this space to talk about what the Standard and local journalism mean to our community — the value it brings to life around here. If you’re able, please send us a check at PO Box 88, Woodstock, VT 05091 or go to our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website at www.thevermontstandard.com/annual-appeal to make a contribution with your credit card.

The Standard is not a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your gift can’t be deducted from your taxes, but your gift will be helping to ensure that the Standard will be around to serve our community for a long time.

It’s been tough sledding for the Standard this year. Although COVID itself finally eased up, its residual effects on the local economy have lingered and continue to inhibit our revenue stream. That, of course, on top of all the well-known factors that have severely cut into the advertising revenue that once supported newspapers like the Standard all throughout the country.

Regardless of our ad revenue challenges, we know that our community desperately needs the type of local journalism that the Standard provides. Especially right now. I’ll have more to say about that in the next couple of weeks as our 2022 annual appeal continues.

If you contributed last year, we hope you’ll consider doing so again. We need you. And if you didn’t but can offer us help now, you’ll be one of those we’re searching for to fill the gap in what we need to make ends meet this year.

Thank you for the distinct honor it is to serve you.

Newspapers Are In a Race Against the Clock

Woodstock

Throughout the country newspapers are in a fight for their lives.          Here too.

Race Against The Clock VT Standard Front Page

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