Getting Enough Vitamin D Could Save Your Life
By William F. Supple, Jr., Ph. D.
Our ancestors evolved under the rays of the equatorial sun. Skin produces Vitamin D (VitD) when exposed to specific frequencies of ultraviolet light. Our bodies advantageously incorporated this readily available, natural resource into many aspects of growth, development and function. As man migrated away from the sun, skin mutated thereby reducing melanin content in an attempt to maximize essential VitD production. Over the past half-century, effective technologies to eliminate all cutaneously-generated VitD synthesis have been developed as part of a systematic vilification of the sun in regard to its contribution to general health. Consequently, the incidence of the diseases that plague the developed world (cancers, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases) are at the highest levels ever, with no ceiling in sight.
Presently, the Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU of Vitamin D3 daily for most adults. This amount of VitD is enough to keep bones from crumbling and the development of rickets, a bone-deforming disease, but not much else. Consider this: when young 20-year-old skin is exposed to full spectrum sunlight, the equivalent of 25,000 IU VitD is made in 15 minutes. A healthy adult will use approximately 3,500 IU of VitD per day. In the absence of UVB light, the recommended 600 IU per day quickly leads to VitD starvation. Consequently, most people are VitD deficient, some severely so.
It is estimated that 75 percent of the population of the United States has blood levels of VitD below 20 ng/ml; indicative of a state of VitD starvation. Since most foods provide insignificant amounts of VitD, the state of chronic starvation is compounded by sunscreen use, air pollution, skin color, indoor lifestyle, obesity, age and living at a northern (greater) latitude. For example, due to the angle of the sun in the northern hemisphere during October to May, the VitD-generating UVB rays deflect off the atmosphere, resulting in no cutaneous generation of VitD. So even though the sun may feel nice on the face in the winter, it’s not generating any VitD.
Vitamin D is really not a vitamin at all, but is one of the most potent hormones in the body. The VitD made by the skin or taken by mouth circulates in the blood and is converted to the active hormonal form by the kidney or at the target tissue receptor. Just about every cell in the body has a receptor for VitD — again suggesting how critical VitD is in cellular function. The active form of VitD, 1,25(OH)D3, is the interesting substance involved in the beneficial health effects of VitD. 1,25(OH)D3 attaches to its receptors throughout the body and affects the transcription of genes. The expression of information in genes is basically the recipe of life; how new tissue should be synthesized or made, and how systems and organs should function. Common sense suggests that removing an essential biological substance like 1,25(OH)D3 will result in adverse consequences.
In the United States, many disorders have distinct North-South gradients, with the incidence of various autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis), certain cancers (breast, prostate, colon, lung) and some cardiovascular diseases more prevalent at greater latitudes. In the Southern hemisphere, the gradient is reversed South-North, yet remains consistent with regard to latitude. Greater latitudes result in less sunlight exposure, consequently less VitD production and generally lower measured serum VitD levels in people living in higher latitudes. A recent study involving thousands of subjects summed up the risk of not getting enough VitD succinctly in its title: Strong associations between 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations with all-cause, cardiovascular, cancer and respiratory disease mortality (Schottker, et. al, 2013).
Take-home message: the lower the level of VitD, the greater the chance of death.
Vitamin D, Inflammation and Disease
Chronic inflammation kills…it’s just a matter of how and when.
Vitamin D is necessary for the proper function of the immune system. Without adequate Vitamin D, the immune system disrupts healthy tissue function by mistakenly attacking it, causing inflammation – generally referred to as autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease affects widely different systems in the body, but shares a common feature: immune system dysfunction producing chronic inflammation. Atheriosclerosis, psoriasis, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancers of epithelial origin (colon, breast, prostate, lung), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are examples of autoimmune diseases affecting disparate tissue types from blood vessels to skin to brain cells. However, these conditions all share a common cause: inflammation resulting, in many instances, from vitamin D deficiency. Correct the vitamin D deficiency and remove the inflammation that may be at the root of the autoimmune disease.
Not surprisingly, many of the side-effect ridden prescription drugs that offer temporary help with some of these conditions affect the immune system in much the same manner as does VitD. As an example, by modulating the function of tumor necrosis factor, Infliximab (trade name Remicade) reduces inflammation but not without great cost. Without adequate VitD, the immune system does not function properly. The immune system ‘misreads’ signals and attacks healthy tissue causing inflammation. Inflammation causes the symptoms of autoimmune disease. Chronic inflammation is often a precursor to the development of a variety of serious conditions mentioned above. Correct the VitD deficiency to normalize immune system function, and, hopefully, avoid serious problems.
What to do
If most of this information is new to you, you’re not alone. Many will appreciate that there must be consequences of removing an essential biological substance like VitD. Those consequences are expressed as the rampant growth of autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Start getting some sensible sun exposure during the summer months. Sunburns are associated with elevated risk of melanoma, sensible sun exposure is not.
Most must supplement in the winter months to avoid VitD starvation. Take vitamin D3; this is the type of vitamin D that our bodies incorporate best. Vitamin D2, which is an expensive prescription form of VitD, is of questionable value as studies have shown it to be 87 percent less bioactive than a comparable dose of D3. Furthermore, buy VitD3 in small quantities, a month’s supply at most, as VitD potency rapidly degrades when exposed to air. Buying the garbage can size at Costco is pointless since the expiration countdown starts once the can is opened.
How much Vitamin D do you need?
Conventional thinking among various VitD scientists and physicians is that between 2,000 and 5,000 IU per day is appropriate for most healthy adults. While these amounts may seem like a lot, keep in mind that the body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IUs of vitamin D after 10-15 minutes of full body summer sun exposure. Vitamin D toxicity is very rare. It can happen to those who take 40,000 IU a day for a couple of months or longer. And in such isolated instances, the treatment is to simply stop taking the additional VitD until blood levels drop. It is impossible to ‘overdose’ from sun-generated VitD as there are checks and balances in place to prevent overproduction. Have you ever seen an unhealthy looking lifeguard?
Get your VitD level tested. A simple blood test can tell you what you need to know. Depending on the extent of the deficiency, the amount of VitD and the time necessary to get into a specific range will vary. The following table is a rough guideline for assessing VitD status:
|Vitamin D Status||Serum Level|
|Deficient||0 – 30 ng/ml|
|Insufficient||31 – 39 ng/ml|
|Sufficient||40 – 60 ng/ml|
|Ideal||61 – 90 ng/ml|
As a very general rule of thumb, all other things being equal, a tablet containing 5,000 IU of VitD3 will get serum levels around 50 ng/ml after one to two months of daily use.
In some diseases, researchers have studied the benefits of high doses of vitamin D. If you have a disease for which research has shown there may be a benefit in taking larger amounts of vitamin D, and if you would like to consider taking more than 10,000 IU/day, work with your doctor.
Test your vitamin D [25(OH)D] levels every 3 months and make sure that your blood levels are within a safe and healthy range.
If you have an inflammation-based condition that you think might benefit from VitD, do some research—maybe there is a VitD connection. Be an advocate for your own well-being and those around you. Involve your healthcare provider.
If you are in good health with no known inflammation-based disorders, keep it that way. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The common sense of VitD coupled with the growing body of peer-reviewed, scientifically-valid studies examining the role of VitD in general health is compelling. Inflammation, muscle strength and growth, and the genetic basis of aging itself are all intimately related to VitD. The amazing story that is VitD is just beginning to be told, make sure you’re around to benefit from it.
QUIZ: Are you smarter than a lizard? Cold-blooded animals sun themselves to get warm right? Wrong. Lizards injected with VitD prior to being placed in the sun don’t sun themselves as long as lizards injected with a placebo. Furthermore, the effect is dose-dependent; the more VitD that’s injected into the lizard, the less time it spends in the sun. The lizard is measuring blood levels of VitD and regulating its sun exposure based on that measure. The lizard is ‘smart’ enough to go into the sun to get its VitD. Do you go in the sun?
On a personal note, I was plagued by plaque psoriasis for 20 years. I eradicated it with a combination of vitamin D3 and folic acid seven years ago. My serum levels are between 80-110 ng/ml. My wife suffered from ulcerative colitis which was eliminated as well once we realized the inflammation-based link between both disparate conditions. Both diseases did not respond to traditional treatments, yet were wiped out by simple vitamin D. Absolutely amazing!
William F. Supple, Jr., Ph. D. received his doctorate in Neuroscience from Dartmouth. He is one of the founders of StarPower LifeSciences, a not-for-profit educational foundation whose mission is to spread enlightenment regarding the power of Vitamin D in health, disease and longevity. More information about the foundation, its mission and Vitamin D can be found at StarPowerLifeSciences.org.
Senior Living Trends
By Clara Rose Thornton
I found myself watching “Cocoon” (Ron Howard, 1985), again after all these years. Its initial scenes of retirement community life seem to jump from the screen, its colorfully clad men and women joking and dancing and flirting. Two men engage in locker room humor as they stroll down a hallway to see a friend; a few ladies roll their hips in mock seduction as they burn calories to pop music behind an instructor.
Despite the 1980s Hollywood chic, what came to mind was a real-life sentiment from Rick Grimes, president and CEO of Washington-based Assisted Living Federation of America, who I’d interviewed the day prior.
“When (people) move to a senior living community, their life changes. They become socially active, make friends, and start to take better care of themselves,” he said. “People often live at home by themselves in a house too big for them after their spouse has passed away,” he said. “They become socially isolated, may not take their medications properly, and often live in potentially dangerous situations — for example, trying to go up and down stairs. They might live a poor quality of life, and can get depressed.”
In the culture of senior living options — independent living communities, retirement villages, nursing homes, memory care or continuing care — the peer group looms tantamount to medical assistance. For a family that can no longer look after an ailing loved one in their home, or a single senior or couple for whom an isolated environment isn’t ideal, the daily energy and support offered within community is life-giving. And of course, as with the “Cocoon” coterie, opportunities for dancing and flirting are therapeutic at any age.
Yet in 2013, as we continue to clear the smoke of the Great Recession, the senior living industry faces setbacks and concerns manifesting in new trends. Medicare and social security cuts at the federal level, combined with facility funding cuts at the state level; a dip in occupancy numbers while creative solutions for aging in place increase; and efforts to meet evolving technological standards lie among top concerns.
On April 10, the New York Times article, “Health care and military spending bear the brunt of proposed cuts,” reported that President Obama’s “budget would require $57 billion in higher payments by Medicare beneficiaries, cut $306 billion in projected Medicare payments to health care providers and squeeze $19 billion out of Medicaid, the program for low-income people.” [As of this writing no official budget has been approved.] In Vermont, cuts that took effect on Oct. 1, 2012 precipitated the loss of $16,000 in state funding and more than $50,000 in federal funding for senior care, according to an August 17, 2010 Brattleboro Reformer article, “State, federal budget cuts threaten senior services.”
Industry leaders are optimistic
Journalist George Yedinak at Senior Housing News writes, “After almost four years of economic challenges, the United States is starting to show further signs of recovery, but increasing costs and funding cuts are the ‘new normal’ for senior living. The senior living industry feels that this shift is not a new normal but is just the business reality of caring for aging Americans. With these signs and the slowly improving housing market, providers, communities and consumers are finding confidence as a new foundation congeals.” (“Top Ten Trends for Senior Housing 2013,” January 7, 2013)
“We are not struggling. Business is growing,” Grimes said.
“Yes. The recession did impact the ability of some seniors to move to an assisted living community because, in part, they couldn’t sell their home or it was reduced in value,” he said. In 2009, the national average for a private room at a nursing home was $219 daily, or $79,935 annually, while a semi-private room was $198 daily, or $72,270 annually. A one-bedroom apartment or private room with private bath in an assisted living community averaged $3,131 monthly, or $37,572 annually. Many were unable to meet costs. Seniors stayed in their homes longer, and attractive alternatives to the standard housing model emerged, such as “granny pods,” or MEDCottages, which at an $85,000 to $125,000 one-time fee is a fraction of ongoing facility rates.
But in late 2009, America’s real estate market began a steadying ascent due to interest rates being historically low, and senior housing construction and investment increased.
Building Design and Construction reports, “The senior housing segment fell off the cliff along with the rest of the housing market during the recession, but it has bounced back in the past couple of years. In 2011, this market had its best performance since its peak years of 2006–2007, with more than $25 billion worth of transactions closed.” (“8 trends shaping today’s senior housing,” January 3, 2013) ALFA cites 2008 as a peak year, showing figures that assisted living construction activity in 2013 has surpassed. (“Housing Fundamentals and Trends in Senior Living,” Assisted Living Surpasses Prior Peak graph, May 7, 2013).
Given re-invigoration of investment and the rise of supply to meet demand—10,000 Americans turn 65 every day— how are these new facilities envisioned, how will they deal with federal cuts, and how will computer and Internet technologies and natural wellness trends be integrated, cultural developments that push older buildings and standards toward obsolescence?
The future of affordability may look something like the new Dana Strand Senior Living Apartments in Los Angeles. Designed by KTGY Architects for ROEM Development Corporation, the Leader in Energy and Environmental Design Gold-standard, 100-unit complex repurposed an underutilized urban infill site. Its one-bedroom apartments measure 540 square feet. The $22.3 million community features wellness programs, a computer center, media room, lending library, and a common room. Residents can take ESL and computer classes. ROEM Development Corporation works with low-income seniors receiving project-based Section 8 rental subsidies. Variations of this model can fit both independent and assisted living.
Said Grimes, “Everyone wants to live at home. But these communities are purpose-built for seniors and are thus inherently safer, with, non-skid flooring, handrails, no stairs. Note the use of ‘community’ instead of ‘facility’. A facility implies institutional care, and no one wants to live in an institution. The community becomes home.” Here’s wishing for affordable and functional homes in 2014 and beyond.
The Byerlys of Jericho: You Call This Retirement?
By Phyl Newbeck
It’s hard to imagine a more active couple than Ken and Priscilla Byerly of Jericho. Whether it’s tilling the garden by hand, volunteering, skiing, writing or playing the piano, at ages 78 and 77 respectively, the couple always seems to be doing something.
The duo met at a cocktail party in New York City and dated for a few months — including a ski trip to Vermont — but, as Ken put it “it didn’t take.” Three years later, he saw her in a lift line at Stratton and called out to her, asking her to wait. Despite the fact that he had her name wrong, she did wait, and this time they clicked. “I like this woman. We can do things together and we’ve been doing that ever since,” said Ken.
Although the couple’s relationship began in Vermont, it took some time before they relocated to the Green Mountain State. While living in New York, they came up to ski almost every weekend in the winter, but when Ken took early retirement, they decided to head out west. Although he was born in rural North Carolina, Ken had attended the University of Montana on an athletic scholarship, playing football and basketball and graduating with a degree in journalism, so the couple relocated to Bozeman, Montana. “We did nothing but ski and hike,” said Ken. “We made friends and wandered around the West. After about three years, we started to miss the East, particularly the culture and the colors of autumn.”
Given their history of skiing in Vermont, the state seemed like a good option. The couple flew east and spent three days re-acquainting themselves with the area. Eventually, Ken left Priscilla in charge, asking her to find a house with a fireplace and a view. Their Jericho home has both, although a neighbor’s trees are starting to slightly impinge on their stunning vista of the Adirondacks. The couple continues to diligently work to improve the property. The first thing they did was remove a big plastic swimming pool and in its place is a series of gardens. Priscilla is in charge of the flowers and berries while Ken rules the vegetable domain. The couple estimates that during the summer, three-quarters of their vegetable intake comes from their garden, with some root crops continuing to nourish them throughout the winter.
Although Ken was very happy with his retirement, Priscilla, a former junior high school teacher, decided to go back to work, and got a job teaching Spanish at UVM. She retired for the second time in December of 2006. Retirement, however, does not mean doing nothing. Priscilla goes to a local Elder Enrichment program, volunteers with Road to Recovery (an American Cancer Society program) and takes piano lessons. This winter, she managed to hit the slopes 20 times at a variety of Vermont resorts, just slightly below Ken’s total of 25 days.
Once the skis are put away, the couple enjoys hiking together. They completed the Long Trail over the course of three summers and then Ken set his sights on the Appalachian Trail. Priscilla has hiked several portions of the trail and Ken was finally able to call himself an end-to-ender in 2005, just before his 71st birthday. “I miss it,” he said. “I still love to hit the trail and see the white blazes. That was one of our great adventures.”
With the trail completed, Ken needed a new goal. He had worked as a journalist before a second career as a stockbroker, editing the Tidewater News and working as a reporter for the Washington Post as well as working as a reporter and editor for Newsday in New York. With time on his hands, he decided to focus on writing and in short order, penned three novels and two short story compilations. The books are self-published and Ken is trying to figure out how best to market them. Several area libraries have at least some of the books in their collections. “The short stories are from my own life,” he said. “If I hadn’t written them, I might have spent a lot of money on psychiatrists. By writing, you put it all out there. It’s very therapeutic.”
At this point, Ken has no plans for any future novels, but he continues to write short stories, keeping a folder with all his story ideas.
The couple thinks the best way to stay young is to stay active. “Once you get in the habit of working out, if you don’t work out you feel like you have a hangover,” said Ken. “I’m driven to do this.”
The first thing the couple talks about at breakfast is what kind of exercise they’ll partake in that day. “After that,” said Ken, “the rest of the day just fits together.”
Ken also believes it’s good to have a goal in life. “If you have a quest, you’ll become consumed by it,” he said, using hiking the Appalachian Trail, skiing out West, writing his books and maximizing his time with Priscilla as examples. “If you have a quest and you care about it, it’s not the finish that’s important. You want the journey to go on and on.”
History Lives at the Vermont Genealogical Library
Genetic genealogy on the horizon
By Ethan de Seife
At a small library in Colchester, a group of dedicated volunteers is writing the history of the state of Vermont, one family at a time.
The Vermont Genealogical Library, administered by the Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society, is an all-volunteer, non-profit, donation-funded organization whose rich resources are available to anyone – from the amateur family researcher to the professional historian – for a modest fee. The mission of the VGL is to research and make available to the public information about the human interactions that undergird every occurrence in Vermont’s long and rich history: births, deaths, marriages, relocations. But the rich lode of such data is only the beginning of the historian’s quest, according to VGL President Ed McGuire.
McGuire likens the lists of names, dates and locations to the “skeleton” of any family’s history. “Doing family history,” he notes, “is putting the flesh on that skeleton.”
To note that one’s great-great-grandfather picked up his family and moved from, say, Barre to St. Johnsbury, is interesting enough in its own right. But to understand the historical causes of why the family moved – that is the stuff of history.
“Throughout the tapestry of even my own tiny little family,” McGuire says, “I can see them intersect with world events. Wars influence them, and they influence the wars. It makes history come alive.” To uncover such historical linkages in one’s own family history is, as McGuire puts it, to be inspired by “the art of genealogy.”
The VGL houses more than 4,000 books that are of vital use to Vermont family historians, as well as access to four major genealogical databases. Moreover, they frequently work with other regional, national, and international genealogical societies to provide for their patrons the information necessary to trace their family lineage. So dedicated are the VGL’s volunteers to the preservation and dissemination of Vermont history that they have, on more than one occasion, participated in “scanning parties”: multi-day events in which volunteers gather together to convert reams and reams of historical documents into accessible, searchable PDF files.
Though a large percentage of Vermonters can trace their lineage back to Francophone Canada and/or the British Isles, the state’s roster of ethnicities is larger and richer than might be expected. So, even though the name of the “parent” organization reflects Vermont’s strong French-Canadian history, the library’s purview is broader than that, aimed at serving the genealogical inquiries of any and every Vermonter.
As a pastime and passion, genealogy has exploded since the dawn of the Internet Age, in part due to websites such as ancestry.org, and to organizations such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Also known as the Mormon Church, it is the true pioneer of modern genealogy, having for decades made freely available vast quantities of family history that, according to McGuire, would have been lost forever without the Church’s dedicated work.
If the Mormon Church represents the past and present of genealogy, the ability to sequence one’s genome represents its future. Websites such as 23andme.com use DNA sampling to trace users’ lineages, as well as provide potentially valuable medical information. “Genetic genealogy” will soon prove itself to be an invaluable tool, even for small libraries such as the VGL, according to McGuire. “We’re at the point where we’ve got our toes in, and we’re moving toward our ankles,” he says. Though he believes that this particular method is still in its infancy, McGuire asserts that genetic genealogy will prove itself more and more useful in the coming years.
Genealogy has, in recent years, become especially popular with retirees, both in Vermont and around the country. McGuire notes that “the vast majority” of the VGL’s patrons are at or near retirement, and many are already expert genealogists, in part because organizations like the VGL significantly lower the barriers to embarking on what might at first glance seem a forbiddingly complex pursuit. Many patrons get bitten by “the genealogy bug,” finding that tracking down one’s family history is at times difficult, but highly rewarding.
McGuire refers to one patron who, through the assistance and resources of the VGL, tracked down the father whom she never knew, and flew down to Florida to reestablish a long-severed family link. Creating such “success stories” is both the mission and the satisfaction of the volunteers of the Vermont Genealogical Library.
Patron Peg Eddy, a retired banker and Burlington resident, says the library’s Saturday morning classes have been of particular value in tracking down her family history. In conducting her research, she has uncovered ancestors who were present at the hanging of Major John André, the British soldier who was Benedict Arnold’s co-conspirator in espionage.
Eddy notes that while the classes and instructors themselves never fail to enlighten and inform, equally valuable is the time spent talking to other patrons. “Sometimes, you find someone with one of your lines – you’re tenth cousins or something,” Eddy says. “Getting feedback and advice from others is probably one of my favorite things about the society. It’s a nice group of people who are very willing to help you.”
The Vermont Genealogy Library
Dupont Building (off Hegeman Avenue)
Ft. Ethan Allen, Colchester
The Vermont Genealogy Library provides resources, classes and assistance for those interested in researching Vermont ancestry. Volunteers staff the library, help visitors with research, conduct presentations to outside groups and work to preserve Vermont’s vital records
There are over 4,000 books on-site covering genealogy, history, maps, city directories and vital records covering all the New England states, New York, Quebec, Ontario and Canada’s Maritime Provinces.
Other volumes discuss how to research English, Irish, French-Canadian, German, Welsh and Italian ancestry. The library also has over 60 volumes of church records for Vermont providing records of baptisms, marriages and burials.
The microfiche collection contains over 1.3 million Quebec marriages and the Vermont Vital Record collection from 1760 is available on microfilm.
The VT Genealogy Library provides members with free, on-site access to the following databases:
Ancestry.com World Deluxe (Library Edition)
LaFrance Collection (Quebec Vital Rcords)
America’s Civil War Database (All states)
AmericanAncestors.org (early New England, NY and other colonial records)
Collectively, these four databases provide extensive records covering the home provinces and states of over 90 percent of Vermont’s current population.
The Library is also home to the Vermont French-Canadian Genealogy Society and its extensive collection of records related to French-Canadian immigrants to Vermont.
Saturday morning classes are presented on numerous topics related to family history during each spring and fall. These classes cover research techniques, tools and where to locate critical records. Trips to nearby records repositories in New England, New York and Quebec occur once or twice a year.
For more information, visit the Vermont Genealogical Library at http://www.vtgenlib.org/index.php, and the Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society at http://www.vt-fcgs.org/.
Try a New Outdoor Adventure This Summer
By Tim Simard
Vermont summers always feel a little too short, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of time to get outside and try something new. We live in one of the most perfect places for outdoor recreation in the United States, with close proximity to rolling mountains, winding rivers and deep lakes.
This summer get outside and try an activity you’re not familiar with, like kayaking or canoeing. Backpacking on the Long Trail might be your summer passion, but have you tried stand-up paddleboarding along the shores of Lake Champlain? While cycling Vermont’s backroads can offer a scenic experience, mountain biking the Green Mountain’s vast single-track trail network delivers a new kind of adrenaline rush.
Each of these outdoor sports requires some sort of investment, whether it’s buying the latest and greatest equipment or shopping around for deals on lightly used gear. But the money you put into these activities can have a big payoff; you might just discover a passion you never knew you had.
Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding
It’s no secret that water dominates Vermont’s Champlain Valley. From Lake Champlain to inland rivers and ponds, this corner of the state offers a wide variety of places to paddle. Canoeing and kayaking have long been summer pastimes in Vermont, but stand-up paddleboarding is becoming increasingly popular. This ancient mode of transportation for people of the South Pacific is now a trendy fitness activity. On a surfboard-type boat, paddlers propel themselves forward or backward while standing up.
Before jumping into canoeing, kayaking or paddleboarding, there are many opportunities to demo or rent equipment for these activities in our local area. Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, based in Stowe, has an outpost on the Waterbury Reservoir at Waterbury Center State Park. Visitors to the park can rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards and try them out on the generally placid reservoir. Umiak also hosts canoe and kayak river trips on the Lamoille and Winooski rivers.
Burlington’s North Beach Park is also a popular place to rent boats for trial. South Burlington-based Canoe Imports rents a variety of boats from the beach front. For those who want to take a bigger step and actually purchase a canoe, kayak or paddleboard, plus the accompanying equipment, it’s best to call Canoe Imports and schedule a personal demo afternoon or a weekend rental, said Eliza Barnard, retail manager. These demo opportunities can also come with helpful lessons from American Canoe Association-certified instructors, Barnard adds.
“It’s definitely helpful for people to try before they buy, and we recommend that people come in and talk to any of our staff to help them gauge what kind of boat would be best for them,” she said. But those with more ambitious plans might want something bigger.
What to buy
Purchasing a new canoe, kayak or paddleboard can seem daunting. There are countless brands and a host of styles that buyers can choose from. In addition to demoing all sorts of kinds of boats, Barnard recommends researching different brands by stopping by an outfitter. Most first-time kayak buyers purchase a 10-foot boat and set off for Lake Champlain quite pleased.
“Starter boats of that size are good introductory boats and perfect for smaller bodies of water, but we find that people tend to want something more stable that performs better for longer distances in places such as the ocean and Lake Champlain,” Barnard said.
Touring boats, which run between 15 to 16 feet in length, also have better storage capacity. Boats of this size are good for overnight trips or fishing, Barnard said.
Stand-up paddleboards also come in a number of shapes and sizes depending on a boater’s weight and plans for using it. Just like a kayak, longer paddleboards offer better stability for longer trips.
“Paddleboards are definitely very popular right now and we have these available for demos and instructions as well,” Barnard said.
The initial investments in purchasing a canoe, kayak or paddleboard can seem steep — anywhere from $600 to $1,400, depending on style and brand. And that doesn’t include the additional costs of buying paddles, life preservers and other accessories which can run upwards of $300. While the upfront cost might seem expensive, Barnard said, equipment can last decades if maintained properly.
Where to go
The shores of Lake Champlain feature some of the best canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding around. With views of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Vermont’s lakefront communities and the Green Mountains, it’s a popular spot with boating enthusiasts. Lake Champlain, however, can sometimes be difficult for the new paddler. Power boats frequently create large wakes, and summer storms bring rough waters.
For a large, calmer body of water, try paddling the Waterbury Reservoir from Little River or Waterbury Center state parks. Power boat speeds are often kept to a minimum and there are numerous inlets to explore along this undeveloped shoreline. Lake Iroquois on the Williston/Hinesburg town line and Shelburne Pond in Shelburne are often quieter alternatives. For those looking to paddle Vermont’s larger rivers, the Winooski, Lamoille and Missisquoi rivers are excellent for all boating levels.
Vermont features one of the oldest, proudest hiking and backpacking traditions in the United States. Trail builders started cutting the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail over high ridges of the Green Mountains more than 100 hundred years ago, and backpacking has been popular with Vermonters ever since.
Vermont boasts a multitude of hiking trails and getting started is easy. Nearly all communities in the Champlain Valley and beyond have some sort of trail network that is perfect for the uninitiated. New hikers often catch the hiking bug after taking an easy stroll in the woods to an overlook on Lake Champlain. Pretty soon, they’re tackling the higher peaks of Camel’s Hump or Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak at 4,393 feet.
Experts recommend purchasing a good pair of hiking boots as you begin taking more hikes.
“Taking care of your feet is the most important thing you can do when on the trail and buying a pair of sturdy hiking boots should be someone’s first purchase,” said Jesse Haller, manager of Middlebury Mountaineers in Middlebury.
“Once you buy the boots, break them in for about a month by taking short, easy hikes. After that, you’ll be ready to take longer hikes and overnights. You don’t want to buy a new pair of boots the night before you head for a six- or seven-day backpacking trip,” Haller adds.
What to buy
Each foot and each person are different. Haller recommends that people stop by their local outdoor shop and spend time trying on a variety of boots. A good pair of long-lasting hiking boots can often run more than $100. Often, the sturdier and longer-lasting boots come with a higher price tag, but they last far longer than a lower end boot, Haller said.
After they find the right pair, new hikers can then start looking at other gear. Day hikers may be content with a smaller backpack that ranges in price from $80 to $200. For hikers looking to branch out into overnight backpacking excursions on the Long Trail, a larger overnight pack might work best. These packs should have enough room to carry food, water, extra clothing, a camp stove, a sleeping bag and possibly a tent if a hiker will be staying away from shelters or lean-tos.
Purchasing equipment for backpacking trips can sometimes get expensive, Haller admits, although there are affordable options.
“We can set a beginner up with a good pack, sleeping bag, camp stove and other accessories for between $500 to $800,” Haller said.
Purchasing used gear from a consignment shop, such as the consignment section at Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, is another option for a less expensive backpacking set up, Haller said. No matter the price tag, backpackers should make sure the gear they get is best for them. Backpackers who take their trips only in the summer probably don’t need more expensive cold weather gear, Haller said.
“You want to make sure your whole trip is a pleasurable experience,” he said. “Initially, you might bring too much equipment on your first backpacking trip, but you’ll learn as you backpack more what you need and don’t need to bring.”
Where to go
In Vermont, it’s best to start small before climbing the higher mountains on the longer, more difficult trails. Take day hikes up a few local mountains. Camel’s Hump, Mount Hunger and Mount Abraham offer moderately challenging trails with great views from the summit. Try a loop hike over Mount Mansfield’s rocky summit for a greater challenge. The Vermont State Parks website, www.vermontstateparks.com, has a list of hikes for various skill levels.
If you’re looking to begin backpacking this summer, pack your overnight backpack with you what you would bring and walk around your neighborhood or nearby park fully loaded. That way, you’ll get a good idea of how and what to pack, and how heavy your pack will be, before hitting the trail.
For your first overnight trip, pick a place that’s relatively close to a parking area in case problems arise and you need to leave the woods quickly. The Moosalamoo National Recreation Area in the Green Mountain National Forest has several good overnight locations for beginners. The Hump Brook Tenting Area on the slopes of Camel’s Hump is another good spot for new backpackers looking to climb the famous mountain during a two-day trip. Once you’re comfortable with backpacking for one night, you’ll be even more prepared to tackle extended trips throughout the Green Mountains.
Mountain biking has always been a popular adventure sport in Vermont and in recent years it’s become even more trendy. New trails and recognition in the outdoor sports media have made Vermont a premier mountain biking destination for adventurous tourists. As locals, we have access to some of the best single-track riding in the country, from the easy-to-intermediate trails in Colchester’s Sunny Hollow, to white knuckle drops in Waterbury’s Perry Hill trail system.
Those that want to try out the sport can stop by a mountain bike center and rent or demo different kinds of bikes. Kingdom Trails in Burke and the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston have rentals available to guests. Mountain bikes come in a variety of types, from front suspension to full suspension to downhill-only models.
For beginners, the best kind of mountain bike should have a 29-inch wheel, with a front suspension system that can lock during uphill climbs, recommends Brett Leeper, sales floor manager and mountain bike expert at Montpelier’s Onion River Sports. These kinds of entry-level bikes will give casual riders an easier experience on rocky and bumpy terrain commonly found on single-track trails, he said.
“If this is a new sport for you, finding a bike with a 29-inch wheel kind of shrinks the impact of the rocks and bumps and roots and helps with the feel of the trail,” Leeper said.
What to buy
As with any sport, there are countless brands, styles and sizes to consider when purchasing a new mountain bike. Visiting a mountain bike retailer with an experienced staff can help put consumers at ease. Technicians can help find the right size and explain what each bike can do, Leeper said.
Along with a 29-inch wheel mountain bike, beginners will also need to choose which kind of suspension system would work best for them. Bikes with full suspension have shocks situated below the handlebars and below the seat. While these bikes are ideal for the rough and rocky terrain on many advanced mountain bike trails, Leeper suggests beginners purchase a bike with only a front-end suspension that can lock. A lockable suspension system allows riders to climb hilly terrain easier and not fight against a bike’s shocks.
Leeper said beginner mountain bikes can range in price from $150 to $400, but he recommends riders look at higher-end bikes that are more durable and will withstand repeated rides on rough terrain.
“If you really want to get into the sport, spend a little more and get a bike with better shifting options and better brakes,” Leeper said.
“If you keep your biked tuned up and maintain it frequently, it’ll last many, many years. I always say that bikes are machines and machines need maintenance,” he adds.
For higher-end beginner bikes, consumers can look to spend between $800 and $1,200. Riders will also want to buy a helmet, bike clothing and bike shoes. Beginners may also want to consider purchasing bike pedals that allow shoes to clip and lock into the pedal. Some riders find this uncomfortable at first, but it allows them to have more control and power while pedaling on single-track trails, Leeper said. These additional accessories can cost an additional $350 to $400.
Where to go
Many Vermont trails have technical challenges that experienced mountain bikers love to ride. But there are easier routes to start on. Colchester’s Sunny Hollow trails feature a number of fun trails that whiz and wind through the trees. In Montpelier, the city’s North Branch Trail is popular with local riders and beginner bikers, as well. Even Waterbury’s Perry Hill trail network, renowned for its challenges, has trails that beginners will enjoy after they climb the first, steep hill.
Vermont has an estimated 1,000 miles of single-track trails, many of them known only to locals. So to discover a good route, stop by your local bike shop and ask for recommendations. You can also visit Fellowship of the Wheel’s website, www.fotwheel.org, for trail information. Fellowship of the Wheel is a local nonprofit mountain bike organization that helps build and maintain mountain bike trails throughout the Champlain Valley.
Senior Passes Good for a Lifetime at Vermont State Parks
Senior passes are available for U.S. citizens over the age of 62. For $10, these lifetime passes provide seniors free entrance into many national parks and in some cases discounts for their non-pass-holding companions. If the park charges a per-person entrance fee, the pass admits the pass-holding senior as well as three guests. Fees charged for activities like boat launching, swimming and camping qualify for a 50 percent discount.
The pass is non-transferable, but is valid for a lifetime. If you mail in documentation to buy the pass, the fee is $20, but if you stop at one of the six issuing centers available in Vermont (see below) the fee is only $10 if purchased in person. Make sure to bring your ID to show age and proof of citizenship, as the passes are only available to those that qualify in age and are U.S. citizens.
Green Mountain NF – Rutland (main office) • 747-6700
Green Mountain NF Manchester • 362-2307
Green Mountain NF in Middlebury • 388-4362
Green Mountain NF Rochester • 767-4261
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock • 457-3368
Missisquoi NWR in Swanton • 868-4781
William L. McKone: Channeling the Past to Educate the Present
By Phyl Newbeck
Bill McKone isn’t the shy and retiring type. In fact, his idea of retirement is probably busier than the life of many working people and any shyness that was ever a part of his character (a highly unlikely proposition) has long since fled the scene. Writing, taking part in historical reenactments and working to preserve Irish heritage, the Cambridge man is a bundle of energy.
One of McKone’s main focuses these days is promoting his book “Vermont’s Irish Rebel.” The almost 600-page manuscript chronicles the life of John Lonergan, an Irishman who immigrated to Vermont as a boy and formed the Emmet Guards, which McKone describes as Vermont’s only ethnic military unit. The Emmet Guards fought in the Civil War and Lonergan led the charge against Confederate General George Pickett on July 3, 1863.
McKone grew interested in Lonergan during a Celtic feast called Samhain, which is similar to Halloween and occurs at the same time (with turnips standing in for pumpkins). McKone had read about Lonergan as a minor historical figure and insists that during Samhain, he reached out from the grave to beg McKone to tell his story. The research and writing took a decade, during which McKone made frequent trips to Ireland, where he found local pubs to be an excellent place to do research.
As he was completing his manuscript in 2010, McKone found he was less than enamored with the traditional publishing model. “The more I looked at it, the less attractive it was,” he said. “It’s a long food chain and everyone takes a bite.”
He decided to establish his own imprint, Brewster River Press. Self-publishing requires a good deal of self-promoting, but McKone, the epitome of an outgoing man, has never regretted his decision. He is willing to publish the works of others, but notes that it’s a niche market and he would only be interested in other historical works.
Born and raised in Texas, McKone was a linguist in the Army from 1955 to 1958. Given a choice between learning Korean and Czechoslovakian, he opted for the latter even though he wasn’t certain where the country was located. He continues to make money translating in the Czech, German, Russian and Slovak languages.
After his stint in the army, McKone joined the National Security Agency, resigning his post in 1984 over philosophical differences with the Reagan administration, and relocating to Vermont where he fell in love with the North Country.
McKone has a Master’s degree in Military History from Norwich University. For the last three years, he has served on the Governor’s sesquicentennial commission to raise awareness of Vermont’s role in the Civil War. He is also on the board of directors of the Chittenden County Historical Society where he is in charge of Civil War commemorative events. McKone takes part in historical re-enactments as president of the 18th Vermont Regiment and senior vice commander of the New Stannard Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. He jokes he has spent so much time in the itchy wool re-enactment uniforms that he could write a “slim volume” entitled A Re-enactor’s Guide to Weight Loss. McKone is involved in roughly ten re-enactment events annually, seeing his role as the portrayer of living history. He is less likely to charge around the battlefield and more likely to spend his time educating those present about battle tactics as well as the way of life of that era.
As befitting his name (he sometimes goes by Liam instead of William), McKone is on the Burlington Irish Heritage Festival committee. This year he was a featured speaker, providing information on the Irish role in the Civil War. The festival, which takes place unsurprisingly on St. Patrick’s Day, is generally an indoor event with a focus on music and dance, as well as history, but since next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the first such celebration in Burlington, McKone would like to have a parade down Church Street.
McKone is hoping a broad spectrum of history lovers will come to a celebration which will take place on July 27. The evening event entitled “the Heroes of Gettysburg Return Home” will commemorate the return of Lonergan’s battalion to the Green Mountain State. The Vermonters who fought were part of a nine-month troop rather than long term fighters. In late June, as their service was ending, they marched north — 120 miles in six days. During their march they ended up playing a crucial role in the third day of battle repelling a Confederate assault on Cemetery Ridge which is generally known as Pickett’s Charge. A week later, their enlistment up, they returned to Vermont where they were welcomed as heroes.
McKone noted wryly that he had originally intended to hold the celebration on July 20, which is closer to the return date of July 22, but the Burlington Brewers Festival will be taking place at that time, and while that might be an apt confluence he wanted the commemorative events to stand alone. The celebration will include a historical re-enactment, music, a one-act play and the dedication of a marker to honor Lonergan and the other Vermont heroes.
So, if you happen to see McKone around town, either marching in his itchy wool uniform or sitting down for a brew, make sure you’ve got some time to spare and an ear to lend. McKone’s knowledge of history is only surpassed by his ability to spin an entertaining tale.
Play With Kids Your Own Age
By Phyl Newbeck
Sometimes going out by yourself to bike, ski, hike or paddle feels like exercise, but if you add a friend or two to the mix it becomes play instead. Older Vermonters who like to mix a little social interaction with their exercise have a variety of groups they can join which will take that workout and turn it into playtime.
In February 2013, Nancy Hankey of Essex started the 50+ Keeping Active Fitness Group. Renn Niquette of Colchester has been on three of their outings. “I’m a walker and a hiker,” she said. “I joined because I like to stay active.”
Niquette said the group tends to go on outings that cover two to four miles in roughly 90 minutes. “It’s always nice to go out with a group because you can socialize along the way,” she said. “As you age, you appreciate the moment more. That includes taking time to enjoy both the companionship and the physical beauty of the scenery.”
In the summer, cyclists ranging in age from 50 to over 80 ride every Tuesday with the Silver Spokes. Informal President Steve Couzelis said most riders are in their 60s and 70s. In April, four members of the group got together to plan their rides for the summer. Most routes are in the 20-mile range, but one ride around Lake Champlain is 60 miles long and some of the Canadian rides are over 30 miles. Roughly 40 people are members of this informal, due-less club with 20-25 showing up for each ride. Couzelis said they average 12-13 mph with stops every twenty minutes or so to chat and regroup. They often break for lunch or coffee, as well. “We’re not a racing group,” he said. “We’re a social group.”
Some club members enjoy the rides so much that they get together on Fridays for less formal rides. At the end of the year, the group has a banquet with dinner and a guest speaker.
For skiers, the 55+ Club at Smugglers’ Notch offers companionship and educational programs for those 55 years of age and older for an annual fee of $30. From early December to late March, club members meet in the Village at Morse Mountain on Wednesday mornings for free coffee and pastries, trail reports and announcements, and to break up into groups based on interest and ability. Although some club members are former instructors or patrollers who barrel down double black diamond trails at warp speeds, others come to the club as complete novices, relishing the opportunity to learn from and with their peers.
Both the 55+ Club and the Silver Spokes members enjoy each other’s company enough to expand beyond their seasons. Although there are no regular meetings, in the summer, members of the 55+ Club stay in touch and stay active with a schedule, set in the spring, for weekly activities, usually on Wednesdays that include hiking, cycling, kayaking and an annual skeet shooting event. Conversely, in the winter members of the Silver Spokes can often be found on the slopes of Smugglers’ Notch on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Jeff LaBossiere is the organizer of a group called the Long Trail Running Club which was founded in 2009. Although the club has members of all ages, LaBossiere said it is common for older athletes to turn from road running to trail running as they get slower with age. “When avid runners have injuries,” he said “they turn to the trail because it’s far more forgiving than the road.”
The club has at least one organized run each week, but members also send out notices when they go out on runs on their own. LaBossiere noted that trail running is far more social than running on the road due to the slower place which allows for conversation. “Trail runners have a great sense of community,” he said, adding that he met his wife on a trail run.
Although not restricted to older members, groups like the Catamount Trail Association (cross-country/backcountry skiing), Champlain Kayak Club, Green Mountain Bicycling Club, Green Mountain Club (hiking) and Vermont Paddlers Club sponsor outings where a number of members are 50 and older. Leslie Carew, former touring chair of the bicycle club, believes at least 50 percent of the riders in the club’s touring section are over 50. Amy Otten, a member of the Catamount Trail Association Board of Directors, believes her group’s numbers are similar. She noted that on a recent multi-day ski outing, only two of the 23 participants were under the age of 50.
Rob Libby, President of the Champlain Kayak Club, estimates at least 60 percent of their membership is 50 or older with the majority of those in their 60s. There are five active members in their 70s. Two years ago, at age 43, Libby and his wife were the youngest out of 90 members, but recently some younger paddlers have joined.
At the Vermont Paddlers Club, Tony Shaw reported that almost half the club’s membership is over 50. Roughly one quarter of the members haven’t provided their date of birth, but of those who have, four are over 70, 15 are in their 60s and 17 are in their 50s. Although some of those members are no longer active paddlers, they still attend club functions like pot-luck suppers and slide shows.
When you get older, you don’t have your work peer group anymore,” said Couzelis. “I’ve been retired for 16 years and this is my second family.”
Niquette concurred, adding that “as you age, making connections and friends is really important.”
Otten noted that group outings bring people out on days when they might not otherwise be active. “Group enthusiasm makes marginal conditions better,” she said. “The fun is contagious when you ride with others,” Carew said. “Friends can almost turn a rainy day into a sunny one.”
Newton Baker: Marathon Man
By Jim Higgins
Newton Baker’s odometer hit the big 3-0 a few weeks ago, not bad for a 71-year-old body.
That’s 3-0 as in 30,000 race miles logged since he started running about 32 years ago.
His launch into a lifetime of running — and helping others enjoy the sport — was inspired by a six-hour knee operation after he demolished it playing intramural basketball at Middlebury College.
“I wasn’t supposed to play basketball, volleyball, or soccer ever again, so I needed something to do,” said the Waterbury-born Baker, who also pitched himself into a look-see by Boston Red Sox scouts.
To reach that magic 3-0 number, Baker has run 154 marathons, 32 24-hour races, “a bunch of 100 kilometer and 50–mile races,” and a bigger bunch of shorter “fun runs.”
His body doesn’t show much runner’s rust either, nor would one expect it to since he adheres religiously to his lifelong mantra: “Take it easy, slow down, don’t run your body down.”
He does admit his stride was affected dramatically a few years ago when he sprained his ankle skating with his daughter. Although he’ll mention that he’s also a two-time cancer survivor, it’s something of an afterthought. Prostate cancer came and went after an operation and some radiation, and a rare form of leukemia just lingers around without treatment. “My doctor told me to keep running, that it’s the best thing I can do to stay healthy.”
I asked the retired Montpelier school teacher to use 100 words to record his three greatest lifetime running achievements. The typically garrulous Baker got it down to about 70 words on my tape recorder.
The top of his list was what he calls a “journey run.” He describes it as “a self-designed adventure where you’re going somewhere-to-somewhere in a certain number of days.”
Baker’s particular adventure was running the length and breadth of Vermont over a five-week period. In the middle of that journey, Baker slipped in a 24-hour, 102 mile race over in Westport, New York, but that was mere coincidence.
“I’ve got another journey run in me,” he says, “I just have to design it.”
What’s the first thing he learned about Vermont from his north-south run? “The dogs up north run free and harassed me the whole way. Halfway down the state, most were on leashes and I could relax.”
Baker’s second highlight occurred in 1992 when he finally qualified for the Boston Marathon. It took him 50 marathons to qualify, and since that time he’s run in nine Bostons.
But the third item on the highlight reel is perhaps the most intriguing. It is Baker’s discovery of what he calls the “truest form of running,” — the long distance run. “Once I was able to run 24 hours and beyond, and then after reading about the history of running going back in time, I became a true believer that the realest running is running long distance.”
Baker believes what’s written about ancient hunters — the human being can outrun any animal on the planet. “Hunters used to hunt in groups and follow their prey for days until the prey dropped in exhaustion,” he said.
“Humans,” he added, “were made to cover long distances, over time, which included running and walking. I’m much less beat up running 100 miles or more in 24 hours, and I recover far more quickly than I do after a marathon where I’ve pushed myself. After an all-out marathon, you’re not going anywhere for a while, if you pushed yourself.”
I asked Baker to comment on some of the major topics in running:
“Most of the running injuries I see are from people overtraining or racing too hard, too fast, not pacing themselves. (Remember: “Take it easy, slow down, don’t run your body down.”)
One of the most significant injuries I see are injuries to hips that occur in downhill running. The force of ten times your body weight hits your ball and socket joint in the hip, so one should be aware of that.”
“There have been tons of equipment changes in the past 30 years, at least half of it pure hype. There have been changes in hand-held water bottles, belts for carrying supplies, sunglasses, shirt fabrics, Camelbaks for sipping liquids, running socks, and, of course, running shoes. Certainly too much is put into running shoes. They came up with an adequate running shoe 25-30 years ago. Anything else is just to sell you the newest thing they convince you you need.
“For myself, I’ve always stuck with New Balance, if for no other reason than they put my initials on their shoe. It works for me. It’s made in the U.S. I wait for a sale, then buy a pair and run them into the ground for 500 miles.”
The comeback of track and cross country
“In Montpelier, we went from nobody coming out for cross country and no teams about 14 years ago, to now, we’ve got 25-30 kids, plus about a dozen who run in the middle school.
“There’s a lot less frenetic activity in coaching kids than there is in Little League or basketball, that’s just one man’s opinion. There’s less parental screaming and yelling, and there’s a lot of places for kids of any ability level, just as there are in running races.
“You should come and watch these kids run. You get a medal for finishing and they love competing against each other. They love trying to run better than they did before, and I think you find as much excitement there, even though you don’t have the crowds you get in basketball or a Little League contest. But you still get a lot of people out there shouting encouragement, and they get uniforms, they love the uniforms, it’s all there.”
The secret attraction
“You can run competitive in big time events with world champion runners.Where can you do that in another sport? You’re not going to play against Patriots, you’re not going to be in the World Series, but you can enter races, other than the Olympics, with the best in the world.”
But then, in the 70-75 age division, Baker is now one of the best in the world. He’ll enjoy your company.
Send your sporting news and comments to [email protected]
Senior Bhutanese Refugees Find Home in Vermont
By Jane Harrington
The Champlain Valley Agency on Aging was caught by surprise when so many elderly Bhutanese refugees began settling in Vermont about four years ago. An influx of refugees is normally comprised of a small percentage of those considered elderly (defined by CVAA as age 60 or older). According to John Barbour, the organization’s Executive Director, even before the 1990s, Vietnamese and Bosnians were resettling in Vermont, but were made up of a younger population.
Judy Scott, Director of the Vermont Field Office of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, says the historic travail of the Bhutanese led to the ultimate journey of some of its citizens to Vermont when the Bhutanese government expelled one-seventh of its southern citizens. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees created refugee camps for them, but the displaced Bhutanese could not work—schooling had been restricted to tenth grade and the food, water, and medical care at the camp were inadequate. “A refugee camp is a human warehouse… it’s like putting human beings on a shelf,” says Scott. Most of the Bhutanese resettling in Vermont spent 15-20 years in refugee camps.
Vermont is highly regarded by the Bhutanese population. Every incoming refugee passes through the U.S. State Department. Where the refugees are sent is decided at random, however, a resettling refugee can request to live near family. For the first eight months, regardless of age, each refugee receives temporary medical care and cash. The VRRP is a humanitarian and employment agency, which gives refugees the tools to rebuild their lives. Most case managers are from the same country as the refugee.
The majority of Bhutanese refugees in Vermont live in Winooski and Burlington, while some reside in South Burlington and Essex. Refugee Budhi Gurung and her daughter/interpreter, Bishnu, describe Vermont as “peaceful and clean.” Budhi Gurung dreams of a religious temple here. And, like many elderly Bhutanese, she would like to become a citizen, which requires five years of residency in the U.S. and passing a citizenship test, although language can be a huge barrier. Once passed, a person is eligible for everything a native citizen is, including social security and Medicare. But, citizenship is not required—after one year, a refugee may apply for permanent residency. No exam is required, and just as those who become citizens, a permanent resident can relocate within the U.S. at any time. Permanent residents, though, are not eligible for social security and Medicare—they rely on their families for support.
Elderly Bhutanese rely on family, CVAA volunteers and the AALV (Association of Africans Living in Vermont) to help them overcome obstacles such as transportation, including rides to the Champlain Senior Center in Burlington—every other Monday, a Bhutanese luncheon is professionally prepared by the Burlington Food School Project and served at the Center.
Recently, 30 local seniors joined 30 Bhutanese seniors for a Monday luncheon, which fell on a religious festival day, Makar Sankranti, which marks the half-way point to winter’s end, according to the Hindu lunar calendar. In celebration of the festival, the elderly Bhutanese (and young interpreters) dressed in Nepali costume. The men donned traditional Nepali hats – “Dhaka topi,” unique in fabric design and color. The women, abloom in vibrant sari and blouse, “shari” and “choli,” hinted at the crocuses Vermonters are now so hungry to see emerging from the last of winter’s snow. According to Phul Pokhrel, a young woman who serves as an interpreter, the Senior Center is important because this is the only place some Bhutanese seniors can come to socialize—so valuable in battling feelings of isolation and loneliness.
A citizenship class to help with English followed the festival luncheon. Bonnie Campono, Executive Director of the Champlain Senior Center, said two interpreters at the Center’s Bhutanese luncheon were CVAA volunteers.
The various service organizations recognize the gift of diversity the elderly (and younger) Bhutanese bring to the community. While these organizations help directly or indirectly with housing, employment, language and more, the Vermont Bhutanese Association offers a “perfect complement” to what the organizations do. “We start out and they (VBA) enhance what we offer,” says Scott. VBA members who are smart, strong, and have learned the system quickly come forward to help others in the Bhutanese community. These leaders organize religious and cultural events, including a large festival held at H.O. Wheeler School in Burlington last summer.
The Bhutanese have been raised in households where even small children learn to take care of people. Many of the Bhutanese adults in Vermont take jobs in health care, such as personal care assistants and nurses. The next generation of Bhutanese will likely enter health care positions that require more formal training, good news to an aging state. For now, at the Champlain Senior Center in Burlington, the elderly Bhutanese bring the world to local Vermont seniors.
December 12, 2012
Friends of the Four-Footed
By Luke Baynes
The Humane Society of Chittenden County has been around since 1901—almost twice as long as the Humane Society of the United States, which was founded in 1954.
As HSCC President and CEO Tom Ayres notes, there is a common misperception that HSCC is somehow affiliated with the national Humane Society.
“The Humane Society of the United States is a fully independent, nationwide organization, and the Humane Society of Chittenden County—and, in fact, any organization anywhere in the country that calls itself a humane society, wherever it may be—is not affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States,” Ayres said. “We are a completely independent, community-based nonprofit organization.”
HSCC adopts around 750 animals annually. More than two-thirds are cats, although it also takes in dogs and what it terms “smallies,” including rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, rats, guinea pigs, ferrets and chinchillas. Animals are obtained through a combination of relinquishments from pet owners, strays brought in by municipal animal control officers and animals transported from outside the region, often from so-called “kill shelters.”
Although HSCC requires that pet owners make an appointment to surrender a pet, with the exception of inquiries about a pet’s medical and behavioral history, it has a “no questions asked” policy regarding a person’s reason for giving up an animal.
“Some people don’t know that we don’t ask questions, that we’re not judging them for why they’re relinquishing the animal,” Ayres said. “We’re here to help them. The presumption is they wouldn’t be giving up the animal if they didn’t have to.”
HSCC spays or neuters all adopted cats and dogs and puts them through behavioral and temperament testing, as well as a full medical evaluation. While HSCC is not a “no-kill shelter,” it only euthanizes animals due to untreatable medical or behavioral issues.
“Our euthanasia rate is quite low, compared to the national average,” Ayres said. “We never euthanize for lack of space. We always find the room for an animal. We can do that because we’re a controlled admission shelter, which means we control the admissions and we won’t admit an animal if we don’t have the capacity physically or staffing-wise to care for it.”
Ayres, who has headed HSCC for the past year and a half, said that HSCC has evolved in recent years to become a “humane education organization,” offering dog training classes, feline nutrition classes and workshops for animal control officers and law enforcement personnel. He added that HSCC is also the lead organization in the area for conducting investigations when there are allegations of animal abuse, cruelty or neglect.
“We’re really trying to reinvent the Humane Society of Chittenden County from just being perceived as an animal shelter,” Ayres said.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
To volunteer: Contact Shayla MacDowell at 862-0135. Volunteer opportunities include morning animal care, cat and small animal socialization, dog companions/walkers and afternoon cleaning. Volunteer application forms are available on the HSCC website (www.chittendenhumane.org).
To make a monetary donation: Click the “Get Involved” tab on the HSCC website and then follow the “Donate Online” link.
November 1, 2012
Holiday Time: Give Back This Year
By Anica Wong
Buy. Buy. Buy. More. More. More. This seems to be the mantra of the holiday season, especially when it comes to shopping and gifts. Everyone says that the reason for the season has become too commercialized, but that doesn’t stop most people from buying extravagantly and overspending.
Make this year different for you and your family. Focus on helping and giving back to others, instead of just plain giving. This is a great way to get everyone involved — from kids to teens to adults — as well as make your holiday season more meaningful. Participate in one or all of these ways to give back:
Sponsor a child. We’ve all seen the TV commercials that show the African babies with distended bellies. But when was the last time you actually thought about how that child was getting food or clean water? There are many different organizations that you can donate to monthly to help a specific child. Most offer information about the child, allowing you to get to know him or her and see their yearly growth.
Donate blood. If you’re low on cash but want to help others, this is a terrific way to help. According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Blood is the gift that keeps giving.
Trees for Troops. Service members’ families sacrifice throughout the year, but the holiday season can be especially tough because they want their loved ones to be safe at home. Trees for Troops helps to deliver a little bit of holiday cheer. “We believe a real Christmas tree is an integral part of a family, plus it is a naturally grown U.S. tree given to a U.S. military family,” says Amy Mills, the program coordinator for Trees for Troops. “They are truly appreciative of a gift that reminds them of their childhood.” Members of the public can get involved two ways: donate money through their website or participate in the Trees for Troops weekend (Nov. 30-Dec. 2). A consumer can purchase a tree or make a donation for a tree at the tree farms that participate in this weekend program. Mills says there are 700-800 participating farms across the country and FedEx, a partner, then delivers the trees to more than 65 military bases in the U.S., as well as in Kuwait, Bahrain and Spain.
Shovel snow. For some, clearing the driveway or a path to the mailbox can be a chore. Grab your shovel or snowblower and lend a hand (bonus points if you do it before your unsuspecting neighbor gets up in the morning).
Shop locally. A study done at the Maine Center for Economic Policy shows that every $100 spent at a locally owned store yields an additional $58 to the local economy, while spending the same amount at a chain store contributes only $33 to the community. By buying local, residents can have a big impact on local economic activity and the well-being of their community.
Make special deliveries. There are always people in your neighborhood who could use a helping hand, especially during the winter months. Bake cookies for your elderly neighbor. Take dinner to a family who might not eat three meals a day. Get a group of friends together to go shopping for toys, and then donate them to the local school to hand out to kids who might not get gifts this year.
Donate clothes and jackets. Do you really need five winter coats? Go through your closet and donate gently used clothes, shoes and jackets. The Salvation Army and Goodwill have drop-off centers locally. If you have women’s suits or dresses, you can donate them to Dress for Success, a company that provides low-income women with business attire for job interviews.
“Adopt” an animal or shelter. You don’t have to necessarily bring the pup home, but make a donation to a shelter instead of giving gifts to your friends and family. Your donation can help with rescue efforts, pet health and upkeep on the shelter. Not only do you get warm and fuzzy feelings, but also most donations are tax-deductible.
Teach or tutor. If you have a proclivity for a specific school subject, offer your assistance to local students. This can be especially helpful around the holiday season, as middle school and high school students are taking midterm or finals tests.
Play games. Run by the United Nations World Food Programme, freerice.com is an online game that helps you learn, while also battling hunger across the globe. For each correct answer you get in the trivia game, 10 grains of rice will be donated, paid for by sponsors. Brush up on your vocabulary and feel good about helping end hunger.
Donate change. No matter how small, every little bit counts. Encourage your children or grandchildren to save their coins to donate to the Salvation Army bell ringers the next time you go to the grocery store. And maybe give the couch a good shakedown.
Help children of prisoners. According to Angel Tree, 1.7 million children have a mother or a father serving time, making the holiday time especially hard. Parents in prison sign their child up for the program through Angel Tree, and then Angel Tree passes along these names and gift suggestions for the child to churches throughout the country. Church members purchase and deliver the gift to the child on behalf of his or her incarcerated parent. www. angeltree.org
August 2, 2012
Vermont Adventures: Try Something Exciting This Summer
By Phyl Newbeck
Life is too short not to have a little adventure. Whether it’s rafting down a river or jumping out of an airplane, there are plenty of activities in Vermont that will get your adrenaline going.
One of the newest additions to Vermont’s adventure landscape is the zip line. At Smuggler’s Notch, you can zoom through the air above a mountain stream amid the tops of century-old trees. Customers travel in small groups with two tour guides who provide ecological and historical information at each stop along the way. Michael Smith, President of ArborTrek Canopy Adventures at Smuggs said that on Mother’s Day, three generations of one family took the trek, including two sets of grandparents who were between the ages of 82 and 92. “The most nervous person in the group,” he said “was the youngest, who was 28.”
Smith cautions that the course, which includes several interconnected lines, two sky bridges and two downward rappels, is not for everyone and requires good upper body movement and vision. The latter is crucial because the cues for when to slow down are visual ones, and upper body strength and mobility are important because customers slow themselves by applying gentle downward pressure on the steel cables with the heavy leather gloves which are provided. Smith said worldwide, those age 65 and older are the largest demographic for zip lines because they have more disposable income, and more time. “In a lot of cases,” he said “grandpa and grandma may not want to mountain bike with their grandkids, but this is a high adventure activity they can enjoy with them.”
If you’d rather have a summer adventure on the water, Zoar Outdoors will take you rafting on the West River in southern Vermont. The eight-mile trip starts at Ball Mountain Dam and heads over Class 3 and 4 whitewater through Jamaica State Park to the Townsend Reservoir. Owner Karen Blom said those signing up for the trip need to be capable of hiking half an hour over a switchback trail down the dam. The Army Corps of Engineers only opens the dam once a year, so this year’s trip will take place on Sept. 29, just in time for foliage season. Rafters meet their guides and collect their equipment at Stratton Mountain—many people make a weekend out of it with an overnight stay. “It’s a fun trip,” said Blom. “As long as you can walk and swim and have a sense of adventure, you can do it.”
Maybe you’d rather spend your summer aloft. One way to do that is a hot air balloon ride. Above Reality in Underhill offers a variety of options including a trip over Mt. Mansfield and a jaunt across Lake Champlain. Owner Jeff Snider said those 65 and older make up approximately 40 percent of his customer base. “We often have customers come to us and say ‘I’ve always wanted to try this’,” he said, noting that balloon trips are popular as birthday presents, as well as for couples to celebrate anniversaries. “When people come down, they often tell me that they can’t believe they waited this long to do it,” Snider said.
Hot air ballooning is the only form of aviation that travels with the wind rather than through it, so it is hard to explain to potential customers that there is no turbulence or G-force to contend with. Snider said the words “peaceful,” “tranquil” and “amazing” are frequently written in his guest book. One man in his 60s wrote that the trip was the best thing that had happened to him since the birth of his daughter.
For the really adventurous, there’s sky diving. Vermont Sky Diving Adventures in West Addison offers tandem jumps for those who have never been aloft. Customers are tethered to an instructor for the duration of the ride. They can take an active approach and pull the cord themselves or decide to let the instructor do all the work. Customers are allowed to jump solo (but still flanked by two instructors) after completing six to eight hours of training.
Owner Ole Thomsen said the only limits for novice jumpers are that they be over 18 years of age and under 240 pounds. There are no upper age limits and this year, Thomsen has already taken an 80-year-old man up for his first jump. One group of regulars at the Addison facility are all over 60 years of age and there is a national group called Skydivers Over Sixty. “If you’re in good health, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it,” Thomsen said, noting that many seniors come to him saying that sky diving is on their bucket lists. “We hear that a lot,” he said. “It’s something they’ve always wanted to try.”
Thomsen enjoys sharing his sport with people of all ages. “It’s something everyone should try at least once,” he said. “It’s quite exhilarating. It makes you feel young, even if it’s only for the moment. Besides, if this is something you want to try, you’re already young at heart.”
Smuggler’s Notch Zip Line: www.smuggs.com/pages/winter/amenities/canopy-tour.php
White Water Rafting: www.zoaroutdoor.com/whitewaterrafting.htm
Above Reality Balloon Trips: www.balloonvermont.com
Vermont Sky Diving: www.vtskydiving.com
May 10, 2012
Focusing on ‘Pet Projects’ in Retirement
By Phyl Newbeck
For many people, one of the hardest things about going to work is leaving a beloved furry or feathered companion at home. Retirement gives people the option of spending more time with their pets, but some retirees go a step further and turn their love of animals into a second career or volunteer work.
Barbara Thomke of Jericho is in the first category. Thomke had an interesting and varied professional life, teaching languages and music at the Stowe School and then business at Champlain and Johnson State colleges, managing a restaurant and directing the public relations department at Smuggler’s Notch. When Thomke retired from Smuggs, she found a new and rewarding line of work. Three years ago, at age 63, she started Thomke Equine Bodyworks, a horse massage business. “I knew that when I retired I still wanted some place to go,” she said. “I didn’t want to be at loose ends.”
Thomke didn’t grow up with horses, but she discovered them in her 20s and rode consistently through her adulthood. When she signed up for a week-long course in equine massage, her goal was to use the skills for her own horse, but she soon expanded on that idea. After completing the course, Thomke began to practice her craft, massaging roughly 50 horses, mostly at her own barn, that summer. As a retiree, she felt free from the constraints of traditional learning and began to educate herself by reading books, acquiring a mentor, and taking classes in other forms of equine massage until she felt ready to put out her shingle. These days, Thomke schedules sessions year-round, travelling up to an hour from her home to massage horses for 90 to 120 minutes at a time. While she has enjoyed all her various professions, Thomke said she is thrilled to be spending her retirement years in the barn.
Ilene Morgan of Grand Island doesn’t have a paying job with animals, but she does receive a stipend for her work. Morgan is a licensed judge at dog tracking events, but she notes the stipend doesn’t always cover her costs, which include travel across the U.S. “It’s not a money-maker,” she said. “It’s for the love of the sport.”
Morgan, 67, retired 12 years ago after working in medical research at UVM. She is a member of the Labrador Retriever Club, and shares her life with four chocolate labs which she trains for competitions. Since the tracking season runs from April through October, she is constantly on the road or in the field. Her weekends are generally booked a year in advance for competitions and she’s out training her own dogs at least once a week.
Although Morgan had worked with her dogs on obedience and agility, it wasn’t until she retired that she got involved in tracking. She took a beginner clinic with a puppy and followed that with more classes and then competitions. Like Thomke, she acquired a mentor who helped her train her dogs and taught her to lay down tracks for them to follow. “It’s a one-on-one sport with your dog,” she said. “You have to understand what your dog is telling you. The dog is communicating and you’re hanging on to his line.”
Morgan believes tracking is a great way to stay outside and be active. “If you sit on your duff, you’ll just get old,” she said.
Morgan has her Labs, but Hilaire Thomas of Jericho is partial to golden retrievers. Thomas grew up with dogs ranging from great Danes to corgis, wire-haired dachshunds, basset hounds to mutts, but it wasn’t until she got a golden retriever that she became interested in obedience training. These days, at 71 and retired from the medical technologies field, Thomas is able to devote daily training sessions of up to 30 minutes at a time to Taris, her six-year-old golden, and Quiz, a rescue corgi. Thomas’ initial interest in obedience training was simply to work with her dogs; she felt she lacked the competitive spirit to enter competitions. However, when she discovered that competitions weren’t necessarily competing against other dogs, but simply trying to do your best, she was hooked.
Thomas is a member of the Green Mountain Golden Retriever Club and works with the Burlington Obedience Training Club. “The bottom line,” she said “is I want to encourage people to do more with their dogs and get into the sport of obedience.”
Aside from the joy of spending time with her pets, Thomas noted that obedience training is a very social event which allows participants to share ideas. She believes dogs enjoy the training as well. There are times when Taris – a dog who used to misbehave regularly, biting humans and chewing on leashes and pant legs – will sit staring at her wistfully. “He’s had his food and he’s been out,” she said “so it’s clear he really wants to work.”
While Thomas and Morgan are specific in their breed preferences, Joann Jarvis of South Burlington is a generalist; she volunteers at Humane Society of Chittenden County, working with some dogs, but mostly with cats. A young retiree at age 51, Jarvis has tried out a number of tasks including cat socialization, veterinarian transport and cage cleaning. While some might dread the idea of cleaning out a litter box, Jarvis enjoys the task. “It’s my favorite thing to do,” she said “because the cats are so glad to see you.”
Since the litter boxes are changed daily, the job isn’t an especially messy one. Jarvis also enjoys spending time getting the cats adjusted to humans. As a “cat socializer” she doesn’t have to keep regular hours, but can visit the facility any time in the afternoon.
Then there’s Carol Tandy, a retired physical therapist from Williston. Not only is she not breed-specific; she’s not even species-specific. The 68-year-old splits her volunteer work between the Humane Society and a friend who rehabilitates wildlife. At the Humane Society, Tandy does weekly assessments of hard-to-place cats; those who have been given up by families or already determined to have issues with children, dogs or other felines. Tandy takes the cats into a room and spends up to three-quarters of an hour filling out a two-page form to help determine the best placement for them.
In the summer, Tandy shifts her work outside, helping injured animals return to the wild. The work brings her into contact with foxes, raccoons, skunks and woodchucks. In addition to feeding the critters, Tandy helps gather supplies and assists with transporting animals to and from her friend’s licensed facility. In a sense, the work is the opposite of her feline work because instead of preparing the animals for adoption, she is getting them ready for a life without human intervention.
Jarvis has brought her husband and sons with her to the Humane Society to help with the work. “It’s good to do with your kids,” she said “because it shows the importance of giving back.” She wishes she could go back in time and make her living working with animals. “It lowers your blood pressure,” she said. “It makes you feel good and puts a smile on your face.”
January 20, 2012
Longford Row bridges the gap between Irish and American folk music
By Luke Baynes
Sitting at Rí Rá Irish Pub in Burlington on a Thursday evening, with a pint in hand and Longford Row playing “Reilly’s Daughter” on the bandstand, it doesn’t take much effort to imagine that one is back in the old country.
The traditional Irish tune about the beautiful maiden and her one-eyed brute of a father is as old as the hills colored forty shades of green, yet in the hands of six lads from the Green Mountain State it assumes fresh relevance – suggesting that the concept of disparate European and American musical traditions is illusory and outmoded.
“A lot of Appalachian music came from Celtic music, so there’s long been this trans-Atlantic thing going back and forth,” said Gerry Feenan, a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist with the “North American-Celtic-folk band” Longford Row. “One of the things that we’re proud of is the fact that some of the feedback we got on our first CD is that although they were mostly Celtic folk songs, we weren’t trying to be Irish-sounding.”
The band takes its name from the Andy Irvine song, “Longford Weaver,” an adaptation of the traditional Scottish tune “Nancy Whiskey” that shifts the setting from Scotland to Longford, Ireland. According to Feenan, the “Row” came from the fact that “we’re playing a lot of sea shanties.”
Longford Row’s self-titled debut album, self-released in 2010, is a mix of traditional public domain songs and original compositions. Lead singer Patrick McKenzie stressed that despite his band’s affinity for Celtic folk, they recognize that they are Americans, born and raised.
“What we try to embrace is we don’t do Irish music or Scottish music; we were inspired by that,” McKenzie said. “We are American musicians.”
“If you go back to 1964, when I was 13, I started listening to the Clancy Brothers, and there was Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan and Richie Havens and all the Village artists and the Kingston Trio, and they were doing the same thing – they were embracing the bridge between cultures,” said McKenzie. “It’s so interesting if you go down South, many of the traditional songs have been changed, but when you look back they’re 400-year-old songs. It’s fascinating.”
In addition to bridging the gap between Irish and American folk music, Longford Row also incorporates Quebecois musical influences through stringed maestro Dan Blondin and bassist Scott McGrath – both of whom own French Canadian blood.
“Finding out that I have French Canadian heritage, I really looked into the music and learned the genre,” McGrath said. “One thing that I’ve learned to respect about all this music is that tradition seems to be present in every single aspect of it. Whether you’re talking about Irish, Scottish or French Canadian stuff, it’s all passed down from generation to generation, and I really think it shapes and molds the songs.”
Blondin said his French Canadian ancestry has been particularly informative in molding his fiddling technique.
“I love the French Canadian fiddle style. I’ve become very attached to that over the years. We hear a lot of that around here being a border state,” said Blondin, who toured with the eclectic jam band The Samples from 2002 to 2007. “My grandparents came from Canada and they couldn’t speak English for the longest time, so a lot of that tradition came down with them. And I seek it out; we have radio stations around here that specifically play that type of music.”
Just as the immigrant folk music of North America evolved into a new genre – distinct yet indebted to its European tradition – Feenan, one of the three original members of the current sextet, suggested that Longford Row will continue to coalesce from its diverse backgrounds.
“What’s exciting about this band is it’s always evolving,” Feenan said. “It’s great to explore and learn and go down new avenues.”
Longford Row will be performing Jan. 28 at 11 a.m. at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in South Burlington as part of the 17th annual Vermont 50-Plus & Baby Boomers EXPO. For more information, visit www.vermontmaturity.com/expo or call (802) 872-9000, ext. 18.
December 1, 2011
Full House: When Mom and Dad Move In
By Luke Baynes
The Leo McCarey movie “Make Way for Tomorrow” – released in 1937, at the tail end of the Great Depression – concerns an elderly couple who find they can no longer make ends meet. The bank forecloses on their house, so they each move in with one of their five grown children. The kids find them a burden and arrange a solution: the father will go to California to live with a relative, and the mother will move to a retirement home. The final scene is among Hollywood’s greatest tearjerkers, as the aged couple goes on one last date – a kind of courtship in reverse. “It’s been very nice knowing you, Miss Breckinridge,” the husband says to his wife as his train pulls out of the station – each knowing they’ll likely never see the other again.
You might say that this story is a Hollywood relic from a specific time and place, but statistics seem to suggest otherwise.
According to a study commissioned by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were almost 1.5 million U.S. residents living in nursing home facilities in 2004 – or about 4 percent of the 65-and-older population, based on 2004 intercensal estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Although America is no longer mired in the Great Depression of the post-’29 stock market crash, the current “great recession” – brought on in part by the excesses of Wall Street and the subprime mortgage meltdown – has left many seniors in dire straits.
“You can’t live on Social Security alone. You just can’t do it,” said 78-year-old June Kenney of Richmond. “Even though the president and everyone else thinks you can – you can’t. Not with groceries and heat and everything going up.”
Kenney and her husband, Don, recently had to sell their mobile home in Bolton’s Fernwood Manor after Don, also 78, was forced to retire from his gardening job, following a spell brought on by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“When I was working, the big companies – like General Electric and those types of people – they had retirement plans,” said Don Kenney. “But the average company didn’t have them and people didn’t think they really needed it.”
Luckily for the Kenneys, their kids were far more accommodating than the family of “Make Way for Tomorrow.” Their son, Bob, and his wife, Sharon, converted the mud room and TV room of their house into a living area that serves as a small but cozy apartment for Don and June.
“It was never a question to me,” said Bob Kenney of his decision to have his parents move in. “It’s the facts of life, and why not take care of them for the last part of their lives? They took care of you the first part of your life. I mean, how many diapers did I mess up and how many times did I wake them up in the middle of the night?”
Sharon Kenney said her Japanese heritage – which stresses the importance of taking care of one’s elders – informed her open house policy.
“My mom is Japanese, so there was never a question as to whether or not you’d take in your parents,” she said. “It’s the way it should be and it’s the way we care for our folks. They spent all those years caring for us as children and it’s our turn.”
In order for Don and June Kenney to move in with their children, modifications had to be made to the apartment, such as widening the doorways to 36 inches and making the bathroom wheelchair accessible.
“Everything in this apartment is built for a handicapped (person),” said June Kenney. “It’s built for me. I have two artificial knees and if they give out on me and if I’m ever in a wheelchair, this is built for that.”
Tom Moore, owner of the Underhill Center-based Tom Moore Builder, Inc., said his company does many renovation projects to make houses senior-friendly, and for new homes he recommends an architectural philosophy called “universal design,” which makes homes accessible for people with disabilities while still maintaining a unified aesthetic.
“(Universal design) is becoming more and more popular because the cost of living at an assisted living home is more and more expensive,” Moore said.
Moore said he used universal design when building his own house, which won the 2011 “Most Innovative Design Build” and the “Energy Efficiency Award” from the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Northern Vermont in October.
“It’s a house to perform for a lifetime,” said Moore. “How many people have friends who are impaired and they can’t even invite them over because their bathroom isn’t designed for that?”
Although living in an apartment in his son’s house isn’t where Don Kenney envisioned himself being in retirement, he’s grateful to be close to a loving family.
“It isn’t where I planned to be my last years, but things change over the years,” he said. “You lose a certain amount of independence when you’re in a situation like this, but sometimes it’s necessary.”
June Kenney added that the living arrangement will be ideal during the holiday season.
“That’s one thing,” she smiled, “we don’t have to go very far.”
Annual Alzheimer’s Update
Join the Movement to End Alzheimer’s
This year, with more Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, Alzheimer’s disease has been in the news more than ever. Alzheimer’s is coming out of the closet and being recognized as the healthcare crisis of the Boomer generation.
More than 5 million Americans are currently living with the devastation of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, now the sixth leading cause of death and the only one of the Top 10 diseases without a known cause or cure. It’s clear – Alzheimer’s disease is one of the largest health threats facing our nation.
In Vermont, we are and will continue to feel the impact of increased numbers of people with dementia due to our aging population. Nearly 12,000 senior Vermonters are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2025, the number is projected to reach as many as 20,000.
Though the numbers are alarming, there is hope. We’ve recently made significant strides in making Alzheimer’s a national priority. Last fall, thousands of Alzheimer’s Association advocates spoke up on behalf of the cause and encouraged Congress to unanimously pass the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). Alzheimer’s advocates let the White House know how critically we need a coordinated strategic national Alzheimer’s plan. On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed NAPA into law.
Since then, the Alzheimer’s Association has brought together more than 43,000 individuals — including those living with Alzheimer’s, care partners, researchers, health care professionals, community leaders and many other stakeholders — to inform the implementation of the National Alzheimer’s Plan. This summer, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius named 12 non-federal members to the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Care, Support and Research to advise on the creation of our nation’s first national Alzheimer’s plan. Harry Johns, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, was named a member of the council.
And in early November, the council released “Alzheimer’s from the Frontlines: Challenges a National Alzheimer’s Plan Must Address.” This report summarizes the input that was shared (see sidebar for findings.) Electronic copies of the report are available at alz.org/Napa. Share this report with others, and encourage friends, family and colleagues to join the conversation by becoming an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association in Vermont. Find more information at http://www.alz.org/join_the_cause_advocacy.asp .
On the local level, the Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter, with its ever-growing core of volunteers, advocates and stakeholders is working diligently to move the cause forward across our state. 2011 saw some great accomplishments, including:
• Eight community educators have been trained to present “Know the 10 Signs, Alzheimer’s – The Basics,” our “Living with Alzheimer’s” curriculum and other educational programs allowing the Association to expand its reach throughout Vermont. Through increased awareness and understanding of dementia we can continue to stimulate conversation and allow the true toll of this disease to become known. To find a program near you, visit www.alz.org/vermont.
• As conversation and awareness continue to grow, the Association has seen a 48 percent increase in the number of calls to the 24/7 Helpline. The Association partners with individuals and their families who are living with dementia to help them navigate through the ever-changing demands and difficulties of this disease. The Association provides support and strategies for those living with Alzheimer’s throughout the continuum of the disease.
• The Vermont Chapter, in partnership with the UVM Center on Aging, trained a core group of volunteers to offer “Approaching Alzheimer’s: Make Your First Response the Right Response” to police, firemen and EMTs in their community to better equip them to recognize and successfully support people with dementia.
A group of second year UVM medical students have taken on an Alzheimer’s Project to determine if and how primary care practitioners in Vermont are screening for cognitive impairment during annual Medicare Wellness exams. A cognitive evaluation became part of the visit guidelines in January 2011. After input from primary care providers and focus groups with those living with dementia, these students are learning how the medical community and persons with dementia can work together.
• The Association launched “All About Alzheimer’s,” a new television program which airs on CCTV – Channel 17 in Burlington on the third Thursday of every other month. The program is taped and made available to all cable access stations statewide through the Media Exchange Service. If you would like the program to air in your community, please call your local access channel and request that they air the program. Tune in to CCTV on Dec. 15 for the program.
• The 2011 Walk to End Alzheimer’s (previously known as the Memory Walk) had a new energy as Vermonters across the state united around the movement. With more than 650 participants, the Walk in Chittenden County more than doubled in size and dollars raised. With the six additional community walks that took place across the state (Bennington, Brattleboro, Montpelier, Rutland, St. Albans and St. Johnsbury) more than $128,000 was raised in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Many of these projects and programs will continue in 2012, and an array of new initiatives is in the works. To learn more about how you can help, contact the Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter, 300 Cornerstone Dr., St. 128, Williston, Vermont 05495: 24/7 Helpline (800)-272-3900: Vermont Chapter: (802) 316-3839: www.alz.org : Facebook: Alzheimer’s Association: Vermont Chapter.
Info provided by Alzheimers Assoc. VT Chapter
Local Short-Term & Special Event Holiday Volunteer Opportunities
This list of short-term volunteer opportunities is compiled by the United Way of Chittenden County Volunteer Connection. There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities of all kinds available year ‘round. Visit www.unitedwaycc.org, and click on “Volunteer Now.” You can also call 860-1677 or e-mail [email protected]
Holiday Food & Toys
Franklin-Grand Isle United Way
Volunteers needed through Dec. 23, min. 2 hr. shifts
Operation Happiness is a volunteer-run community initiative that provides over 1,000 Franklin and Grand Isle County families in need with food baskets and toys for the holiday season. Volunteers are needed to take phone applications, pick up donations, sort toys and food, and pack boxes. Knitted winter items, i.e. hats, scarves, mittens are also needed for inclusion in these holiday baskets and can be dropped off at the office. St. Albans.
Contact: Sally Bortz at 527-7418 or [email protected]
Holiday Giving Project
The winter holidays are a warm, giving time for many, but for those with extra challenges in their lives, the winter holidays can be difficult. Volunteers are needed to sponsor a child, children, or an adult by donating gifts such as books, new toys, new games, food gift certificates, new warm clothing, store gift certificates, and/or a financial donation. All financial donations will be used by HowardCenter to purchase gifts and/or food for our clients. HowardCenter serves over 15,000 children, adults, and families through its three service areas: Child, Youth & Family Services, Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services and Developmental Services. Burlington.
Contact: Kesta Perras at 488-6913 or [email protected]
Holiday Giving Program
Lund Family Center
You can help vulnerable families and children this Holiday season. Volunteers are provided with a needs list from a family that fits what you are able to do. Gift or gas cards are also welcome. Gift cards offer an opportunity for teens to choose something for themselves. Gas cards give families a chance to visit other family members. Gifts should be unwrapped. Burlington.
Contact: Alex Brady at 861-2585 or [email protected]
Voices Against Violence
Individuals, families or organizations are invited to adopt women, or women with children, for the holiday. A holiday wish-list is provided, along with age and sizes. Donations of a gift card or the fixings for a meal are also welcome. We served 30 families last year; help us top that and reach more! St. Albans.
Contact: Melissa Greeno at 524-8538 or [email protected]
Sponsor a Child
Women Helping Battered Women
Children are often the hidden victims of domestic violence and holidays can be a difficult time for everyone, especially during these tough economic times. Help make the holiday season special for children who need it, and who deserve it. We will provide you with the age and sex of a child, along with that child’s “wish list”. You will have the option of buying up to four gifts for him/her (usually not exceeding $100). We ask that all gifts come unwrapped, but gladly accept any extra wrapping paper or ribbons, so the mothers can be involved in the wrapping process. Burlington.
Contact: Michelle Hough at 658-3131 x 2015 or [email protected]
Holiday Events & Entertainment
Let the Bells Ring & Voices Sing
Cathedral Square Corporation
Performing groups are needed to come to our residences and provide holiday entertainment. Mid-afternoons or early evenings work best, but can be flexible. Various sites.
Contact: Jennifer Allen at 861-2897 or [email protected]
Holiday Cat & Dog Toy Project
Lucy’s House For The Prevention Of Homeless Pets
Make dog and cat toys out of tennis balls, socks, and fleece to create sock dog toys, catnip sock toys, and fleece tug toys to be distributed to local food shelves over the holidays to help keep pets in their homes. These projects can be done in your own home and dog biscuit recipes and patterns for making the toys can be provided. Essex Jct.
Contact: Jan Ellis-Clements at 879-0898 or [email protected]
First Night Volunteers
First Night Burlington
Dec. 31, 3 hr. shifts
Help make Burlington’s annual New Year’s Eve festival happen! Site assistants check buttons, guide crowds in and out of performances, and answer festival-goers’ questions. Volunteers can also sell First Night buttons, assist budding child artists create their own masterpieces, become a dragon in our Dancing Dragons parade, feed hungry volunteers in our volunteer lounge, answer office phones, help prepare sites, and more. We need 300 volunteers on Dec. 31 and pre-event volunteers too. All volunteers earn a FREE First Night button! Most volunteers must be 18 and over, but art assistants may be younger. Site assistants need to dress warmly. Burlington.
Contact: Muffie Milens at 863-6005 or [email protected]
MLK Day of Service
Essex CHIPS & Teen Center
Jan. 16, 1+ hour
Choose from multiple volunteer opportunities then wrap up the day of service with a community dinner in honor of our community and Dr. Martin Luther King’s work. The mission of Essex CHIPS & Teen Center is to unite the community in an environment where people are empowered to make healthy choices through youth-adult partnerships, youth leadership, and civic engagement. Essex Jct.
Contact: Heather Vendola at 878-6982 or [email protected]
Cooks & Bakers
Cooks for Holiday Meals
Burlington Dismas House
Dec. 25, noon-3 p.m.
Individuals or families are invited to cook a portion Christmas Dinner and join us for the meal. This is a great opportunity for individuals who don’t have plans for the holidays or small families who want to share a meal with an appreciative group. We start each meal at Dismas House by giving the cooks a round of applause and then residents often give thanks for family, volunteers, good food and opportunities. Burlington.
Contact: Anne Hatch at 658-0381 or [email protected]
Ronald McDonald House
Hours as required to cook
Use your cooking or baking skills to make cookies, prepare a dessert, or plan and create a dinner meal for the guest families staying at Ronald McDonald House. Dinner should serve 10-12 people and consist of at least an entree, a side dish and a dessert. Bring your ingredients and work in our large well-equipped kitchen. Please call in advance to arrange one or more dates. Volunteers are asked to provide the ingredients for the meals or desserts. Burlington.
Contact: Deanna Cameron at 862-4943 or [email protected]
Goodwill Industries of Northern New England
2 hr. shifts
Goodwill Industries of Northern New England is seeking a few volunteers, or a team, to bring their energy and good spirits to our stores to help wrap gifts for our customers on a few days in November/December. Volunteers will also hand out literature about Goodwill, our programs and mission. Burlington or Williston.
Contact: Carrie Burgin at (207) 774-6323 Ext. 2308 or carrie.[email protected]
Wrap Gifts for the Holidays
Dec. 16-24, 3 hr. shifts
Vermont CARES is the official holiday wrapper for the Burlington Town Center Mall. All proceeds from this event go back into the community, whether through direct service with individuals infected with HIV/AIDS, or into educational programs for area schools. The task is fun and easy and a great way to give back during the holiday season. You can even do it with family and friends! Basic gift wrapping training is provided. While there are chairs, plan to be on your feet to wrap. Burlington.
Contact: Peter Jacobsen at 863-2437 or [email protected]
Volunteers help elders maintain their homes by doing tasks such as painting or building projects, minor household repairs, etc. See the difference you make in someone’s life, contribute to the greater good of your community, and obtain experience working with seniors residing in Chittenden, Addison, Franklin and Grand Isle counties. General handyman skills are needed. Materials will be provided, but volunteers may need to provide their own tools. Various Locations.
Contact: Bev Hill at 865-0360 Ext. 1034 or [email protected]
Snow Shoveling for Seniors
No. of Volunteers: Many
Volunteers will assist seniors who need help getting out of their homes after a snowfall. Volunteers should be available to clear driveways and/or walkways so that seniors can make it to medical appointments, a neighbor’s house, or even their own mailbox. If you are itching to put your snow removal equipment or ergonomic shovel to good use, we know someone who needs your help. Dependability, common courtesy, and a willingness to help others are all that is required. Various locations.
Contact: Bev Hill at 865-0360 Ext. 1034 or [email protected]
Senior Center Needs You
Franklin County Senior Center
If you have time to help with general maintenance and house keeping at the Senior Center, we need you. Painting, light carpentry or just good old cleaning are chores we need help with. Work a day or once a month or whatever you can. St. Albans.
Contact: Jim Coutts at 524-6616 or [email protected]
Snow Shoveling for Seniors
Many of our frail elderly are dependent on care provided at our center and many are homebound and need assistance to clear driveways and paths to board the SSTA bus. This is an opportunity for anyone who has a big heart, a big shovel and/or snowblower, and a good back. Colchester.
Contact: Denise Zoeterman at 655-6700 or [email protected]
Out of State Driver
Special Services Transportation Agency
Hrs. flexible, on-call
Volunteer drivers are needed to transport ambulatory elders and others to and from medical appointments in locations outside of Chittenden County. You’ll meet some really great people and help provide a critical service. Volunteers use their own vehicle and receive mileage reimbursement. Volunteers must pass Motor Vehicle, national and Vermont criminal checks, have a clean driving record and up-to-date insurance and registration on your vehicle. Colchester.
Contact: Tracy Brooks at 878-1527 or [email protected]
Activist Gives Tips For Successful Volunteering
If volunteerism is a measure of someone’s passion, then Lisa Sellman’s knows no bounds. Sellman, a professional dog trainer and owner of a pet care business, volunteers periodically with no fewer than 16 different organizations, with her activities ranging from working at an animal shelter to taking disabled kids on nature hikes during the summer. She is a community activist and lifelong volunteer, and she knows what it means to serve others.
“If you want to feel good, volunteer,” said Sellman, also author of the children’s book The Legend of the Wolves of Gunflint Lake (www.lisasellman.com), which contains the theme of the value of community service. “There are few ways to feel as good about yourself as volunteering. Now, I realize that many of us are wrapped up with work and family, trying to make ends meet, so the idea of volunteering can seem like it’s just another ‘have-to’ to write into the already crowded calendar. However, I know for a fact that if you do it right, it can be a great stress reliever and a source of true joy in your life.”
The key to discovering that feeling is to let your passion guide you when you decide to volunteer, she added. Her tips for beginning volunteers include:
• Choose Wisely – Many people get “roped into” volunteering for an organization because their boss is involved with a charity or a family member is working on a community project. Those can be rewarding ways to enter volunteerism, but only if the project is a match for your personal interests. The most important aspect to volunteerism is to find what you love, and direct your energies into a charity or community organization that matches those passions. If you’re an animal lover, work with a wildlife rescue mission or animal shelter. If you are a nature buff, there are plenty of environmental foundations that can use an extra set of hands. If sports is your thing, there are plenty of community recreation centers that need coaches for needy kids enrolled in their programs. No matter your interest, you can match it to a cause that needs help. Just pick the right one, and your volunteer time won’t be a chore – it will be a joy.
• Watch Your Schedule – As much as you want your passion to direct your choice of project, you don’t want those volunteer projects to rule your schedule. Make sure you balance your volunteer time carefully so that your professional life and your family time doesn’t take a critical hit. Most organizations will take as much time as you offer them, but if you only have an hour or two each week, they’ll take that time, too. Your volunteer life should not consume your work or home life.
• Have Fun – Helping others is its own reward, but it shouldn’t feel like a chore. Even the most mundane task can be fun if you manage it with a sense of humor and passion for helping others.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of time as a volunteer,” Sellman said. “If everyone gave even just an hour a week, every community organization in the country would be turning volunteers away, because they’d have more than enough. The key is to understand that volunteerism doesn’t have to take over your life, and that if you do it right, it will add far more to your spirit than it takes away from your calendar.”
November 10, 2011
Physical therapist tunes up patients’ posture
Williston practice provides Cornerstone of restorative therapy
By Adam White
Physical therapist Holly Spence sees the world differently than most people. She looks at a body – human or even equine, thanks to her passion for horseback riding – and sees factors like alignment, balance and neutrality at work.
Unfortunately for many people, the lines she sees are not straight and the biomechanical forces are working against one another – resulting in symptoms like chronic back, hip or knee pain, restless sleep and event joint degeneration. And as one of only 61 physical therapists in the country certified in postural restoration as of 2011, Spence sees an opportunity to put her specialized training to work.
“I often see people suffering and think about how much more I could have helped if I had seen them sooner,” said Spence, who operates Cornerstone Physical Therapy in Williston’s Blair Park. “But even with older people – who have certain habitual patterns ingrained from so much repetition – we can help them. It might take a little longer, but the changes that can be made are amazing.”
Spence first began studying the discipline at the Postural Restoration Institute in Lincoln, Neb., in the late 1990s. She was attracted by the fact that it was neuromuscular based – drawing on areas she was already trained in – but also focused on more than just one specific body system or part.
“Once I took my first course in this area, I realized it was working on the whole body to help people get out of pain that might only be affecting one area,” she said. “Everything is connected, and a lot of our programs work on … the whole body. That’s where this approach is more advanced.”
Janie Ebmeier, director of business development and credentialing at PRI, said the Institute has grown from offering 15 courses – all taught by founder Ron Hruska – in the year 2000 to offering 50 this year, and has expanded beyond the nation’s borders to such faraway places at Poland.
“I think part of the appeal of our approach is that it’s more integrative, whereas most physical therapy is more specialized” Ebmeier said. “You’re not just going to treat a knee-pain patient; you’re going to be able to treat any patient who walks through the door.”
Shifting into Neutral
Neutrality is an important concept in postural restoration. One of the therapy’s primary goals is to eliminate unwanted muscle tension, which can lead directly to stiffness and pain, particularly in older patients. To a clinician like Spence, neutrality equates to putting a patient’s body posture into a position in which a targeted set of muscles is disengaged, to relieve that tension.
This is accomplished partially through a sort of linear analysis – gauging whether a subject’s pelvis is aligned over his or her femur when standing, for example – as well as exercises involving oppositional muscles that may be affected by habitual movement or even respiratory patterns. Spence cited the diaphragm and abdominal muscles as an example of the latter, using a position called the “90-90 Hip Lift” to demonstrate how a subject’s breathing can be affected.
“You can’t breathe properly with your diaphragm if your abdominals are weak,” Spence said. “And if you have poor breathing, that’s going to affect restorative sleep.”
While most people may only envision posture as a consideration when sitting, standing or walking, Spence said body position when sleeping can also play a significant role in quality of rest – which can then have a domino effect in terms of other symptoms.
“When your body’s joints are not in a neutral position at night, you can’t properly rest,” Spence said. “I get feedback from patients all the time about how much better they sleep after [therapy].”
Postural restoration is literally a head-to-toe philosophy; Spence said she often works with an entire interdisciplinary team to ensure that everything from the set of a patient’s jaw to his or her choice of footwear is promoting proper alignment to help achieve neutrality.
“We even work with an orthodontist, to make sure someone’s bite is neutral,” she said. “And it is amazing, the support you get from shoes and the position they put your body in. Usually, by someone’s second visit we are looking at footwear.”
Spence likened the body-to-feet connection to an automobile’s relationship to its tires.
“We ‘tune people up’ all the time,” she said. “It’s just like when your car is out of alignment. If you don’t straighten it out, you’re going to keep wearing out your tires.”
While postural restoration has helped many seniors reverse the effects of muscle tension and misalignment, it has also been of benefit to younger, more active people. Ebmeier said PRI will begin offering a credentialing program to athletic trainers and strength and conditioning specialists early next year, and Cornerstone already has competitive athletes taking advantage of its services.
According to a testimonial on the facility’s Website, competitive runner Erika Nestor of Burlington ran her fastest half-marathon ever after being treated by Spence and company.
“I feel like a new runner,” Nestor wrote. “I didn’t realize how tight I was before, particularly in the upper body. After our sessions, my whole body moves differently and more easily. It feels as if my spine is lubricated and can now move freely. My running has improved and I find I’m running faster and more easily.”
Spence estimates that upward of 70 percent of her clientele are over age 40, and many of them have been suffering with back, hip or knee pain for extended periods of time. She said the implementation of preventative therapy – before postural problems lead to pain – could make a major difference for many people who are unknowingly setting themselves up for Golden Years marred by creaky joints and stiff muscles.
“I believe that there needs to be a shift,” she said. “If we could start working with people earlier in their lives, we could prevent a lot of issues in the future for them.”
October 6, 2011
Back To School:
By Luke Baynes
81-Year-Old Woman Graduates from CCV
When she and her husband called it a career after 28 years of running the Marshfield Village Store, Jeanne Bernek became reacquainted with a feeling she hadn’t known for decades: boredom.
Rather than sit around and watch television or spend hours at the bridge table, Bernek decided to finish something she started way back in 1971 in Spartanburg, S.C.
She went back to school.
On June 4, the 81-year-old Bernek graduated from the Community College of Vermont with an Associate of Science degree in business. She’s the oldest graduate in the history of the college.
“It was really satisfying,” said Bernek of her accomplishment. “It was satisfaction that I had completed this, but my feeling was that I want to continue. You have to keep stretching your brain, otherwise it slips away.”
Bernek knows all too well about the fragility of the human mind: her husband, John, passed away from Alzheimer’s disease three years ago. She said her studies helped her deal with his prolonged illness and the grief of his passing, and that she wants to continue her education and receive a bachelor’s degree.
Although her husband was there in spirit only, many of Bernek’s family members were on hand to see her receive her diploma – including her granddaughter, whose graduation from the University of Vermont the elder Bernek attended just a week prior to her own ceremony.
“It was very special,” said Bernek of her grandchildren’s attendance. “They all remembered that I went to their graduations, so they made sure they came to mine.”
Business was a natural major for Bernek. The Vermont native worked in public relations for BellSouth during the five years she lived in South Carolina, then “handled all the finances and juggled all the money around” at the village store from 1976 to 2004. But her course load was varied and she cited mythology and world history among her favorite classes.
Another subject she enjoyed was the natural history of Vermont – a course that required her to hike Spruce Mountain in Plainfield.
“I was happy to get to the top,” she smiled. “But I wasn’t the last student either!” she added, citing her love of walking, hiking and gardening as the reasons she remains physically fit.
Bernek took the majority of her courses at CCV’s Morrisville campus, but also attended classes in Montpelier and St. Johnsbury and took several online courses. She said her experience working with computers at the village store was a big help in her academic success and that she did particularly well in a business writing class because of all the business correspondence she’s drafted over the years.
She ended up earning 74 credits, although only 60 were needed to graduate. She received 42 credits through the college’s Assessment of Prior Learning program for the nearly three decades she spent working at the hub of the Marshfield community.
Bernek lives in Greensboro Bend but spends winters in Lighthouse Point, Fla., where she owns a condominium within walking distance of her daughter’s home and volunteers at the local public library.
Looking back, she said she doesn’t regret waiting so long to get her college degree and spoke with pride about receiving a special commendation from the Vermont Senate the day after she and her husband closed up shop for the last time. The Senate concurrent resolution cited the Berneks’ “dedicated and skillful ownership tenure” and called them “outstanding proprietors” who “enhanced the historic spirit of the Marshfield Village Store while assuring that it continue into the 21st century as a thriving retail establishment.”
Bernek said she misses “the excitement of being in business and seeing people all the time” and that she hasn’t ruled out returning to work in some capacity.
But for now, school comes first for this spry octogenarian who’s currently looking into the external degree program at Johnson State College.
Although she’s uncertain if she’ll continue on the business track, one thing that’s for sure is that Jeanne Bernek will never rest in her tireless pursuit of knowledge and personal growth.
Race Car Driver Buffum Revs It UpBy Phyl Newbeck
You’d never know it from the inconspicuous building, but behind the door of Libra Racing in Colchester sits the most famous rally car racer in United States history. John Buffum is retired from racing, but he’s still the guiding force behind the Libra Racing Rally Team. Rally racing has never attained the popularity of Formula One or NASCAR in the United States so there are many who have never heard of this living legend that is right here in our backyard. Chris Yandell of Vermont SportsCar wishes more people knew Buffum’s name. “John Buffum is without a doubt the greatest American rally driver our sport has ever seen and may ever see,” he said. “He is American rallying’s preeminent ambassador and hero figure.”
Born in Wallingford, Connecticut, Buffum’s first car was a Fiat 1900 loaned to him by his high school French teacher. He claims he kept the Fiat at or below the speed limit, but that conservative driving ethic changed when he got to Middlebury College and wrapped his Corvair Monza Spider around a tree. His need for speed was growing and Buffum quickly replaced the Corvair with a high performance Mustang. Before long, the racing bug had bitten him
Buffum’s first rally was in the spring of 1964 with a fraternity brother. Rally racing (also known as rallying) goes from point to point rather than on a closed circuit on public roads with modified road-legal cars. In 1965, Buffum began doing “Sunday afternoon rallies,” which required more navigational work than speed. Riders were required to maintain an average speed going from checkpoint to checkpoint on public highways. Buffum notes that navigational races are rare these days. “With the onset of GPS units, there are fewer places where they can take place,” he said. “Most are now in Eastern Europe where there are still some unmapped roads.”
A year after graduating from Middlebury College in 1966, Buffum joined the Army. That’s when his racing career began to take shape. He was an unknown Army Lieutenant when he entered the Monte Carlo Rally in 1969. That race, an annual rally which generally takes place in Monaco and France, still ranks as one of his most memorable in part because he went in with no expectations. “I was 25 years old and I’d never been in a real rally,” he said. Buffum was the sole American competitor and finished twelfth despite his lack of experience.
After being discharged from the Army in 1969, Buffum decided to stay in his adopted state, having fallen in love with its peacefulness and rural character while at Middlebury. “There are other places to live,” he said, “but if you’ve only got a set time on earth, Vermont is a good place to be.”
Buffum named Libra Racing after his zodiac sign, and his career took off in earnest, going through many stages: the “Stuffum Buffum” phase when he zoomed past most of the others racers, only to have them pass him when he landed in a ditch; the flamboyant phase during which he painted his car in patriotic stars and stripes and called it the Bicentennial Special, despite the fact that it was a British model with the steering wheel on the right; and finally, the stage where he proved his mettle as the best rally car driver in the U.S.
In 1975 and again in 1976, Buffum won the U.S. National Championship despite the lack of any corporate sponsorship. Corporate sponsorship varies; in some cases sponsors provide cars and/or parts and sometimes they just provide funding, but Buffum and his co-driver were on their own until the British automaker Triumph made the decision to sponsor him in 1977. That first season he won a 670-mile rally over ice- and snow-covered roads in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. These days, very few rally races take place in New England. Buffum said Vermont will never be a hotbed for rally racing because of its rural nature. “Vermont has wonderful roads which are suitable for racing,” he said, “but people live on those roads so closing them would be an issue.”
Buffum eventually switched from Triumph to an Audi Quattro which he still considers his favorite car since it was the first to feature four wheel drive. He was so successful that his car was dubbed “the Terminator.” Buffum’s times were so fast that he worried the new technology would be banned from rallies. “The first year or two,” he said, “we sometimes stopped during the race for a minute or two to make sure the race looked closer.”
From 1982 to 1987, Buffum won 55 of 62 National Championship rallies with seven second place finishes. He was 14 for 14 in Canada. Buffum was the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) National PRO Rally champion in each of those years and the North American Rally Cup champion for five years, as well as receiving the Robert V. Ridges Memorial Award — the highest honor given by the SCCA.
One of Buffum’s most memorable races was also the longest; a 3,000-mile trek around Peru that lasted five days. In those five days, he saw only two other vehicles. The final day of racing took place on the Pan-American Highway. The two-lane highway quickly turned into a four-lane one with both sides completely closed to traffic. There were two tollbooths on the route. Buffum estimates he went through the first one at 70 mph and the second at 80. At the end of the race, he and his co-driver were feted by a general who had helped drive back the Shining Path guerrilla group which had been terrorizing Peruvians. That was the high note. The low note was that after being awarded the winner’s trophy, they were told their car didn’t meet specifications and were disqualified.
Buffum still keeps the trophy in his office.
Although Buffum officially retired from racing in 1987, he remains involved in the sport through Libra Racing. These days, he does his errands in a Mazda3 and at age 67 has no desire to get behind the wheel to race. Initially, he turned the reins over to his stepson Paul “Thumper” Choinier but these days, he takes care of the Hyundai driven by driver Antoine L’Estage of St. John, New Brunswick. Buffum is proud that last year, L’Estage won the American, Canadian and European Championships in a car Libra Racing maintains.
While he recognizes that rally car racing will never be as popular in the United States as it is in Europe and that his name will never rival Andretti, Unser or Earnhardt, Buffum is justifiably proud of his place in the sport. The Sports Car Club of America inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2006. “John Buffum is the single biggest name in the sport of rally in SCCA’s history,” SCCA Archivist Pete Hylton said during the induction ceremony. “He is the person that the world thinks of when they think of SCCA and rally.”
And he’s right here in Vermont.
Enjoying the Toys of SummerBy Adam White
When it comes to the “toys of summer,” baby boomers and seniors are at the age when it’s time to play.
According to statistics released by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), people over 50 currently account for more than $7 trillion in wealth and roughly half of all discretionary spending. Sales figures from several industries indicate that boomers and seniors are the largest age demographics purchasing boats and recreational vehicles (RVs), and similar trends are developing among other high-end “toys” such as touring motorcycles, zero-turn riding lawnmowers and multi-use “super grills.”
“The older crowd is more apt to make these purchases, because they feel that this is the point in their lives when they deserve it,” said Mike Lucas, sales manager at Fox Marine in Colchester. “After all these years, it’s time for them to finally get something they’ve always wanted.”
When your ship comes in
A recent RBC Capital Markets survey found that 80 percent of people plan to purchase a recreational product at some point in the future, with the largest portion (27 percent) interested in a boat. Of all respondents to the survey, baby boomers and seniors showed the most collective interest in trying out their sea legs.
“I’ve always seen that age group as being a hot spot for boating,” Lucas said. “A big part of it is, quite honestly, that we’re not the most affordable hobby out there. People tend not to get into boating until the kids are out of college, the house is mostly paid off and they’ve got some equity built up.”
Lucas said that a typical entry-level boat typically costs between 20 and 30 thousand dollars, while a “well-appointed bow-rider” comes with a price tag roughly twice that.
“I tell people to expect it to be more than a car and less than an airplane,” Lucas said.
That’s not enough to discourage many boomers and seniors, for whom boating might be “part of their bucket list,” according to Lucas. Even the current economic downturn hasn’t land-locked the older crowd; Lucas thinks it may have helped drive boomers and seniors to places like Fox Marine.
“There’s the idea that hey, the stock market’s not going to do anything good for my money, so I might as well do something fun with it,” Lucas said. “When you buy a boat, you’re making an investment – in yourself. Life is short, why not enjoy it?”
Even aspiring skippers who encounter resistance from their significant others have a place to turn for help: the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s “Discover Boating” website (www.discoverboating.com) features a “spousal conversion kit” with video testimonials aimed at persuading a possibly reluctant wife or husband to get on board.
But once prospective boat owners take the plunge, they might be surprised at how much fun it can be for couples.
“My wife likes it as much I do, maybe more so,” said 57-year-old Kevin Murphy of Essex Junction, who goes out on his motorboat with his wife, Helen, several times a week during the season. “The last two or three times we’ve bought a boat, she was the driving force behind it.”
If stepping right from dry land onto the deck of a yacht proves to be too much of a stretch, there is another, somewhat less daunting option for boomers and seniors.
“We’re seeing more and more older people getting into jet skis,” said Ken Kajenski, owner of Ski Marine in Williston. “I think it’s a size issue; jet skis are a lot easier to handle and manage than boats. We’ve got a few older customers who get right onto those wave runners and start zipping around. If you want to go for a quick ride, a jet ski is the way to go.”
Get your motor runnin’
That same jump-on-and-go spirit is also available to those who want a bigger canvas on which to paint their summer memories.
“I toyed with boats, but I found it very boring to be trapped on a single body of water,” said 48-year-old Tim White of Hinesburg. “On a motorcycle, you have the freedom to travel literally anywhere.”
White took a common path for cycle enthusiasts his age; he started riding as a teenager but gave it up to get married and raise kids, then got back in the saddle again once his children had grown up.
He has put “better than 100,000 miles” on his Harley Davidson Road Glide since, including one impromptu journey on which he put a sizable chunk of the eastern United States beneath his wheels.
“On probably my most memorable ride, I set out with no real destination,” White said. “I rode out as far as Ohio, then turned south and rode down into Kentucky, then came back up through West Virginia and back home. I wasn’t going anywhere specific; I was just going.”
“I don’t think that is something I would ever do in my car or truck,” he continued. “On a motorcycle, you get to interact with your environment, and people, in a way that you can’t when you’re walled off inside the interior of a car.”
Other baby boomers embrace the sport because they came of age during the time when motorcycles symbolized the rebellion of Peter Fonda’s “Easy Rider” and the “heavy-metal thunder” glorified in anthems like Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”
“A lot of people get into it because they’ve always had that dream, and they want to express themselves in the freedom of it,” said Debby Pearson, co-owner of Green Mountain Harley Davidson in Essex Junction. “They like to have, perhaps, an alter-ego on the side – a different person from who they are in their professional lives.”
Pearson said that an entry-level Harley starts at about $8,000, though most mature riders gravitate toward larger and more expensive touring cycles with windshields, storage compartments and other amenities.
“Many people that age want to do long trips,” Pearson said. “They want something they can go a couple of days on and not be uncomfortable. Touring bikes nowadays are very comfortable; a lot of them have things like GPSs and boom audio built right in.”
Luxury on wheels
But when it comes to combining the freedom of the open road with the comfort of your own living room, nothing beats the experience afforded by a recreational vehicle, or RV.
According to a recent University of Michigan study commissioned by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), nearly 10 percent of all Americans 55 and older own an RV.
“Those folks have worked hard and planned for their future, and owning an RV is part of that plan,” said Tom Carpenter, owner of TC’s RVs in St. Albans.
That plan also includes staying as comfortable as possible, and modern RVs allow boomers and seniors to tour as far as the road will take them without having to make lifestyle compromises.
“You can take all your own food with you, so you are able to eat healthier, more balanced meals and take care of any food issues you might have,” Carpenter said. “You also get to sleep in your own bed, which can be important with all the bed-bug problems hotels are having across the U.S. and Canada.”
Carpenter said that a wide range of RVs exist, in terms of size and price. “Fifth-wheel” models (designed to be pulled behind a truck) are the least expensive, while TC’s stocks luxury models that extend upward into the six-digit price range.
Many customers look to rent an RV to test out the experience prior to making such a significant financial commitment, but Carpenter warns that rental vehicles don’t provide a good indication of what an owner can expect.
“I have seen such an extreme level of abuse of rentals that it’s hard to imagine,” Carpenter said.
The backyard toy box
Even those without the finances or schedule flexibility to take off on a boat, motorcycle or RV can still get the “toys of summer” experience at home. Advancements in lawnmower and grill design have pushed these once-utilitarian household items solidly into the category of high-tech toys that customers crave.
“Everybody loves sitting on a good piece of equipment,” said 83-year-old Robert Malinatti, owner of The Small Engine Co. in Colchester. “These new high-end mowers are like big toys, and we’re the king of them.”
The cream of the lawnmower crop consists of zero-turn-radius models, which can pivot a full 360 degrees on just their back wheels to negotiate even the tightest corners of a yard. Some high-end consumer ZTRs boast up to 30-horsepower engines that can propel them at close to 10 miles per hour – not quite sports-car fast, but enough to inject some fun into an otherwise mundane chore.
“They’re extremely maneuverable and fast, so they’re a lot of fun to operate,” said Malinatti. “Once you learn how to operate them, you can cut your mowing time down by two-thirds.”
Now Your Cookin’
Putting a pristine lawn underfoot with so much time to spare might call for a celebratory backyard barbecue. Whereas a Weber charcoal grill was once considered a cookout status symbol, advancements in barbecue design have helped create massive “super grills” that use combinations of fuels and flame delivery systems to smoke, sear, broil and bake in addition to plain old grilling.
From the $1,600 Traeger Longhorn up to the $12,000, custom-made Kalamazoo 900GS Hybrid, super grills have moved the custom kitchen craze outdoors and provided the latest big-ticket toy that mature homeowners covet.
With so many different recreational and home products competing for their attention, it is interesting to note that boomers and seniors tend to choose one and stick with it. Any leisure time the Murphys can find is spent at the docks in Burlington or out on the lake; Malinatti said that his personal ZTR mower is the only toy he has time to play with at this point in his life.
And even with such high-performance lawn rockets available, White remains firmly committed to the one toy he already has in his garage.
“I just use a little Craftsman push mower,” White said. “It would be hard for me to collect great stories riding around on a lawnmower.”
‘Retired’ Couple Opens Barkeaters RestaurantBy Steven Frank
Bark-eater is a well-known Mohawk term in the Adirondacks, with roots dating back to when tribes ate tree bark to survive the winters.
Vermonters don’t have to go to such an extreme to get a meal and experience the mountainous region’s atmosphere. In fact, they don’t even have to cross Lake Champlain. They can just go to Shelburne.
Charlotte couple Jack and Carolyn Kovac own and operate Barkeaters Restaurant, which opened recently at the former Bistro Sauce location on Falls Road. The Kovacs are partnering with Jennifer Sinclair, former co-owner of The Clover House Restaurant in Essex.
“We’ve known Jen a long time and we just started kicking around ideas,” Carolyn Kovac said.
The 59-year-old Kovac and her husband are first-time restaurant owners.
“My husband and I retired a couple of years ago and actually got bored. We decided we weren’t ready for retirement after all,” Kovac said, “and we love to entertain, so we decided to take it to the next level.”
Carolyn Kovac used to own an insurance agency in Burlington with two partners. Jack Kovac worked for Twincraft as a planner and scheduler.
“We have the business experience and (Sinclair) has the restaurant experience. It just came together naturally,” Kovac said.
Barkeaters opened on Jan. 7 and had its grand opening about two weeks later. How is the restaurant doing so far?
“Overall, things have been scary good,” Sinclair said as she knocked on the wooden bar. “There have been very few kinks so far. It’s been really smooth.”
“We are honestly and truly thrilled,” she said. “With January traditionally being a slow month for the restaurant business, we have been phenomenally busy. We have only heard good things from our patrons so we couldn’t be happier. We hope we can just continue to live up to the expectations of our customers.”
The restaurant has met the expectations of customer Cathy Potdevin. A frequent patron of Bistro Sauce, she has already been to Barkeaters three times. One of those outings was for lunch with her 8-year-old daughter, Estelle. While Potdevin was enjoying her beet and goat salad — made with Vermont goat cheese — her daughter was munching on crab cakes with spicy tartar sauce.
“I knew the location, and there are not a lot of places around here where you can just sit down and have a good lunch,” Potdevin said. “I love the camping atmosphere …. The food is good and the service is fast.”
The interior has an Adirondack theme, from the wooden bar, chairs and tables to pictures of animals on the wall to wine being stored on the shell of a canoe.
“The three of us have always loved the Adirondacks so we decided to bring a little bit of the Adirondacks over to Vermont,” Kovac said. “We tried to bring a relaxed, lodge-type atmosphere to the place — a place where you can come in and relax for a little while.”
Kovac describes the fare as “traditional Vermont cuisine.” The menu features a range of beef, chicken, pork, fish and vegetarian dishes. Some of the items that have already proved popular include the Espresso pork (a seared ground coffee bean-crusted pork tenderloin), lobster and crab-crusted haddock, and the Barkeaters Burger, which includes a fried egg and cheddar from Shelburne Farms.
The restaurant also offers bark chips, but patrons can relax; the item is homemade potato chips. The only real tree bark in the restaurant is displayed on the maitre d’s workstation.
“Everybody raves about (the bark chips),” Kovac said.
Sinclair and restaurant chef Barbara Cote developed the menu selection, which is scheduled to change on a seasonal basis.
“Sometimes you want your comfort food in the winter and lighter fare in the summer,” Kovac said. “In the fall, you have the pumpkin and the squash and all that good stuff.”
Barkeaters has a bar and offers an array of sparkling, red and white wines. There are also several Vermont beers on-tap.
Barkeaters is located at 97 Falls Road in Shelburne and can be reached at 985-2830 and www.barkeatersrestaurant.com. Barkeaters is open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and for Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. Reservations are suggested.
Geniel Fife Espouses Health Benefits of Raw Vegan Way of LifeBy Susan Green
On her family’s Idaho dairy farm, Geniel Fife grew up with a relatively wholesome albeit conventional meat-and-potatoes outlook.
“My mom was very health-oriented,” she recalls. “But we could have done better. I found a new and better way.”
After leaving home as a young adult, it would be four decades and eight children with a fellow Mormon later when Fife began to radically change her culinary paradigm. She became a raw vegan, someone whose diet consists of only uncooked live plant products.
By that time, the late 1990s, Geniel and husband Lynn Fife — an agricultural economist teaching at the University of Vermont — were ensconced with their brood in a five-bedroom house on ten South Burlington acres. That’s where she now operates Geni’s Raw Vegan Foods, offering classes and preparing packaged snacks, crackers and granolas. Her wares are sold at local stores and farmer’s markets or via mail order.
The slogan for Fife’s enterprise: “Nutrition you need. Tastes you love.”
One bite of her Maple Slivered Almonds, enhanced with a smidgeon of sea salt and chili powder, and a skeptic might echo that assessment. They’re delicious but, just as important, most nuts and grains she works with are sprouted to capture the inherent enzymes. So the four-ounce bag contains protein molecules necessary for an optimum flow of the body’s digestive process.
This is the kind of lingo that Lynn Fife, more of a latecomer to the raw vegan lifestyle than his wife, surely understands. As a man devoted to science and therefore requiring solid proof that the switch made sense, initially he was a doubter.
“Lynn thought I was absolutely crazy,” Geni, a septuagenarian, says of his reaction to her altering the menu. It was a choice, however, compelled by circumstances.
“In the mid-1980s, I felt fatigue and lack of mental clarity,” she notes, enumerating symptoms often associated with menopause. “Even a little bit of heart arrhythmia.”
Geni took a correspondence course in medicinal herbs at a Utah school that required some in-person visits. As a mother tending an empty nest, the experience meant more to her than a mere education. “I felt like I had nothing that was mine,” she explains. “It was a challenge that I loved, learning about the natural things of the Earth.”
Her doctor had suggested taking pharmaceutical estrogen, which Geni opposed. “It didn’t seem right to me. We eat wrong with the standard American diet, which is lousy. Chemicals are added to increase the shelf life. And these products are in cute little boxes, so we want to buy them.”
She became a vegan in 2000 and wanted to go raw, but didn’t quite know how. Moreover, Geni cooked separate dishes for Lynn, then still in a carnivorous mode. They did take a big step forward by grazing their own cow in Newport for grass-fed beef.
Geni — whose health improved significantly — received training at the Chicago branch of the California-based Living Light Culinary Art Institute. She also was influenced by reading “Recipes for Life from God’s Garden” by Rhonda J. Malkmus, whose Christian health ministry is located in North Carolina.
It was another book, “The China Study” by nutritional biochemist Colin Campbell, that prompted Lynn to embrace the concept of veganism in 2001.
“I always drank more milk than water,” he recounts, remembering his formative years on an Idaho dairy farm not far from Geni’s parents. “With my research in dairy at UVM, I was trying to get people to eat more cheese and butter while my wife was focusing on all these goofy things. I thought, ‘What does she know? I’m the professional.’ But Geni was strong and skinny. I was fat and caught every bug that came down the pike.”
The Campbell tome documents his research with rats. According to Lynn Fife, rodents subjected to a standard Western diet developed pre-cancerous growths after six months. When given only grass and seeds for the remainder of a year, their diseases went into remission, their coats became shinier and they demonstrated more vigor. The growths returned soon after the plant-based food was again replaced by animal proteins.
“For me, this was like finding the Holy Grail,” Lynn says of his vegan conversion. “I was thinking, ‘My gosh, that’s got to be true.’ So, I went cold turkey, so to speak.”
He lost weight, his high blood pressure dropped to acceptable levels and the polyps previously spotted in his large intestine were diagnosed, during a subsequent colonoscopy, as benign scars.
But a raw vegan regimen is not just for the sick, Geni points out. “Each meal should be 80 percent greens and vegetables and 20 percent anything else, such as fruit.”
This is almost a mantra at the six-week courses she conducts four or five times a year with a co-instructor, vegan chef Joshua Pfeil of Burlington. In addition, Geni also leads two “summer camps,” one reserved for youths and the other for adults who come from out of the area.
The Fifes took a break from 2005 to 2007 for a Mormon humanitarian mission to Serbia. In “a country that lives on pork,” Lynn says they were able to eat vegan but not raw. The couple have since resumed their normal alimentary practices.
In her spacious kitchen with a view of Mount Brunelle in the distance, Geni stirs the ingredients for a Chocolate Superfood Bar — chia seeds, raw cacao powder, pecans, walnuts, almond butter and raw cacao oil — before pouring the mixture into a shallow stainless steel pan lined with lecithin. It’s then frozen, not heated.
She soaks and sprouts the organic grain for her Cinnamon Raisin Buckwheat Granola, adds raisins, dates and walnuts, dehydrates and packages the concoction. Not Tuna Pate, Geni’s faux fish dish, contains parsley, celery, onion, sunflower seeds, almonds and lemon.
“I like to make recipes such as Spicy Raw Vegan Mustard and later decide whether to market them,” she says. “I try these things out on Lynn and on the people in my classes.”
Experimentation is key. On a brisk December day, Geni proffers an as-yet-unnamed dessert with cacao, flax and super-foods (items such as sprouts that are high-fiber and low-calorie, as well as rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals). Lynn takes a few bites and suggests the treat isn’t sweet enough, so it’s back to the drawing board.
While acknowledging that she’s something of a workaholic, Geni muses that, “life is so precious and there’s so much good you can do.”
Geni’s Raw Vegan Foods: www.geniraw.com or 658-9500.
Update on Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms, Support, Research and Fund-raising
The mission of the Alzheimer’s Association is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
Each year the Alzheimer’s Association develops new programs and services to better support our mission. Below are a few of the highlights of what the Vermont Chapter will be working on in 2011.
Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s
Memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging. It may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s, a fatal brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. It is important to determine if memory loss or other signs you or a loved one experience are a serious health concern. If you notice any of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s noted below, see a doctor, who will work with you to determine if you or your loved one have Alzheimer’s, a related dementia or another condition.
• Memory loss that disrupts daily life
• Challenges in planning or solving problems
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
•Confusion with time and place
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• New problems with words in speaking or writing
•Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
•Decreased or poor judgment
•Withdrawal from work or social activities
•Changes in mood and personality
The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is a workshop for anyone who would like to know more about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
The workshop’s information includes:
• Symptoms and effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia
• How Alzheimer’s affects the brain
• Causes and risk factors
• How to find out if it’s Alzheimer’s disease
• The benefits of early detection
• How to address a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease
• Stages of the disease
• Hope for the future
Call 802-316-3839 for information.
New clinical trial matching service launched
The Alzheimer’s Association has launched a new clinical trial matching service aptly named TrialMatch. This is a free service provided by the Alzheimer’s Association that makes it easy for people with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, families and physicians to locate IRB approved clinical trials based on personal criteria (diagnosis, stage of disease) and location. For more information call the Alzheimer’s Association helpline at 1-800-272-3900 or visit alz.org and look for TrialMatch.
Comfort Zone brings families peace of mind Alzheimer’s Association Comfort ZoneTM, powered by Omnilink, is a new comprehensive Web-based location management service that provides the entire family peace of mind while giving people with Alzheimer’s the freedom and independence they want. Family members can have knowledge of a person’s location, while individuals with Alzheimer’s can enjoy the emotional security of familiar routines and surroundings.
Working with a tracking device, such as a car-mounted unit, pocket device or wrist-worn device, Comfort Zone is a secure Web application that allows family members to:
• remotely monitor the location of the person with Alzheimer’s
• set up safety zones.
• receive alerts (via text or e-mail) when he or she has traveled beyond a pre-set zone.
Upcoming Programs and Events
• All About Alzheimer’s for Family and Friends – A two-part workshop Jan. 23 & 30, 1:00pm – 4: 00pm. The Arbors, Shelburne. $25 per person; $40/family. Scholarships available if needed. Registration required.
This two part program provides the essential information that families need to plan and provide care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
• 50-Plus and Baby Boomers EXPO, Jan. 29, 9:00am-4:00pm, Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center, So. Burlington.
This year the Alzheimer’s Association is excited to be the beneficiary of the Super Silent Auction and the 50/50 Raffle at the EXPO. You won’t want to miss the array of items that have been donated by generous local businesses. Bid on a weekend getaway, theater tickets, jewelry and much more. If you would like to make a donation for the silent auction, please contact the Vermont Chapter.
• Camel’s Hump Challenge, Feb. 13, Camel’s Hump, Huntington. One of New England’s premier backcountry skiing events, The Camel’s Hump Challenge is a high country traverse around the perimeter of Camel’s Hump – the third highest peak in Vermont’s Green Mountains. Dr. Warren Beechen, the founder and organizer, who passed away in 2003, conceived the Camel’s Hump Challenge as a fund-raiser for the Vermont Alzheimer’s Association, and the event continues to raise money to support the programs and services of the Vermont Chapter.
Memory Walk 2010 raises $120,000
It was a record Memory Walk season for the Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter!
Memory Walk is the largest annual fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. Six walks were held statewide: Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, Montpelier, Rutland and St. Albans. The combined events drew nearly 900 participants who helped raise a record breaking $120,000.
The money raised at Memory Walk directly provides local programs and services to support an estimated 11,000 Vermonters and their families who are living with Alzheimer’s, as well as the cutting edge research that will someday lead to a world without Alzheimer’s.
The Association is thankful to all of the sponsors, participants, volunteers and donors that helped to make this year such an enormous success. We hope to see many new faces in 2011 when we rename our event to align more closely with our mission. Please join us for The Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
For complete details please visit alz.org/ research. You can also sign up for Alzheimer’s Association e–news updates and breaking news updates online or call the Vermont Chapter for assistance.
• Sharp Late-life Cholesterol Decrease Could Signal Alzheimer’s. Study finds no link to midlife levels, but lifelong control still recommended -Alzheimer’s Association
• Omega-3 Fatty Acid DHA Doesn’t Help Treat Alzheimer’s. JAMA study data first reported at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. – Washington Post
• Heavy Smoking More Than Doubles Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Vascular dementia risk also skyrockets – USA Today
• Alzheimer’s Association Opens 2011 International Research Grant Program. 2011 grants process, timeline and documents are available online
• Alzheimer’s Association Announces 2010 Funded Research Grants. $14 million awarded to 84 top-of-field investigators worldwide. Abstracts of 2010 funded projects are available online.
Information provided by Martha Richardson, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter. For more information contact Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter, 300 Cornerstone Drive, Suite 128, Williston, VT 05495 ; 802-316-3839 ; 24/7 helpline: 800-272-3900 ; www. alz.org.
What to Look For and Look Out For When Buying a Second HomeBy Susan Orzell-Rantanen
The market for second homes, which include townhouses and condominiums, is labeled “strong” by area Realtors. The senior population is well represented among those people choosing to buy a Vermont home, often used for only a portion of the year, to complement a primary residence in another state. Among the Realtors reporting on the subject are those who have earned the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation.
“The Senior Advantage Real Estate Council (SAREC) is an organization of real estate agents specializing in servicing the unique lifestyle needs and concerns of maturing Americans when buying, selling or investing in real property. The SRES designation identified members, who must be members of the National Association of Realtors and who have completed a specific, proprietary certification program qualifying them to specialize in servicing the 55-year-old and above market,” explained Carol Audette, SRES, of Coldwell Banker Hickok and Boardman in Burlington.
It is difficult to pinpoint the number of houses earmarked as a “second home” since most sales are reported under the broader categories of single-family homes or condominiums. However, those who deal with the senior market can readily point to clients who have gravitated to Vermont for a variety of reasons, the most common being “appreciation of the laid-back lifestyle” and “to be near children and grandchildren.” The term “second home” is not interchangeable with “vacation home,” clarifies Audette, noting that parents often foot the bill for their college students or older children who could not qualify for a home at the time.
Second homes are not necessarily luxury properties; some buyers are looking to dispense with the responsibilities of traditional homeownership “We are finding a mixture of wants since those buyers who did not want yard or house maintenance buy a town home or condominium; many are looking to a smaller home on the lake and some just want a seasonal cottage for five months.” She adds that many of her clients in the past four years sold their primary Vermont homes, moved to retirement communities in Florida, and downsized to camps or modular homes in Vermont for the summer months.
Janice Battaline, SRES, of REMAX North Professionals in Colchester, agrees that second-home buyers voice diverse needs. “Lifestyles dictate the selection of the type of second home. We find many buyers who are looking for the private, luxury home, while others are looking for a second home that is easy care, perhaps in the ‘city,‘ that can be used for occasional weekends in Vermont, or rented out.”
In Audette’s experience, the market for second homes and vacation homes has slowed in the past four years. That does not necessarily translate to bad news, especially when second homes are seen under the “single-family home” umbrella.
“Our housing prices have been relatively stable and affordable compared to many areas in the country,” states Battaline. According to Multiple Listing Service statistics, 36 single-family homes have been sold in Colchester as of September of 2010, for example, with a median sale price of $467,500. “I believe it is an excellent market for both buyers and sellers. For buyers, interest rates are at a historic low, and prices are realistic, offering greater purchasing power. For sellers, moving to another home affords them greater buying power as well, with the low rates and realistic prices providing sellers with the opportunity to save on their next home.”
Besides Vermont, other “hot spots” for second homes for seniors in the United States are certain areas of Florida, South Carolina, and Cape Cod in Massachusetts. “Seniors look anywhere along the Atlantic Coast…or where their grandchildren are,” Audette said. Many times you will find seniors’ motivation for a second home is to be close to their family, at least for part of the year.
The ramifications of buying a second home in Vermont must be thought through.
“A Special Report on Vermont Real Estate Taxes” published by Vermont Real Estate Today in July of 2010 and posted on the Internet explains that residential property is considered “primary homes and the land on which they sit;” all other property is considered nonresidential property and taxed at a higher rate.
Homes, second or primary, require year-round upkeep and vigilance regardless of how many months or weekends are spent in them by their owners. Here is where property management companies may come in, performing tasks from mowing lawns, to plowing, to keeping tabs on security systems. This is an added cost to be considered.
In general, the specifications for second homes for seniors mirror those of primary homes. A lay-out of one floor helps s helpful for “aging in place” as the needs of seniors change. The proximity to health care and recreational and cultural amenities also comes into play.
The trends in second-home buying are no surprise to seniors who have seen the ups and downs of typical economic swings. “There seems to be more of a desire to bring families together, and rather than taking expensive vacations, many people are opting to gather together at a vacation or second home. Second-home buyers have been cautious in recent years when purchasing real estate; however, the second-home market is still moving forward. As the economy improves, and the population feels more comfortable with their investments, we see these markets sales only increasing,” Battaline said.
A Dog Could Be Your New BFF
How to Select the Best Breed and Find Your Best Friend ForeverBy Clara Rose Thornton
“Dogs are miracles with paws,” wrote contemporary novelist, artist and therapist Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy. Edith Wharton, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of “The Age of Innocence” (1920) and “Ethan Frome” (1911), once wrote, “My little dog — a heartbeat at my feet.”
What is it about canines that command our imaginations and profound affections? What is it about their natures that make them such natural companions? In addition to the historic idea of dogs as “man’s best friend” from childhood onward, there is also a large body of evidence supporting healthful benefits of dog ownership, both physical and mental.
Dr. Paul Newhouse, geriatrics physician at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, said, “It’s clear that to have something or someone to care for is an important element of emotional health for people. For seniors, who have possibly lost that role, dog ownership can be something special. It can be a way for seniors to feel useful and necessary again, because there is a distinct difference between caring ‘for’ and caring ‘about’ another being. I’m positive that it has mental health benefits.”
In a 2007 study for the British Journal of Health Psychology, Dr. Deborah Wells of the Canine Behavior Centre of Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, concluded that “having a pet dog improves your physical and mental wellbeing more than having a cat.”
As reported by medicalnewstoday.com, “Dr. Wells found evidence that people who take cats and dogs from rescue centres reported reductions in minor health problems such as headaches, dizzy spells and colds as soon as one month after taking their new companion home. However, it was only those people who had taken dogs, as opposed to cats, that still had the improved health conditions up to ten months later.”
Two primary reasons listed for improved health, in this and several other studies, are the increased physical activity required to care for and play with a dog, and the reduction in stress levels for those living alone. There is a degree of physical activity involved with dog care, and taking into consideration seniors with ailments, it need not be strenuous: getting up to let a dog outside, regular feeding and gentle walks. These activities benefit the cardiovascular system and help keep joints limber. Also, the fact that a barking dog keeps strangers away can afford a heightened sense of safety and increase self-reliance, making living alone easier to maintain.
Dogs love to cuddle and interact, which scientifically reduces blood pressure and heart rate in owners during the activity. To pet and dote on an animal is a soothing ritual, and the routines involved in pet care (feeding and walking at a certain hour, etc.) can give renewed interest in and zest for life for those experiencing the “empty nest” syndrome.
So how does one go about acquiring the best dog for oneself and one’s home? Are there specific breeds that are better suited for seniors’ lifestyles and needs?
Lisa Thomas, part of the kennel and adoption staff at Addison County Humane Society in Middlebury, doesn’t think so. “Many breeds are good for older owners. Nearly any breed can be a suitable companion depending on the animal’s personality. A pit bull can be just as feasible as a shitzu or poodle, if it’s mellow.”
Some others disagree. For example, Scottie Devens, of Essex Junction, is a senior who has run an organization called Save the Greyhound Dogs for several years because of her belief that “greyhounds are the most gentle breed, bar none. They are definitely a good pick for seniors. I have three.”
Indeed, there are unavoidable traits of certain breeds that may lend themselves better to a senior lifestyle. The factors of hair shedding — which requires grooming and diligent clean-up — and exercise needed — which ranges from minimal to heavy and interactive — are two primary things to consider, taking into account the owner’s mobility, home situation and energy level.
Smaller dogs that weigh ten pounds or less, such as Bichons, terriers and Chihuahuas, often experience less shedding and require less outdoor exercise. Bigger, shaggier dogs, such as Afghans or collies, necessitate more. Traits vary and there is no hard rule, so checking with a dog breed comparison chart online or asking your local animal shelter will help.
Once a breed is in mind, financial logistics must come into play. Being a dog owner is a serious financial investment, and ongoing care could be likened to caring for a child, with food, toys and medical expenses to consider.
“At the Humane Society, the cost of a dog depends on the age of the dog. A newborn through age seven is $115, eight and older is $75. A special needs dog is $50,” explained Thomas of the structure in place at her facility in Middlebury. Prices are $10 or more at pounds, around $50 at shelters, and prices can be astronomical (in the thousands) for purebred show dogs. Since Humane Societies and shelters do such good work for dogs seeking adoption, with little funding and much volunteer labor, it is recommended to purchase a pet from these organizations. Pounds are also recommended, as thousands of perfectly healthy and lovable dogs are killed there each week due to overcrowding.
After a dog is selected and brought to its new home, expenses include food, vaccinations, neutering, veterinary care, a dog bed, collars and leashes, a food bowl, vitamins, flea control and shampoo. Other expenses could include training, if it is a young dog, and a fence for your property, depending on your living situation. The low end of monthly dog cost is around $50 for the first year, with the high end around $150. Things to remember are that bigger dogs require more food, and the first year of dog ownership is always more expensive due to initial medical procedures and acquisition of toys, bedding, collars and leashes. In the following years, regular ownership costs can drop to only $200 per year, or approximately $15 per month. The website peteducation.com is a good resource for cost comparisons.
Remember – for those who cannot become full-time dog owners for whatever reasons, these shelters and organizations are always looking for volunteers. A love for animals and companionship can be extended at any time, and whether you want to make it a lifestyle or a hobby, the benefits to you and a new furry friend are unending.
New Leaders Tackle the Flynn Center and Lane SeriesBy Clara Rose Thornton
“The key to Burlington is that people are willing to go along for the ride, because they trust the arts leaders in the community,” said Natalie Neuert, new director at the University of Vermont’s Lane Series. “This doesn’t stop at the arts; it’s a Vermont thing across the board. We can look up our politicians’ numbers in the phone book and call them at home. There’s still this incredibly personal reality to living here.”
The idea of community leaders having a tangible, interconnected relationship with their communities is part of the state’s cultural fabric. The aesthetic can most readily be seen in local politics, where town meetings are still the hallmark of democracy and candidates engage with the public everywhere from libraries to elementary schools. Yet real connections to the community are also the bedrock of our arts and cultural institutions. This awareness continues with the recent changing of hands at the executive level of two of Burlington’s most prized and time-honored performance organizations, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts and the Lane Series.
Scarcely more than two months ago, at the start of the summer, John Killacky moved from San Francisco – where he’d run the arts program at The San Francisco Foundation for seven years – to sit at the helm of the Flynn as executive director, following longtime leader Andrea Rogers’ retirement. On July 1, following Jane Ambrose’s retirement announcement in January, Neuert took over as director of the Lane Series in a natural progression from her role as manager for 16 years.
Killacky shows a sense of humor about his new role, and an even-handed wisdom that comes from decades of successful arts management. “There’s nothing broken here,” he remarked about the Flynn with a laugh. “Everything’s working well, so my first goal is to not screw it up.”
Killacky was born on the South Side of Chicago. In the late 1980s through the early ‘90s, he held the position of performing arts curator at Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis, farther north. It was here that his first connections to Vermont and the Flynn were made.
“As early as 1990, Walker Arts Center and I had partnerships with the Flynn,” he explained. “Richard Blither was curator, and we co-commissioned a number of great performances. In fact, when I left to work in San Francisco, Richard moved to Minneapolis to take over my job! I’ve had a long relationship with the Center here in Vermont.”
Before heading The San Francisco Foundation’s arts program, Killacky had been the director of that city’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, also for seven years. He has worked in the philanthropic sector as arts program director for charitable organizations in Philadelphia. Throughout his career, Killacky’s passion for the creative disciplines and their benefit to the community has been matchless.
Perhaps his dedication is due to the fact that the arts bug bit early, and his involvement is not just in the paperwork, meetings and phone calls. “When I was in high school, my friends and I went to see the Alvin Ailey dance company and I thought, ‘whatever that is on that stage, it’s what I want to do.’” Killacky’s passion led him to study dance at Harkness Ballet in New York City following high school graduation. He lived there for 14 years as a performer with Theatre Open Eye, before dancing in Winnepeg, Ontario, with a company called Contemporary Dancers.
“To this day I still have an artistic practice. I’ve made 15 short films. My last big project was a PBS documentary about a folk singer named Janis Ian, called ‘Janis Ian: Live from Grand Center,’” he added proudly.
Because the arts’ personal value was introduced to him early, Killacky considers arts education for youth “very near and dear to my heart.” Forming a threefold purpose, Killacky quotes two other factors as being the most beneficial about the Flynn, and what he plans to fiercely uphold.
“The Flynn brings an excellent roster of world-class artists to this community, while being a home for local artists. That’s something I’ve sensed during my mere two months in the area – Vermont offers a more undivided life, in many ways. I will continue this tradition.”
Similarly, Neuert has always worked in the arts and began on the performance, as opposed to the administrative, side of the table, and deeply understands the needs of an art-loving public.
“Burlington is an extraordinary arts community,” she mused in a telephone interview from her new office. “There have been such strong arts leaders here, and there’s an incredible amount of trust in the audience. What I mean by that is the arts leaders and the different arts organizations in town have developed a close relationship with the audience through consistency and involvement, such that the audience will trust what they program. The UVM Lane series has been at the forefront of that trust-building relationship for 55 years.”
“There are a lot of communities around the country where people won’t turn out for a performance unless the person is a famous performer or they’ve seen him or her on television,” Neuert continued. “In Burlington, people are willing to take more chances, and they feel they’ll have a transformative or meaningful experience due to the bond formed with our organization, even if they’ve never heard of the artist.”
Originally from New Jersey, Neuert has lived in Richmond since 1989. She earned a BFA in acting and directing for the stage, and an MFA in theater direction. She was involved in several theater pieces before teaching at universities in New Jersey and at St. Michael’s College in Vermont. She then decided to move from the artistic realm to the management realm, and signed on with the Lane Series in 1994.
What made Lane special to Neuert was the space’s intimate chamber music offerings, placing renowned musicians in front of a 300-patron capacity. Her goal now is expanding outreach.
“I want to reach deeper into world music, jazz and incredible folk musicians. When performers come here, I want to exploit the educational opportunities for the university and have workshops and master classes. I want to work closely with the UVM music department and connect with students. We’ve been expanding over the last ten years, but I want to go farther. We can remain a community series, with outreach far into this creatively rich world.”
Discovering Vermont’s TreasuresBy Deborah Straw
Vermont is a wonderful place to find treasures, both old and new. Many are found in antique shops, at auctions or in the old-fashioned Vermont general store.
Vermonters have always had the inclination to hold onto everything. As poet Donald Hall once wrote even “a string too short to be saved” was, indeed, probably saved. At all these venues, along with furniture and dishware, you’ll find books, clothing, small collectibles, stuffed animals, toys, tools, bikes, pictures and picture frames, and much more. Sometimes cars or taxidermists finest critters turn up, but these are the exception.
Below are some of the places to find all sorts of unique, and reasonably priced, goodies.
ANTIQUES AND FLEA MARKETS
ReStore (formerly ReCycle North) at 266 Pine Street in Burlington, is part of a nonprofit organization, ReSource, that helps the poor and re-trains people for jobs. The organization also operates a huge second-hand store. Open since 1991, this is a former industrial space where you can buy – and recycle – almost anything including furniture, appliances, toys, picture frames, books, dishes, puzzles, jewelry and more. It’s an ongoing garage sale with a friendly staff, open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Also in Burlington, a relatively new shop is Anjou & the Little Pear, owned by Jessica Ackerson. At 53 Main St., this loft-type space is full of quality items. Visualize lots of artwork, lamps, antique and retro furniture, rugs, old typewriters and sewing machines, knick-knacks, trays, fabric, children’s accessories, etc. Ackerson has exquisite taste and is fun to deal with. Anjou is on the lower part of Main St., near the Lake, across the street from the Chamber of Commerce.
The Barge Canal Flea Market, run by Norbert Ender who hails from Austria, opened in April. This flea market is open Wednesday through Sunday, and is tucked inside a large warehouse just south of ReStore on Pine Street. It is packed with goodies such as pictures, furniture, books and a lot of curios. Various dealers rent tables, and Norbert sells, too. It is a friendly and interesting place and is just two doors down from Ender’s shop, Speaking Volumes, which specializes in “vinyl, books and art” and is packed to the rafters with fascinating things.
Two other shops full of delightful and eclectic goods are located at 207 Flynn Avenue in Burlington. Upstairs is Upstairs Antiques, and downstairs is Whistle Stop Antiques & Co. Both are worth a visit.
For a listing of antique dealers in Vermont, visit the Vermont Antique Dealers Association Web site: www.vermontada.com/dealers.
If you want to have a lively and often educational time on a Saturday afternoon or evening, and spend as little or as much money as you choose, you can visit the Alburg Auction House at 14 Lake Street in the center of town. Alburgh (the restored old spelling) is about one hour north of Burlington. An institution in this lakeside town, the business was founded 50 years ago by Harland Tatro.
Since his death in May 2006, his two sons, Tim and Ralph, have carried on the tradition. Another brother, Terry, mans the payment box, and local teenagers are runners. It is open every Saturday, except for a couple of weeks around Christmas. Its doors open around 1 p.m., the auction starts at 2 p.m., takes a small break and continues on to about midnight. Admission is $1 and there is hearty food, including Michigan hot dogs, luscious pies and cakes.
Many of the auctions represent estate sales from Vermont, northern New York or southern Quebec. Checks or cash only are accepted, and be sure to bring a box and newspapers to hold your goodies and a cushion if you plan to spend the day. Rule of thumb: generally the more “antique” things are sold during the daytime; the newer items, like lawnmowers or more modern furniture, are generally auctioned off at night.
STORES AND SHOPS
A fun and attractive shop in Stowe is Dragonfly Consignments at l056 Mountain Road, across from the Chittenden Bank. Owner Beth Conner says the shop has been open almost a year, and offers new and used name-brand and designer men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, local crafts such as jewelry, art, furniture and more. For antiques, the store offers old medicine boxes, furniture, blue glass, bowls, Hummel figurines and more. “We try to be reasonable in this economy,” says Conner. It is a “clean, well-lighted place,” very satisfying to browse in for 15 minutes or two hours, and is open seven days a week.
General stores are a good place to shop in Vermont, as well, and you’ll never know what you’ll find. General stores were the precursors to Mom and Pop stores, supermarkets and big shops like Costco. If you were to pick one to visit, it might well be the oldest operating store in Vermont, open since 1807. The Jericho Center Country Store still looks, smells and feels like a real country store. Not only does it offer foodstuffs and souvenirs, it also houses the post office and has rows of small post boxes. Goodies include creemees, Vermont-brewed beers, Vermont artisan breads as well as the old standard loaves, a gourmet deli and many other beers and wines. In fact, this store is so impressive and historic, it was the subject of a children’s book, The Storekeeper, (now out of print but worth searching for) by local author Tracey Campbell Pearson, published in 1991. The town is lovely, centered on a quaint Vermont green.
Another diverse general store in the Champlain Islands is Hero’s Welcome in North Hero village on Route 2, across the street from the lake. Although the building has housed a general store since 1899, the present store has existed since 1993. Here you will find food essentials, as well as a great bakery, ice cream cones, and a gift shop full of wonderful, tasteful souvenirs and gifts. Included are the ubiquitous t-shirts, mugs, and maple syrup, but also quite a bit of reasonably-priced jewelry and decorative plates, kids’ toys and the most extensive rack of scissors and nail clippers I’ve ever seen. You can sit inside for lunch or a snack or, on a perfect summer day, wander across the street where there are picnic tables and benches lakeside. At least two antique shops are within a five-minute walk if you decide to linger in North Hero.
Two other authentic general stores worth mentioning are the Ripton Country Store and the Marshfield General Store. But Vermont is full of these types of shops and markets. Keep your eyes open, take back roads, and enjoy discovering your own treasures.
Great Ideas for Day Trips in VermontBy Christine Fraioli
The Vermont love affair so many of us share began for me as a child on my grandfather’s farm in Manchester, and continued at Middlebury College in the 70s, working as an innkeeper in the late 80s through early 2000s, and now encompasses my hospitality and real estate role connecting innkeepers to inns and bed and breakfasts across the state. Having most recently joined the Vermont 251 Club (www.vt251.com), I thought I would share some of my favorite places and events with others who love Vermont.
Tunbridge World’s Fair, Tunbridge – September. You must attend at least once in your life and I’ll never forget my first time – the beer tent was open around the clock, but shut down periodically to give people a consumption break. In the early 70s, they still had a girlie show, but girls weren’t allowed in, so I sneaked a peek through a hole at the back of the tent. I’ll never forget the lady dressed up like a clown pushing a baby carriage filled with Chihuahuas, also dressed up as clowns. www.tunbridgefair.com
Vermont Mozart Festival, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne – July. I never miss the opening night event at the South Porch. The dressage performance before the concert displays such mastery and majesty by the beautiful horses on the inn’s front lawn. We stroll through Lila Webb’s gardens overlooking the Adirondacks before sharing our very finest picnic fare and wine with great friends and then settling back to listen to the orchestra while watching the stars come out over Lake Champlain…it is heaven on earth. www.vtmozart.org
Hildene Fall Arts Festival, Manchester – October. As the leaves of early October change colors. it is my favorite time to drive Route 30 into Manchester for my love of food and art. Over 200 juried master craftspeople and artists exhibit their work as well as a showcase of the best of Vermont’s local beer, cheeses, and other artisanal foods. www.craftproducers.com
Swimming in Lincoln. As a resident of Lincoln, I have learned of many secret swimming holes – some of which I have been sworn to secrecy not to reveal! On its landscape of rocky crevices, twisty roads, and rushing mountain streams such as New Haven River and Lincoln Brook, Lincoln is a cool escape on a hot summer day. www.swimmingholes.org
Vermont Daylilies, Greensboro. Located behind Greensboro’s Lakeview Inn – now a private residence – lies beds of delightful daylily gardens overlooking the shores of Caspian Lake. Vermont Daylilies is located just outside of the center of Greensboro, home to Willey’s – one of Vermont’s most bustling country stores. Lilies are potted for sale, but the owners will often dig from the gorgeous beds if requested. There is also an antique shed open for visitors. Plan for a day in the Northeast Kingdom where the rarest combinations of pleasures and delights create sparks of Vermont magic. 802-533-2438, www.travelthekingdom.com
Boating on Lake Champlain. There are so many ways to enjoy Lake Champlain. My husband and I continue to explore from Crown Point to North Hero State Park in our stinkpot Lyman and are always amazed at how often we feel like the only people on the whole lake on the best day of the year! From shore to open water, small boats to big, picnicking to restaurants, camping to inns – there is always something new to try. www.discoverboating.com
St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, St. Johnsbury. I have often described the Athenaeum as the eighth wonder of the world. Built in 1873, tucked behind the town’s wood-paneled library, lies the unsuspecting enormous glass roof covering a collection of over 100 paintings and sculptures by some of America’s most renowned artists, including Asher B. Durand and Jasper Cropsey. On the far wall is the ever-magnificent Domes of Yosemite by Alfred Bierstadt. www.stjathenaeum.org
Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury. This series of beautifully designed galleries is the most serene place to experience art. Great pains are taken to entertain and educate viewers during a year-round schedule of exhibitions (take a calendar home for your plan to return) open to the public at no cost. It houses a teaching collection of paintings, sculpture, photography, and works of art on paper. http://museum.middlebury.edu
Billings Farm & Museum, Woodstock. If you ever want to see what 19th century farming life was like, the Jersey herd and beautifully restored farm manager’s property, exhibition barns, and creamery will show you with perfection. I love the fact that it is in Woodstock, which has one of the greatest collections of architecturally significant homes in all of Vermont and Woodstock Country Walking Tours have made the experience available to all. www.billingsfarm.org http://woodstockcountrywalkingtours.com
And finally, as the landscape of Vermont is one of the reasons so many of us are in love with it, I want to share three favorite Vermont artists, each of whom creates the essence and magic of our countryside and townscapes as immediately recognizable as Vermont, yet each in his or her own dramatic fashion.
Kathleen Kolb, Lincoln – www.kathleenkolb.com
Anne Cady, New Haven – www.annecady.com
Peter Brooke, South Royalton – www.peterwbrooke.com.
Christine Fraioli manages Vermont Lodging Properties which unites prospective buyers with Vermont inns, bed and breakfasts, hotels, homes, and other investment properties – www.vermontlodgingproperties.com
Vermonter’s Are Hooked: Summer Fishing Season Gears UpBy Tim Simard
With the sun setting behind the mountains and the air cooling, I cast a line out into the middle of the Winooski River. At the end of the line is a hooked worm that I believe – I hope – will be the one that brings in the big trout. Holding the fishing pole tightly, I slowly reel in the line. It’s then I sense the quick and fast tugs of a fish nibbling away at the bait. Suddenly, I feel the fish bite down and the pole bends hard as I reel in my catch.
The fish at the end of the line exits the water, flopping away on the Winooski’s muddy banks. I discover I’ve caught a rainbow trout; it’s white belly glowing in the fading light. Measuring 11 inches long, this is one of the biggest and best trout I’ve caught in a long time.
Up river, standing on rock jutting into the Winooski, a solitary fly fisherman also examines his catch. The spots we’ve chosen along the river in Duxbury are like any in this corner of central Vermont – teaming with newly stocked fish with waters warming for a perfect fishing season.
Vermont might be known as the Green Mountain State, but the state’s waterways are an equally large draw for recreators. Along the state’s rivers, streams and lakes, fishing enthusiasts are getting warmed up for a big year. Bob Shannon, owner of Stowe’s Fly Rod Shop, said in late May the season was revving into full swing and looked forward to a banner June.
“These rivers are starting to fish really well, which will hopefully continue beyond Memorial Day,” Shannon said.
While my success started along the Winooski, there are hundreds of places in northwestern Vermont that might yield even more fish. Here are a few popular locations:
From its wide northern end to its narrow southern shores, Lake Champlain is a body of water teeming with a wide variety of fish. People come from all over the world to experience the selection Lake Champlain offers, said James Ehlers, executive director of Lake Champlain International, a nonprofit organization working to ensure the future of the lake.
“Seriously, I’m not being biased,” Ehlers said with a laugh. “The lake offers an incredible diversity of fish.”
From large and small mouth bass near St. Albans Bay and the Missisquoi Delta, to salmon around Converse Bay in Charlotte, to mammoth lake trout throughout, there is no shortage of fishing options.
Ronnie Bruyette, who owns North Country Bait and Tackle in Swanton, said most of his customers head straight to Missisquoi Bay for bass fishing, which is good all summer long.
“That area’s got just about everything,” Bruyette said.
Ehlers said he prefers Mallett’s Bay to any other part of the lake. There’s one location in outer Mallett’s Bay that is popular for its walleye, he said. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“If it swims and it’s of interest to the angling community, you can catch it within 10 minutes of the (Mallett’s Bay) boat ramp,” Ehlers said.
The big rivers of Central Vermont
Cutting through the Green Mountains in wide valleys are the Lamoille and Winooski rivers. Shannon of the Fly Rod Shop in Stowe routinely guides new fly fishing clients along both rivers because he knows they’ll catch something.
The Lamoille River, between Johnson and Morristown, is among Shannon’s favorite spots. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife department stocks the section with large rainbow trout, but sometimes other fish mix in. While guiding in early May, he caught a large brook trout, a native species in Vermont.
“It was a nice fish and caught me by surprise,” Shannon said.
The state also stocks the Winooski River, especially in Waterbury and Duxbury. Secluded spots along the river in both towns can prove excellent for fishing. And the river is perfect for fly fishing enthusiasts.
Shannon said fly fishing has become much more popular in northern Vermont, with new people trying the sport every year. He said clients are looking for challenge and enjoy how fly lures mimic fish food sources in rivers. Therefore, clients find there is a greater chance of catching a fish using a fly lure than a worm, he said.
“It’s a fishing method of choice these days,” Shannon said.
And the Winooski and Lamoille Rivers are choice locations.
For Dick Phillips, owner of Vermont Field Sports in Middlebury, the best fishing in Vermont is found in Addison County. The rivers offer as much excitement and challenge as any in the state, he said.
Phillips prefers the small brook trout of the upper New Haven River near Bristol, as well as the chance for larger trout in the Middlebury River after it combines its north and main branches. Just west of the gorge in East Middlebury, anglers can catch some award-winning trout.
“We’ve had some 10-pound browns pulled out there,” Phillips said.
Phillips said he fishes whenever he gets a chance to in his busy schedule. The Otter Creek is another popular river he frequents. He enjoys cast and reel fishing with bait worms early in the season and fly fishing later in the season. As waters warm up in later summer and fish have bountiful food options in the water, it makes sense to go the fly route, he said.
“You get towards August, you can drown a worm all day and never get a nibble,” Phillips said. “But the last six fish are caught with worms, so it all depends on the day.”
But if there’s one spot in Addison County that can prove successful for any angler, it’s right at the Middlebury Falls. In the waters beneath the tumbling cascades lie some of the best trout in the state, he said.
“I always tell people, ‘you’re going to be amazed when you catch a 14-inch rainbow,’ and they always are,” Phillips said.
Localvore Movement on the Rise In VermontBy Susan Orzell-Rantanen
To the roster of herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore describing the varied eating habits of the animal kingdom, add one more: localvore. The localvore eats only foods grown or produced within an average of a 100-mile radius of where he lives, to the extent that it is possible.
Locally grown foods are available at natural food stores, farmers’ markets, community-supported agricultural enterprises, and farm stands, and while the proprietors of these and similar establishments offer the goods differently, they chorus that “the localvore movement is skyrocketing!”
Until the 20th century, “eating local” was by necessity the way of life. Today, the same practice requires planning, dedication and in some cases more money; it is a culmination of many deliberate choices.
“Localvore Challenges,” which urge consumers to buy only local foods for limited amounts of time as a gentle re-introduction to the concept, have sprung up across Vermont to help people interested in the benefits of those choices follow through.
According to well-sourced data published by Vermont’s Mad River Valley Localvore Project (MRVLP), these benefits are many. To enjoy green peas from a nearby farm flies in the face of the statistic that, “on the average, foods travel 1,500 miles before arriving on your table,” which explains the fact that “the average meal uses 17 times more petroleum products” than the same meal produced locally. If you visit the supermarket to buy frozen or canned peas that include a flavored sauce, add this statistic: “70 percent of processed foods in U.S. grocery stores contain bioengineered ingredients.”
But the localvore movement is about more than the important health and taste benefits of fresh produce. The bottom line is, as always, economic. The MRVLP notes that “91 percent of each dollar spent in a traditional food market goes to suppliers, processors, middlemen and marketers and only 9 cents goes to the farmer, while farm markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of every dollar.” Let’s make this more personal: “If Vermont substituted local products for only 10 percent of the food we import, it would result in $376 million in new economic output, including $69 million in personal earnings from 3,616 jobs,” thus benefiting all Vermonters.
Eating locally is by definition all about community and the farmers that are members of the aptly named Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program (in cooperation with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture) consider themselves partners with consumers. In this system, the producers sell “shares” in their upcoming harvest to consumers in the spring long before the produce is ready. This up-front money is available at the crucial time of year to buy the supplies (including seeds, fertilizer and fuel), needed to grow the crops. As the harvests come in throughout the summer, “members” who have “pre-bought” items enjoy the fresh produce. In CSA terminology, an “item” is a certain amount of a certain vegetable, such as four ears of corn, a bunch of carrots, or a bag of lettuce. Shares are available in single-, family-, or senior-sized increments and delivery to predetermined checkpoints may be arranged for set days.
The Vermont Department of Agriculture lists 16 CSAs in Chittenden County.
The Boutin Family Farm, on South Road in Williston, is managed by family members Kevin and Lisa Boutin. Of the 120 acres, 40 are tillable, and are referred to by Lisa Boutin as “a huge backyard garden” providing a plethora of items for about 50 members during a 12-week share season. The Boutins designed a creative method of marketing, offering a coupon book which allows consignees to “purchase” vegetables and fruits harvested each day. “We make it very convenient,” notes Lisa Boutin. The produce, which is certified naturally grown, ranges from asparagus to zucchini and from blackberries to strawberries and is available at the farm stand, through a “U-Pick” operation on the farm, and at local farmers’ markets.
Joe and Anne Tisbert own the 300-acre Valley Dream Farm, which sits on the town line dividing Underhill and Cambridge. The farm supplies an estimated 200 members during a 24-month share season.
Valley Dream is among the more than 525 farms certified organic by the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of Vermont. Anne Tisbert says this certification, which involves meticulous recordkeeping and on-farm inspections, entitles them to a coveted state and USDA seal. NOFA also manages Farm Share, a program that allows low-income Vermonters to buy from CSAs.
The nature of agriculture, which can mean unexpected gluts of produce, allows CSAs to “give back to the community,” according to Anne Tisdale. “We donate thousands of pounds of food to local food shelves and to the Vermont Food Bank,” she notes.
CSAs often sell at farmers’ markets, a growing venue benefited by the localvore movement. In 2008, there were 64 farmers’ markets registered by NOFA-VT, up from 19 in 1986. NOFA-VT lists “the total gross sales from the markets that responded in 2008” as more than $5.5 million. According to the organization, the summer Burlington Farmers’ Market, held weekly in City Hall Park, is among the four largest in the state. The Richmond Farmers’ Market, held weekly on Volunteers Green, is considered more average in size for Vermont. Manager Carol Mader, who works closely with a board of directors, says there are 25 permanent seasonal vendors, which is capacity for the location, selling primarily agricultural products and prepared foods. There is also a waiting list of “day vendors” on call to take a spot that may be vacant if a seasonal vendor is unable to attend a market. “The localvore movement is becoming huge and we’re seeing the results of that in the [market] revenues,” Mader reports, noting that revenues have increased 170 percent over the past few years. “We have a strong following of customers over the years. We’ve seen many people who used to buy things for maybe one dinner now trying to buy for the week. We also now have a meat vendor. People are finding that prices are more competitive,” she notes, citing trucking costs as one reason for the rising supermarket prices.
For a list of Vermont farmers’ markets, visit: Vermontagriculture.com
Natural Food Stores
Natural food stores are another avenue reporting increased sales from the localvore movement. Natural Provisions of Williston, managed by Peter and Allison Lafferty, opened in 2007 as the second location of a popular store in St. Johnsbury. The 10,000-square-foot store and delicatessen on Harvest Lane maintains 20 employees. Peter Lafferty emphasizes that the naturally grown and/or organic foods and products are purchased locally as much as is possible in a full-service grocery that also sells health and beauty products and cleaning supplies. “The localvore movement is on a huge rise,” he said. “It’s so good for the community as a whole. The number of people who come in here and actually say ‘Show me what is local’ has been growing a lot over the past two years. People care about supporting the community,” he believes.
Considering the fact that eating locally was once the way of the world, it is interesting to ponder Ecclesiastes 1:9, the abbreviated form of which is “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Chittenden County Farmers Markets
Burlington Farmers Market Burlington Saturdays
New North End Farmers Market Burlington Wednesdays
Old North End Farmers Market Burlington Tuesdays
South End Farmers Market Burlington Wednesdays
Mt Philo State Park Farmers Market Charlotte Fridays
Hinesburg Farmers Market Hinesburg Thursdays
Jericho Mills Riverside Farmers Market Jericho Thursdays
Milton Grange Farmers Market Milton Saturdays
Richmond Farmers Market Richmond Fridays
Shelburne Farmers Market Shelburne Saturdays
South Burlington Farmers Market
at Healthy Living Market South Burlington Saturdays
Westford Farmers Market Vermont Westford Fridays
Williston Farmers Market Williston Saturdays
Winooski Farmers Market Winooski Thursdays
Tee Time: Newbies and Seasoned Players Join the ClubBy Phyl Newbeck
They say Vermont has ten months of winter and two months of poor skiing, but you’d never guess the Green Mountain State was known for winter sports if you surveyed the various options for golfing in the state. Why head to Florida when there are so many opportunities to play here?
Champlain Country Club head pro Mike Swim suggests that those just learning the sport should start with 9-hole courses like Arrowhead, Bakersfield or Richford. Other courses may be more challenging due to the length of the course, the pace of play and other conditions. In particular, he noted that Arrowhead, a par-3 course, is suitable for those just learning the sport. He describes his own Champlain Country Club as “friendly but challenging.” Champlain offers a 9-hole option and is not very hilly and therefore good for walking. Swim said roughly 25 percent of those at the club are over the age of 60 and another 35 percent are in the 45-60 age range; a cross-section which he believes is fairly typical for a golf club. He noted that 9-hole courses may skew older because younger golfers generally prefer a more challenging set-up.
Swim recommends that anyone starting out in golf should seek advice from a professional regarding lessons, gear, and courses. He further recommends renting clubs before purchasing them to get a feel for the types of equipment available. Swim personally keeps a set of clubs for novice golfers to borrow. “Golf takes a lot more energy than people think,” he said noting that golfing improves endurance and flexibility. In addition, “golfing stimulates the mind,” by requiring players to learn the rules and etiquette. There are also visual benefits as golfers learn to follow the ball to its landing spot. Swim encourages those just starting out to check out the various specials at area clubs, many of which have special discounts for seniors during the week.
Barry Churchill, the PGA Golf Instructor at Cedar Knoll refers to golf as “a lifetime game,” particularly since most clubs have several different tee boxes to accommodate beginners as well as the very old and very young. He lauded golf for its physical and social benefits. “Golf has camaraderie,” he said. “It’s social as well as aerobic.” Churchill’s home course, Cedar Knoll, is relatively hilly so even those patrons who use golf carts will still get exercise.
Churchill recommends Cedar Knoll as a good place for beginners, in part because with 27 holes, the club has 9 “extra” which aren’t as busy as the rest of the course. Beginners are often intimidated when playing on a regular course for fear they might hold up the players behind them. For this reason Churchill also recommends that even before beginners set foot on a golf course, they should get a lesson at a driving range. Although beginner golfers can outfit themselves for under $300, he advocates borrowing and/or renting equipment first. Churchill believes lessons are important for health reasons, as well as for learning the sport.
He noted that men often hurt their backs with bad swings and improper stances, whereas women are more likely to hurt their wrists from incorrect use of their hands.
Brian Gara, the head professional at the Vermont National Country Club lauds the social and physical benefits of the game, but adds that golf is also “an endless challenge; it’s a game with room for constant improvement.” Gara recommends that those new to the sport check out the “Play Golf America” section of the PGA Web site to learn about special discounts and offers. Gara noted that the muscles used to swing a golf club are often underutilized, so stretching exercises are helpful to develop strength and flexibility. Although he does not consider golf to be a physically demanding sport, Gara believes it is important for new players to recognize their limitations before they begin.
Gara said golf participation has been relatively flat over the last decade; the only areas of growth are for women and seniors. Since there is a growing cadre of older people learning the game, he recommends that newcomers find a peer group to help reinforce the learning process and provide companionship on the course. “We are always seeking to invite and retain people to play golf,” he said. “There are all kinds of programs run by PGA professionals that people can participate in. We’re always trying to make taking up the game of golf as easy and seamless as possible.” Fore!
For more information visit the Vermont Golf Association Web site: vtga.org
Where to golf
In Chittenden County, one of the most prestigious courses is the Vermont National Country Club in South Burlington which was designed by Jack Nicklaus. Burlington Country Club is a slightly less expensive option, while the Links at Lang Farm in Essex and Kwiniaska Golf Club in Shelburne offer annual memberships without an initiation fee. The largest public golf course in the county is Cedar Knoll in Hinesburg which features 27 holes. The Essex Country Club, Rocky Ridge Golf Club in St. George, West Bolton Golf Club and Williston Golf Club all have 18-hole courses. Nine-hole courses in Chittenden County include Arrowhead Golf Course in Milton, and Catamount Golf Course and Catamount Country Club, both in Williston. There is a driving range at the Essex Family Golf Center, and most golf courses have their own practice areas. For those who want to practice their swings regardless of the weather, there is Gonzo’s Indoor Golf and Vermont Indoor Golf, both in South Burlington.
In Franklin County, there are a number of options including 18-hole courses at Bakersfield Country Club, Champlain Country Club in St. Albans and Enosburg Falls Country Club, as well as the 9-hole course at Richford Country Club. In Addison County, there are 18-hole courses at Basin Harbor in Vergennes and the Ralph Myhre Golf Course at Middlebury College. Lamoille County courses include the 9-hole Copley Country Club in Morrisville and Farms Resort Golf Club in Stowe, as well as two 18-hole courses at Stowe Mountain Resort. Washington County boasts the 9-hole Country Club of Barre, Montpelier Country Club, and Northfield Country Club as well as the 18-hole course at Sugarbush.
What Do You Want to Be When You ‘Retire?’By Susan Rantanen
The once iconic concept of retirement has fallen into the hands of the headstrong, pro-active Baby Boomer generation and is consequently in flux. “Boomers” may be loosely defined by two characteristics. One is creativity both generated and abetted by a time of social upheaval and economic prosperity, and the other is sheer mass which sweeps along any other demographic in its path. Having upended everything from methods of childrearing to gender roles, the Baby Boomers are bringing a sea change to retirement as age has taken them to that realm. Once a time to unwind from a lifetime of toil, retirement is now seen as earned opportunity as defined by the individual.
The Merrill Lynch Global Client Group released The New Retirement Survey in 1995, which revealed that, true to form,
According to the survey, 76 percent intend to keep working after the traditional cut-off age of 65. Surprisingly, 56 percent plan a completely different career path. Only 13 percent expected to start a business, which would threaten to chain them to a regimen only recently escaped. Along the same line, only six percent planned to work full time.
John Adams of Williston represents the 67 percent of Boomers nationwide who cited “mental stimulation and challenge” as a leading reason why he launched a second career after his retirement from IBM at the age of 59. Now 64, he is co-owner with his wife, Peggy, and their children Scott Adams and Kimberly Antonioli, of Adams Apple Orchard and Farm Market on Old Stage Road. The high-profile enterprise generates $600,000 in annual sales and further stimulates the local economy by hosting a fall festival that attracts up to 10,000 people annually. The multi-generational business, which now involves two grandchildren, evolved from what was meant to be a modest business in later life. “Our intent was to have an orchard in retirement, and we developed it part time,” Adams said.
The orchard is now just part of the picture, which has grown to include 900 trees on seven acres, three greenhouses, and a farm market which sells not only the produce grown by Adams but goods grown and produced by ten area farms. “We started the farm market about five years before I retired, and by the time I left it was well established,“ Adams said of his seamless transition from IBM executive to agriculturalist. “I enjoy the challenge of having my own business, and seeing people enjoy what we do. It is very satisfying, very gratifying.”
“Retirement is finding something that you like and staying active,” Adams says. Retirees, he notices, “are taking work they enjoy, not necessarily on a career track.”
Dianna Reed, 66, of Highgate will retire this year from the Vermont Department of Labor. Working for a variety of departments within the parent organization kept her interests fresh during the 30 years of employment that earned her retirement benefits. She plans to work part time, but any job will be “on my own terms,”arranged to accommodate her high priority of spending time with her grandchildren. “I’m definitely off the career track,” she emphasizes. “Working in a school cafeteria, seeing the smiling faces of the children, would be nice,” she says whimsically.
Reed’s mother retired at 62 and never re-entered the job market. “Sixty-seven is just a number,” Reed states of her age. “I’m too young to retire. I want to enjoy life without being on a time clock. I want to interact with people, work at something fun.”
Reed feels that her career planning has left her in a good place to enjoy this new phase of her life. While she expected to work, her only concrete plans were to create an environment where she could enjoy watching her grandchildren grow. The need for finances, while present, is not pressing. Nor is she worried about finding a job. She agrees that many employers welcome mature workers, the work ethic of which is proven. “I don’t see my age as an issue,” she says. In fact, she cites “life experience” as one of her chief assets.
Finances, however, are a major part of the retirement equation as most people contemplate planning for retirement. Syndi Zook, 53, of Burlington, sees the reinvention of retirement by the Baby Boomers as not only a choice, but a necessity. Zook is the executive director of Burlington’s 36-year-old Lyric Theatre, which presented its 76th show to an audience of more than 5,000 in April. Previously, Zook spent 24 years in elder services, most recently as the director of the Champlain Multi-Generational Center. Her later-life career change from elder services to the entertainment industry came about when her own mother needed care, she explains, noting that she couldn’t make caregiving the focus of her job and her private life as well.
Most people in their 50s believe that they will have to continue working in some capacity. Zook noted the contrast between her grandparents’ version of retirement to that which she and her colleagues project for their futures. “The standard measure was that you worked for the same company all of your life and then retired at 65. Baby Boomers have many jobs [during their working years] and no expectations of retirement.”
Finances do shape the picture that Zook envisions. “The cost of retirement has risen disproportionately within one generation,” she points out. Even those Baby Boomers who have saved faithfully towards retirement may fall short of what they need due to the unpredictably astronomic rise in health care.
A return to communal living may be in the cards as the Boomers retire. “We are a social generation. We have the ‘60s behind us. Not everything turned out as we hoped but one of the things that may yet bloom from that time is shared living space, less formal than public senior housing,” muses Zook.
The new American ideology has retirees crafting individual circumstances into workable and enjoyable situations. Zook summarizes the mindset. “We will have to be very creative in retirement.”
The changing social and economic picture begs the question: what do you want to be when you retire?
Advisor, Counselor and Healer Eases Life’s Transitions
Profile: Jeannie LynchBy Phyl Newbeck
Jeannie Lynch of South Burlington hopes people can distinguish between her “left brain” job and her “right brain” calling. By day, the trim, 47-year-old professional runs the Key 4 Women program at Key Bank in Williston. But every Wednesday night, she devotes her intuitive energies to guiding those seeking assistance with life’s transitions, free of charge.
Lynch prefers not to put a label on her right brain activities, but accepts “healer” as the closest to conveying the work she performs. Her calling started with a tragedy. On January 20, 2005, Lynch’s eight-year-old daughter Ila was killed in a car accident. A month later, Lynch pulled herself together enough to stop in at work to see her coworkers. Checking her e-mail she saw a message regarding the yet-to-be launched Key 4 Women program asking who would replace her as the program’s Vermont representative. As Lynch tells it, her daughter’s spirit coursed through her arms and propelled her fingers to the keyboard to respond that she would be back at work to take charge of the program. Speaking of Ila, Lynch said, “my daughter drew the line in the sand. She was so clear what my mission had to be.”
The first person to contact Lynch for her healing work was the mother of Sam Cohn, a Richmond teenager struck and killed by a car while on vacation in Florida. Lynch said Cohn’s mother kept track of how many times she heard Lynch’s name mentioned and by the thirteenth time, she decided to give her a call. Lynch is convinced that the grief she has experienced in her own life –the death of two children and several boyfriends – prepared her to help others. “I went through all these key lessons,” she said. “I felt it was my goal to teach.”
According to Lynch, being happy is both a choice and a skill. She has faith that she has the capability to get people through their grief. “I believe I am intuitive enough to get the words to help them through,” she said, noting that it is impossible to compartmentalize grief as those who counsel the seven stages would suggest. After two years of helping the grieving, focusing initially on mothers who had lost children, Lynch expanded her practice to include those in any kind of transition, be it a relationship, a family issue or a job. Even though she generally sees each individual only once so as to encourage them to find their own strength and power from within, Lynch is booked through next January. Although she takes great pains to separate her job and her calling, she does pray that she will continue to be successful in her work at Key Bank so that she can continue to help people for free. She estimates she has held almost 500 two-hour sessions with individuals from all walks of life. Her goal for 2010 is to help people realize they have their own gifts and don’t need her at all. “It would be great if nobody needed my work,” she said.
Lynch’s day job as the Vermont representative for the Key 4 Women program is also the result of a leap of faith on her part. Her 20-year job at Grand Union had come to an end due to cutbacks so Lynch impulsively went to visit Key Bank, which held her mortgage. “I’ve got 20 years cash management experience,” she recalls telling the bank manager. “I’m going to be paying you back somehow, so you might as well hire me.”
He did, and despite her lack of a college degree, Lynch has spent the last 20 years in banking. As the Key 4 Women representative, her job is to support women in business. “I meet people when the idea is in their head,” she said, “and I help get it to the table.”
In addition to assisting start-ups, Lynch helps existing businesses grow, and aids those who are nearing retirement in figuring out their next step. Pulling out an enormous tray of business cards, Lynch explains how she is able to create a network of people, introducing her clients to others who can provide assistance. “I’m the connector,” she said.
Lynch invites visitors to a room in her home filled with a mural of the outdoors and a ceiling painted to look like the sky. A portrait of her daughter is part of the artwork. “I’m only as successful as the people I’ve helped,” she says. This maxim is true for both facets of Lynch’s existence, since her job is based on the success she helps others create in the business world.
When people visit Lynch she feels as though she has the ability to see and hear what their guides and spirits want for them. “I call it ‘close to the veil’,” she said. It is then her job to determine what people need to have filtered from their thoughts, including limiting beliefs or past situations that didn’t honor them. Lynch uses herself as an example. “I used to believe that everything I love, I lose and that became a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said. When Ila died, Lynch initially thought this just proved her theory, but soon the loss of her daughter taught her that she had been so concerned with death that she had been afraid to live. Instead, Lynch now believes that “everything you love lives on.”
Further, she believes that everything that happens has a purpose. “That’s an innate truth,” she said, “and the way I feel about that innate truth is what changes my experience.”
Despite the tragedy in her life, Lynch describes herself as “very much at peace.” Her life is built around “believing, trusting and receiving.”
Lynch describes heaven as a place of acceptance and hell as a place of resistance. “My life is heavenly,” she said. “I accept everything that comes my way with open arms.”
Home Sweet Home: Exploring Living Options in Vermont
Options abound, but cost and availability remain issuesBy Greg Elias
Franklin Miller carried on for a while in his Essex Junction home after his wife died in 2008. A self-described workaholic, Miller, now 77, worked hard to maintain the property by himself.
But he eventually tired of cutting the lawn and cleaning the house. Miller began to look around for a lower-maintenance alternative, someplace that offered a chance to make new friends and stay close to his children and grandchildren.
Many face such a choice as they age and circumstances change. Finding a new place is often difficult because affordable options are scarce and there is often a waiting list. But Miller, who dances recreationally to stay active and is in good health, got lucky.
After looking at only a few places, he learned of a new senior housing complex just two miles away from his home that was giving preference to Essex residents. He moved into an apartment at 48-unit Town Meadow, located next to Essex Shoppes and Cinema, shortly after it opened last year.
“All the people seem to enjoy it here,” Miller said. “It’s great to just walk out of your room and always meet somebody to talk to. They all seem very friendly.”
Many if not most seniors and their families have a tougher time than Miller as they struggle to choose from among a dizzying array of housing options.
There are independent living facilities like the one in which he resides. Assisted living facilities offer a step up in the level of care. Still others combine those models, with some offering the flexibility to change the level of care as residents age.
Seniors can also stay in their current home and let health care and daily living assistance come to them. And of course there are still nursing homes for those who need around-the-clock care.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for choosing the right option, say experts in aging issues. The choice should be tailored to lifestyle and care requirements.
“The model of housing depends on the personal needs of the individual and their ability to pay,” said Deborah Worthley, associate director of education at the University of Vermont’s Center on Aging, in an e-mail. “Those who are able to carry out most activities of daily living, referred to as ADLs, are able to function well in independent living facilities. Those who cannot carry out most of the ADLs qualify for assisted living facilities that offer a higher level of care, but also at a higher cost.”
No place like home
Increasingly, seniors can opt to stay put. After all, a majority of Vermonters age 62 and over own their home. Less then 10 percent live in a licensed setting such as a nursing home or assisted living facility, according to Nancy Rockett Eldridge, executive director of the Cathedral Square Corp., the nonprofit organization that operates Town Meadow and other senior housing developments throughout Vermont.
Seniors like Miller who want to downsize and need little or no daily living assistance can pick from among the rising number of houses and condominiums in age-restricted developments sprouting up around the state.
For those who want to stay in their current home and do need services, there is Vermont’s Choices for Care program. It helps seniors who would otherwise end up in a nursing home receive services in their own homes. Vermont was the first state in the nation to convince federal regulators to allow Medicaid funding for at home services rather than nursing home care.
Another option is the PACE (Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) program. It permits seniors who qualify for nursing home care to instead receive services at a central location while continuing to live at home. An interdisciplinary team oversees services, which can include medical care, dietary advice and transportation to appointments.
Most seniors prefer not to move, and virtually no one says a nursing home is their first choice, said Sarah Lemnah, director of development and communications for the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging. In most cases, seniors can continue to live in their home or a less restrictive setting.
“Some people who do need 24/7 care need to live in a nursing home,” she said. “But for the majority of seniors, a nursing home is not appropriate and never will be.”
When moving is the best option, experts say a systematic appraisal can help find a living situation that fits a senior’s needs and desires.
First and foremost, family members should remember that the choice is ultimately up to the senior. Though grown children may think they know best, they should defer to their parent’s wishes.
Camille George, director of the Vermont Division of Disability and Aging Services, said she frequently receives calls from children and grandchildren who think their physically frail parents should move even though they want to stay in their current home.
“It’s hard for some people to accept that a senior wants to stay at home and is willing to risk getting hurt,” George said.
Second, seniors and their families should ask themselves what kind of living situation best fits. Does the senior value privacy above all, or does he or she want an active social life? What level of personal and medical care does he or she need? Is public transportation nearby?
Dr. Bill Thomas is a Harvard-trained doctor and a nationally recognized senior housing innovator who has his written several books on the subject.
He said in a telephone interview that grown children are often wracked with guilt when they are forced to make a decision for a parent who has Alzheimer’s Disease or another disability that prevents them from charting their own course.
Avoid that situation, he advised, by having a family talk and making plans before circumstances force a hasty and emotional choice.
“Too many seniors put off a decision until it is too late and someone ends up deciding for them,” Thomas said.
Once seniors have settled on the right type of housing, they should make a list of the places that fit their needs and visit them.
George said the condition and maintenance of the housing should be closely studied. Is it comfortable? Does the facility offer social groups? Would you fit in?
Thomas said the first thing to look for is how the facility’s managers and staff interact with each other and the residents, not whether it is newly furnished or freshly painted.
“The most important thing to look at are the relationships between people,” he said. “What makes good care are very strong and affectionate relationships. … It’s the relationships that make or break care, not the furnishings.”
The second thing to assess is whether or not the facility will protect residents’ individuality and dignity.
“In bad facilities, the elders are forced to conform to the routine of the facility,” Thomas said. “In good facilities, the facility flexes to meet the needs of the individual elder.”
Another consideration is whether the facility can address changes as the senior ages. A housing option that works now might no longer suffice in a few years.
“To me the most important question is what happens if my needs change – is there a resident service coordinator on site who can help me and my family advocate for my needs and help identify resources?” said Eldridge.
Though there are many kinds of housing models to choose from, the reality in Vermont, particularly in more rural areas of the state, is that many options are simply not available nearby. Eldridge and others note that affordability and availability – each of the 24 housing communities operated by Cathedral Square, for example, has a waiting list – remain a problem.
“So the biggest obstacle is that seniors and their families are having to decide between extreme choices: leave your home and move (often times to another town) into rental housing that may not have funding for services, or move to a licensed setting that may have more services than the seniors currently needs, and at a cost they may not be accustomed to paying,” Eldridge said.
Thomas said how to house and care for all the baby boomers approaching retirement age is going to be among the largest challenges facing the country over the next few decades.
“America is aging, and these issues are going to be the biggest social issues of the first half of the 21st century,” he said. “This is big, and we’re just beginning to figure these things out. You can really expect to be reading about this and thinking about it and talking about it for the next 40 years.”
For Miller, the Town Meadow resident, his move gave him not just a new home but a fresh social life. He’s struck up friendships with a couple of female neighbors. The trio, which regularly plays cribbage and Scrabble, calls itself “The Three Stooges.”
“Moving to this place has been great,” said Miller, adding that because he no longer has to maintain a too-big house, “it will probably add 15 years to my life.”
Six Levels of Senior Housing in Vermont
• Independent Housing: private residential units with kitchen and dining areas, bedroom(s), bathroom(s), and living areas; barrier-free with emergency call features, housing management and maintenance services, geared toward independently functioning people. No regular meals, housekeeping, or home health services.
• Congregate Housing: private apartments in a complex that contains central dining and other common areas for those who want or need some supportive services including dining, housekeeping, home health and other assistance.
• Assisted Living: private living units and bathing facilities in a complex; common dining and activity areas; geared toward those who have difficulty functioning independently and who require oversight; provide an array of services, including 24-hour staff, meal plans, transportation services, nursing assessment, care planning/oversight, medication management, organized activities.
• Shared Homes: private bedrooms and either private or shared bathrooms, with common living, dining, and kitchen areas for those wanting a home-like setting; support services such as daily meals, service coordination, and light housekeeping. Residents can bring in hospice care, but these homes are not designed for those with intensive medical needs.
• Residential Care Homes (RCHs): two categories in Vermont – Level III and Level IV; not required to be barrier-free or to offer private accommodations and baths, although many do. Both levels of licensure provide general supervision, personal care assistance, organized activities and transportation services up to three times per month. Level III RCHs also provide nursing oversight, medication management and 24-hour staffing. Level IV RCHs do not.
• Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs): combine independent housing, congregate housing, and assisted living with the availability of nursing home care; require a significant upfront investment, and monthly fees; offer individual residents the benefit of remaining in their community as care-level needs increase.
Compiled by Don Manders with help from Veda Lyon, Manager of the Community Development Unit for the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living
Boomers Invited to Join Charity Ride Across America
Get ready to start your engines motorcycle enthusiasts, NASCAR fans and Victory Junction supporters. Approximately 200 riders will join NASCAR driver, SPEED and TNT racing analyst and Charity Ride founder Kyle Petty May 1-9 for the 16th Anniversary Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. The Ride will travel from Indian Wells, Calif. to Victory Junction in Randleman, N.C., to raise awareness and funds for Victory Junction.
Founded by Petty and his wife, Pattie, Victory Junction provides a medically sound camping experience to children with chronic and terminal illnesses.
Since the Charity Ride’s inception in 1995, more than 6,400 participants have logged more than 9.1 million cumulative motorcycle miles, traveled through 48 states, and donated more than $13 million to Victory Junction and other charities that support chronically ill children. The Petty’s opened Victory Junction in 2004 in honor of their son Adam, whose life dream was to help children with terminal illnesses.
The year-round camp serves children, ages six to 16, whose health issues would typically prevent them from attending camp. Campers attend at no cost to their families, and transportation costs are covered, if needed. The camp operates solely on the donations of corporations, organizations and individuals. As a result of the Charity Ride, more than 7,000 children have attended Victory Junction free of charge.
“With the economy continuing to struggle, these children and their families need our support now more than ever,” said Petty. “Victory Junction provides life-changing opportunities for deserving children and their families and it’s our hope that we are able to raise funds to impact many lives, despite the current economic challenges. Pattie and I are excited to hit the road with our fellow riders, sponsors and fans again this year. Riding across America provides unforgettable memories and lasting friendships for everyone involved.”
Fans and spectators are encouraged to create “Dream Teams” that work together to host fundraisers in advance of the Charity Ride to help send a child to camp at Victory Junction. Dream Teams that attend one of the Ride “pit stops” will have the opportunity to present their donation to Petty, which helps to provide these children the memory of a lifetime.
Petty said, “Adam’s passion for helping children drove him to think of new ways to impact their lives. His dream of opening a racing-themed camp for children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses lives on today at Victory Junction. Please join us this year in ‘Keeping the Dream Alive,’ honoring Adam Petty by supporting the Charity Ride.”
For more information about the Charity Ride, visit www.kylepettycharityride.com.
My Dad Has Become a Competitive Power LifterBy Elizabeth Hart
Tom Hart is a Hinesburg man you may know. Maybe you see him chatting with his brother and cousins at Hart & Mead early in the morning, or you had him as a teacher at the Life Program at CVU. Like any other local, he shops at Lantmans, gets coffee from Quickstop and helps dig neighbor’s cars out of the snow. He’s a humble, seemingly ordinary man who has accomplished some extraordinary things.
I have watched my father take on many roles through my lifetime. Being Hinesburg born, he spent his career as an influential educator at Champlain Valley Union High School, was a member of the Hinesburg Fire Department for 25 years and the State Fire Warden for 20 years. He has proudly worn multiple hats; those of a passionate educator, a successful mentor, an empowering sports coach, a loving husband, and a dedicated father (to name a few). But what has Tom Hart become in his post-retirement years? The most recent title he has achieved came as a surprise, even to his family. “What hat is dad wearing now?” I jokingly asked my mother over the phone a couple months ago. “Well…” she responded with a pause and a smirk in her voice, “a power lifter.”
Power lifting is a form of competitive sport weightlifting. It requires specialized training techniques that are focused on strength and explosive power. In the last year and a half, Tom has set two Vermont State records for his age (67 years) and weight (195 lbs). In his first competition in April 2008, he lifted 220 lbs., setting the State bench press record for the 65-69 age group. He proceeded to beat his own, and the state’s, record in Nov. 2008 with a 226 lb. lift.
But how did he get to this place in his life? Being a few years shy of 70 and spending his career as a teacher at CVU, power lifting seems like an odd path. Here is a little history about my father (or, as I have been calling him recently, “PowerDaddy”):
He was always an athlete. Softball, swimming, bowling, basketball, you name it, he probably played it. He also coached a variety of high school sports, including my brother Christopher’s successful Track and Field team. But when he started teaching history at CVU in 1964, he transitioned to working with students who needed and thrived in an alternative education environment, outside of the standard classroom. He founded CVU’s Life Program, a safe place to provide students with a firm foundation from which they could spring forward into college and a career. Trudging through academic and organizational hurdles, Tom fought for each and every student for basic services, respect, and dignity. His students were his team, and he was their coach.
After retirement in 2001, Tom spent most of his time in the woods, chopping trees. Years of “playing lumber jack,” as I like to call it, came easily to him, and kept him in excellent health as competitive sports and teaching were no longer part of his everyday life. Tom suffered a back injury in the summer of 2007 by twisting the wrong way with a chainsaw. His injury led to doctor’s care and eventual physical therapy. My father’s physical therapist recommended exercises to strengthen core muscles. “I was told,” Tom said, “that for a man of my age, I was incredibly strong everywhere except where I needed it the most.”
He joined a local health club to work on core muscles for preventative purposes against future injury. But, the bench press caught his eye. “After a number of months watching people doing bench press,” my father wrote me in an email a couple months ago, “I finally asked one lifter if he would give me some pointers on bench press because I had never been on a bench.”
After instruction and a few months of lifting, another athlete encouraged him to consider competing. Initially, he dismissed the idea, but at the encouragement of his kids, he decided to try it. Tom contacted Bret Kernoff of Vermont Powerlifting for advice and instruction. Tom became Bret’s student, learning the rules and regulations of competitive lifting, and the rest is reflected in Tom’s growing list of achievements.
My father’s goal for his future in powerlifting is to just continue training. He is humble about his accomplishments, but has expressed interest in eventually working toward the national bench pressing record of 250 lbs. “I’ve hit that weight in the gym,” he said bashfully, “but competitions are entirely different scenes.”
In the meantime, you will probably still see him visiting with his family, picking up provisions at the grocery store and willing to help any one in need. I want to recognize his humble persona and continuing accomplishments (as untraditional as they may be!).
Avoiding U.S. Census ScamsBy Tom Browning
The official U.S. Census, which is conducted every ten years and is described in Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, calls for an accurate count of people living in the United States and is used as a gauge in the allotment of each state’s seats in the House of Representatives and in the allocation of funds to citizens in need. The first official Census was conducted in 1790 under Thomas Jefferson, who was the Secretary of State. That census, taken by U.S. marshals on horseback, counted 3.9 million inhabitants. Since that time, the Census has been conducted every ten years.
While participation is safe, a certain level of caution is necessary when divulging personal information. Citizens need to clearly differentiate legitimate U.S. census employee communications from fraudulent activity.
It’s important for people to be on guard against predatory individuals and organizations who piggyback on official U.S. Census activities with their own copy-cat schemes to solicit private information. The Census Bureau seeks to determine household information pertaining only to the occupants’ age, address, phone number, gender, race, birth-date and marital status and whether you own or rent your home. You can view the questions at: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/how/interactive-form.php, although no census information will be taken via the Internet. Information requested beyond the information on this form is likely being perpetrated by scam artists.
The Census Bureau employs thousands of trained Federal employees to conduct surveys in person, over the phone or via the U.S. mail. Requests for Census information will be labeled from the U.S. Census Bureau as “Official Business of the United States.” A notice from the Census Bureau will be mailed prior to receiving forms, phone calls or visits from Census workers. Americans will be asked to complete and mail back the 10-question census form which arrived in mailboxes around March 15-17.
The following tips will help you recognize fraudulent activity or unofficial data collections to keep predators at bay while ensuring your valid participation in the important census process:
Don’t Get Social – The U.S. Census does not request your social security number so do not divulge this information to anyone claiming to be a U.S. Census representative.
Avoid Phishing Trips – The U.S. Census is not conducting any surveying via the Internet so any emails or other electronic communications received are fraudulent “phishing trips” that should be immediately reported as spam and deleted. “Phishing” is the unlawful practice of attempting to acquire private information such as usernames, passwords, social security numbers, bank account or credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy person or organization in an email or via instant messaging. Often the “phishers” direct you to enter this private information at a fake Web site that looks almost uniform to the legitimate one.
Don’t Pay Cents (or Dollars) for Census – The Census Bureau never asks for money or a donation. Steer clear of anyone purporting to be with the Census Bureau that asks for monetary donations. Similarly, the Census Bureau will not request passwords or access to bank accounts, credit cards and other financial information.
Be an ID Watchdog – If a census worker visits your home, ask for identification. It is the duty of every U.S Census employee to provide their identification to every person that is being visited. All Census workers carry official government badges marked with their name. A Census taker will never ask to enter your home. The representative can provide you with supervisor contact information. You can also call the regional office phone number for verification or the Census Bureau call center at 1.800.923.8282.
Civility is Central to Census – U.S. Census employees are educated to be civil with every citizen or non-resident that they contact. If you come across an official who is acting in an intimidating or aggressive manner, you have the right to refuse to divulge information and to report this person to the authorities.
Census workers are bound by law to keep your information confidential and are not permitted to share it with anyone. If you prefer not to share your information in person, complete and return the form you receive by mail from the U.S. Census Bureau.
For more information, visit the United States Census at www.2010census.gov
Dear Diary…Not Just for the Lovelorn Teenager
On October 4, 1869, young Wilbur Pelsue of East Wallingford recorded that he stayed home from school because all the bridges washed out in a record autumn flood. Will was 15 years old. He had started keeping a diary that year, following the example of his father, a Wallingford mill owner and cheese box manufacturer.
Writing in pencil, the occasional word misspelled, Will Pelsue recorded the small details of a boy’s life in rural Vermont in the years following the Civil War. Most of the entries were brief: “chopped some wood,” “commenced haying,” “did not do much.” But over a period of several years, his diaries carried him into manhood and a life of carpentry, teaching school and directing the Wallingford town band.
On the day of the flood he wrote, “Did not go to school and will not, for the bridges are all washed away. The water has been the highest today that it ever was before. Washed road to East Wallingford to our house all out and within 3 feet of the house and everything else.” Other entries that year referred to a total eclipse of the sun (he said it was “on time”) , a fire that “burned up” the East Centerville schoolhouse, and the arrival of a jackknife that he had sent away for in the mail.
Wilbur’s diaries, and those of his father and mother, have come down through the family and provide an intimate link to ancestors otherwise known only through faded pictures. Wilbur is the great grandfather of Margery Pelsue Gregory, who is slowly transcribing those nearly illegible diaries as a glimpse into her own heritage.
A lot of what we know about our past comes from journals and diaries kept by famous and everyday people. Presidents and statesmen have kept a daily records of their activities and observations. Wartime diaries of soldiers have provided the basis for award-winning documentaries. But it is often in the routine jottings of ordinary people in ordinary times that we catch the flavor of life in all its complexity and worth.
This is equally true today. Unfortunately, writing in a journal is less common than it once was. Life is faster paced and more complicated. We have more distractions — TV shows to watch, e-mail, cell phones, texting and twittering to keep in constant touch — and as a result less time to compose our thoughts and make note of what gives each day its texture.
Keeping a diary is not for the faint of heart. It requires a commitment to write something — anything — every day. A day missed is an invitation to miss another and another until the blank pages become a reproach and an excuse for giving up.
I began a diary on January 1, 1975. I was 39 years old, happily married, the father of two teenagers, working as a television newsman in Boston. My father had tried to get me to try a diary as a boy, but I couldn’t keep it going long enough for a habit to take hold. The closest I got was keeping a journal of life aboard ship when I worked on oil tankers a couple of summers during college.
This time, the diary was my wife’s idea. We had traveled across the country in a motor home the previous year and kept a daily log of our adventures. It gave us so much pleasure in reliving the experience later that she thought I might be primed for a daily journal. She gave me the empty book as a Christmas gift. It was nicely bound with a soft brown leatherette cover and 365 lined pages, one for every day of the year, each one dated. It was a challenging prospect. I was almost afraid to start for fear I wouldn’t carry on.
I was working nights then, producing an 11 p.m. newscast. I wrote my first entry when I got home from work in the wee hours of New Year‘s Day.
“The year began with a picture book snowstorm. It started early New Year’s Eve and by midnight the world was white and glistening. Driving was bad coming home from work. Marge and I celebrated with hamburgers and lemon meringue pie. Rob asleep. Jan in bed but still awake. She reminded me it was John Denver’s birthday.”
Thus began a daily routine that has continued through the years. Sometimes I write in the evenings, sometimes the next morning. The diaries provide a blank page for each day and I fill them one by one, week by week, year by year. There are now 34 of them in a bookcase by my bed, and I’m working on number 35. It isn’t a chore anymore, although it’s hard to fill the page some days, especially in retirement.
The diaries are a treasure trove of memories great and small. They’re the court of last resort in settling disputes over who did what when. They’re a reminder of the ebb and flow of life, holding a grandchild for the first time, saying farewell to a dying parent, celebrating the benchmarks of marriage and career.
At first I wrote for Marge and me, not thinking my thoughts would be read by others. It wasn’t until after my parents died and we began reading their sporadic diaries that I realized my children and grandchildren and perhaps generations to come would see mine, too. From then on I weighed what I wrote against the pleasure it would give or the pain it might cause to some future reader. Still, I’ve tried to be straightforward and honest in my impressions and accounts. I suppose anyone who has the time and inclination to wade through all those years of recollections will have a pretty good idea of who I am, or was.
As we get older, I’ve discovered other benefits. A diary is a marvelous aid to memory. Thoughts and experiences written down become a permanent record. Routine things like what we paid for fuel oil last winter or how many dahlias we planted are there for reference. So are health concerns, real or imagined. And a reminder of when we last visited the kids. I’ve started indexing my diaries, listing the day-to-day highlights to make it easier to find things I may want to check later.
I also find that writing each day gives life meaning. It forces me to evaluate whether I’m spending my time well. Sometimes I have a day like Marge’s great-grandfather and am tempted to write, “Did not do much.” Then I look back over recent months and discover what an interesting and varied life we live. And I realize a slow day now and then is not a bad thing. But then, there’s that page to fill…
Think You Know a Lot About Christmas?
Take the Christmas Quiz and Find OutBy Vicky Katz Whitaker, CNS
1. Which U.S. president inaugurated the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House? A. Abraham Lincoln, B. Theodore Roosevelt, C. Calvin Coolidge.
2. How many gifts would you receive if you received all the gifts in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? A. 478, B. 12, C. 364.
3. Who wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”? A. Gene Autry, B. Johnny Mercer, C. Johnny Marks.
4. What popular children’s treat was introduced in 1902 as a Christmas ornament? A. gingerbread men, B. Animal Crackers, C. candy canes.
5. The first U.S. Christmas stamp was issued in 1962. In what year did Canada issue its first Christmas stamp? A. 1961, B. 1898, C. 1964.
6. According to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the most performed holiday song is: A. “White Christmas,” B. “The Christmas Song,” C. “Winter Wonderland.”
7. Who brought the Christmas poinsettia to the U.S.? A. John Roebling, B. Joel Poinsett, C. Charles Pickering.
8. In 1742, where was George Frideric Handel’s Christmas oratorio, “Messiah,” first performed? A. St. Petersburg, Russia, B. Dublin, Ireland, C. Hamburg, Germany.
9. Where was the first Christmas tree decorated? A. Riga, Latvia, B. Munich, Germany, C. Strasbourg, France.
10. How many film versions of “A Christmas Carol” have been made? A. 3, B. 22, C. 37.
1. C. Calvin Coolidge’s involvement gave national prominence to the event, viewed as a winter equivalent to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The tree was placed on the Ellipse, south of the White House, so that the ceremony wouldn’t interfere with first lady Grace Coolidge’s Christmas “sing” on the North Lawn.
2. C. 364. Except for the first day, you get a new gift each day plus a duplicate number from the day before.
3. C. Created by Montgomery Ward copywriter Robert L. May for the department store chain’s Christmas promotion, the story of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was well-known by the time May approached his brother-in-law, Marks, to put it to music. Several million copies of the story were distributed between 1939 and 1946, but because he was an employee, May never received royalties. In 1947, he turned the story into a best-seller after Montgomery Ward gave him the Rudolph copyright. Autry soon recorded the song penned by Marks, an instant holiday hit that spawned an entire industry. Marks went on to write other holiday tunes, including “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas.”
4. B. In 1902, Nabisco introduced the familiar circus-wagon box as seasonal packaging for its existing line of animal-shaped biscuits. They were renamed Barnum’s Animals Crackers, and a string handle was added to the box so that it could be hung as a Christmas tree ornament.
5. B and C. The Canadian Royal Philatelic Society brands the 1898 stamp Canada’s and the world’s first. Not so, contend some historians, who say “XMAS 1898” printed across the bottom of the map of the British Empire was a last-minute addition to a stamp actually created to mark the introduction of imperial penny postage. Originally set to be issued on the Prince of Wales’ November birthday, it was reworked and rescheduled after postal officials learned the prince was on the outs with Queen Victoria. When the queen, who had to approve the design, questioned the postmaster general, he assured her the new stamp was honoring “the Prince of Peace.” Canada’s first contemporary Christmas stamp was issued in 1964.
6. C. “Winter Wonderland” has topped ASCAP’s list for the past two years. Not bad for a tune written in 1934 and performed by everyone from Guy Lombardo to Perry Como and, more recently, the Eurythmics, Jewel and Air Supply.
7. B. If you went for the obvious, you were right. It’s named after Poinsett, the American ambassador to Mexico, who sent the plant from Mexico to his South Carolina home, in 1829, where it flourished. Roebling designed the Brooklyn Bridge. Pickering was an American naturalist.
8. B. Incidentally, there’s no “The” in the title.
9. A. Riga, Latvia (in 1510), says the National Christmas Tree Association.
10. B. A British adaptation made its debut in 1901.
Spice Up Your Holiday CardsBy Chandra Orr, CNS
Skip the boxed cards. This year, put a personal spin on the holidays with handcrafted holiday sentiments that trump any ready-made greeting.
It’s the perfect activity for keeping kids busy during unexpected snow days and a surefire boredom buster during the long holiday vacation.
“Handmade greeting cards show off your unique style and your creativity,” says Lish Dorset of Handmade Detroit, the crafters collaborative behind the annual Detroit Urban Craft Fair.
Crafted cards don’t have to be fancy to make a statement.
“It sounds clichéd, but it’s really the thought that counts, and creating your own cards can be very inexpensive when compared with boxed greeting cards,” Dorset says.
Have the grandkids sketch Santa, Rudolph or Frosty, scan the artwork and print their masterpieces on blank cards from your home computer. Let them clip snowflakes the old-fashioned way — folding the paper a few times and snipping — and use them to adorn the fronts of the finished cards.
Want to add a personal photo to the design? Think black and white.
“Photos are a great way to go. Print them in grayscale, and let your grandchildren color them and add their favorite extras, like sequins or stickers,” Dorset says.
You might be surprised at what you and the kids come up with once you start brainstorming.
The point is to send a little piece of yourself to faraway friends and family, according to crafting experts Jennifer O’Neil and Kitty O’Neil, whose columns appear regularly in magazines, including Crafts ‘n Things, Create & Decorate and Country Accents.
“People get tens, if not hundreds, of Christmas cards. Why not make yours stand out from the rest?” Kitty O’Neil asks. “When the recipient opens a handmade card from you, they feel your presence on the other end.”
So put on some festive music; brew up a batch of killer hot chocolate; and get ready to get crafty.
Need extra inspiration? Gather your supplies; wrangle the grandkids; and set to work on these quick and clever holiday cards that aren’t like everyone else’s:
STRING IT TOGETHER
Send a string of joyous gingerbread men clipped from brown paper bags.
“Stand-up holiday motifs cut paper doll-style are elegant and inexpensive,” says professional illustrator Joanne Gilbert, owner of DrawntoLetters, which specializes in personalized note cards and prints.
Start with a long strip of paper trimmed to 4 inches high. Paper grocery bags, rolls of butcher paper or oversized cardstock from the art supply store work well.
Fold the paper accordion-style; trace your design on the top fold; and start clipping. Just remember to choose simple shapes, such as stars or trees.
“The trick is to connect the motif on each side so when you open it, it forms a chain,” Gilbert says. “They have the dual advantage of being both a greeting card and a foldout decoration that can be used on a windowsill, mantel or tree.”
Don’t have access to long sheets of paper? Cut individual designs, and string the shapes together with festive ribbon.
“I added tiny green string bows at the junctures of kissing doves one year and red and white bakery string bows between gingerbread men. It looks festive, like candy cane accents,” Gilbert says.
Embellish the garland with a long horizontal greeting, or have each family member sign and decorate one page of the card. Add button eyes to gingerbread figures or paper stars to trees.
STAMP IT UP
To make multiple cards in a flash, pick up a rubber stamp. From whimsical winter fairies to classic snowmen and Santa, craft stores offer a wide selection of holiday-inspired stamps.
Stamp the design in black ink, and have the kids accent the images with marker or colored pencil. Have them add a few holiday-themed embellishments, such as stick-on rhinestones, glitter, die-cut accents and ribbon. You’ll have a stack of masterpieces in no time.
“Go with an assembly line approach to creating the cards,” Dorset says. “Decide what your design will be, and make all of the pieces at the same time. You’ll find the creation and assembly goes much more quickly that way.”
Add an extra element to the design by stamping the image on colored paper and then trimming the finished piece to fit the front of the card, and adhere with glue.
“Since you’re not stamping on the blank card, you can mess up all you want and not waste the cards, but don’t go for perfection,” Jennifer O’Neil says. “The idea is to make them look handmade.”
Photographer Betsy Melvin Pictures a New Life Developing in TennesseeBy Phyl Newbeck
Stepping into Betsy Melvin’s Essex Center studio doesn’t feel like going indoors. The walls are covered with Melvin’s signature landscape photographs: the morning mist rising from the valley with a mountain backdrop, a river flowing through a picturesque valley, snow-capped peaks, and beautiful foliage. One has only to look at the photos to see how much Melvin loves the landscape of Vermont. And yet, her house/studio is on the market and she is planning on moving to Lynchburg, Tennessee to be near her daughter, Holly.
Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, Melvin was only 11 years old when her father bought her a camera for less than a dollar. Melvin still has that camera; she had it bronzed with some film still inside. Although she has clearly upgraded her equipment over time, Melvin still speaks fondly of the old twin lens reflex camera she used make 2 ¼” square negatives. That camera has also been retired, but she won’t part with it. She and her late husband Tom fought the use of digital cameras. “I don’t like gimmicks,” she said, but in a concession to her daughter and to modernity, she has reluctantly begun to make the switch.
Melvin didn’t begin her career with the sweeping panoramas for which she is now known. She did yearbook photography and worked in journalism, writing and photographing for the Burlington Free Press and the Suburban List which covered the town of Essex. She made a name for herself doing portrait photography of business people, doctors, college presidents and bishops. For twelve years she was the resident photographer at Magram’s Department Store on Church Street in Burlington.
When she was forty years old her first husband, Frank Thrasher, told her that she should concentrate on the kind of photography she loved – landscapes – and she hasn’t looked back.
Melvin met her second husband Tom at a photography convention. In 1971 they opened their studio/gallery, The Artistic Alliance, on Route 15 in Essex. One of her proudest accomplishments is that she and Tom were the first photographers to be allowed to use their images to accompany the words of Robert Frost. In 1977, the couple published “Robert Frost Country,” which sold 50,000 copies. In 2000 they published a sequel entitled “Robert Frost’s New England.”
Melvin is moving in part because she dislikes having to be dependent on others for transportation. She has been unable to drive since an accident in November 2006. Tom died the following year, ending what Melvin called a “perfect marriage.”
Initially she will move into a home across the street from her daughter, but the two plan to buy a larger piece of property with greater acreage for Holly’s horses. Melvin will, however, continue to be associated with Vermont. Her photographs, of and from the town of Essex, are proudly displayed on the town’s Web site.
Melvin, now 87, is already carving out a photography niche for herself in Tennessee. She intends to do horse photography, something she is quite familiar with having had a horse jumping photograph printed in Family Magazine (a now-defunct Sunday insert) back in 1967. Her daughter raises Tennessee Walking Horses and Melvin has already begun photographing some of them. In addition, Melvin intends to market postcards of her new hometown. She has already experimented with some shots that put the town’s existing postcards to shame.
“Landscapes are my legacy,” said Melvin. She pointed to two photographs she took of the village of Worcester, Vermont to demonstrate what makes a good photograph. The first one, in full daylight, she describes as “just a dumb postcard.” The second, taken in variable light, is one of her favorite photographs. “The light, the composition, the angles and the mood are the most important things,” she said. Melvin enjoys fall photography the most because of the colors and the lighting. Besides, she noted, “Vermont is a magic word and it makes people think of fall.” However, because her summer photographs are less iconic Vermont pictures, she believes they will sell well in Tennessee.
Melvin readily admits that she will miss Vermont. “Looking wistfully at some of her photos of snow-capped mountains, Melvin conceded that she would also miss the snow, but perhaps not the perils of home-ownership in a winter climate. Melvin is heading down to Tennessee in mid-December to spend the winter with her daughter, but will come back up in the spring for a final sale of her works and to say goodbye to the enchanted scenery of her photographs. The pictures which she has for sale at galleries in Jeffersonville, Jericho, Stowe and Warren will remain on the walls throughout the winter and the images that she has taken will be etched in the hearts of all who have seen them no matter where she resides.
More Than Two Centuries of Vermont’s Rich Military History
Vermont Veterans Militia Museum Showcases Vermont’s Rich Military History
The black lettering spelling out Vermont Veterans Militia Museum and Library set against the light blue exterior gives the historic Camp Johnson facility a rather unassuming look upon first glance. But the half-dozen or so antique armored vehicles situated on the front lawn – seemingly guarding the entrance – suggests there’s a bit of magic inside this otherwise drab looking building.
With lifelike statues donning Civil and Vietnam War garb staring you down and cannons and model airplanes flanking you in all directions, the museum springs to life once you walk through its doors. Founded in the early 1970s, the museum is a showcase for Vermont’s proud military history, dating back to the Revolutionary War.
It began solely as a library in an isolated corner of Colchester’s Camp Johnson, but was moved to within 100 yards of the front gate about 15 years ago, where it has since expanded and grown into a multi-room facility housing one-of-a-kind historical items, all of which have been donated.
There’s the “Sheridan’s Ride” oil painting, a 17’ x 28’ panorama of the Civil War painted in 1896 by Vermonter Charles Hardin Andrus. The largest oil painting in North America at the time of its completion, it depicts General Phil Sheridan rallying 11th Vermont Heavy Artillery Union troops as they turned the tide in the battle at Cedar Creek on Oct. 19, 1864.
There’s Paul Revere’s lithograph of British ships docking at Boston Harbor in 1768. There’s a World War I room that features a 40/8 boxcar gifted to Vermonters by the French for their efforts in the European trenches. There are scores of American flags dating back as far as 1850. There are uniforms – cavalry uniforms worn by Vermonters in the Spanish-American War, a “women in the armed forces” display, West Point cadet uniforms. There’s even a nuclear warhead that was used for practice in Burlington long ago by the Vermont Air Guard.
A nonprofit run strictly by volunteers, the museum survives on donations and memberships, of which there are currently about 400. The knowledgeable volunteer staff is made up mostly of veterans, all of whom are friendly and eager to guide you through more than 230 years of Vermont military history.
“As long as I’m talking about military things I can hold my own,” says Roland Brosseau, a long time volunteer at the museum who served four years in the Air Force during the Korean War and taught history at Winooski High School for 29 years. “When you like something, it comes easy.”
As he and the rest of the museum’s staff do for school field trip groups and casual visitors, Brosseau gave me the full tour. Every exhibit tells a story.
Peering through a glass case of Congressional medals of honor bestowed upon Vermonters, Brosseau points to one worn by Saint Michael’s graduate Col. Donald Cook.
“He died of malnutrition in POW camp because he gave his food and water to the other prisoners,” Brosseau explains. “That’s why his four kids had the opportunity to go to St. Mike’s for free.”
Our next stop is at a rather menacing looking mannequin decked out in a full Operation Iraqi Freedom sniper uniform. The outfit was worn by South Burlington graduate Cpl. Mark A. Eunin – the second Vermonter killed in Iraq, at age 21. The uniform was donated by Mark’s mother, Mindy Eunin.
“She comes a couple times a year to check on it,” says Brosseau. “People will take a look at it and say, ‘Oh yeah, my older brother played football with him at South Burlington.’ That’s what I want [visitors] to know. This was not some guy from Alabama. He grew up around here. We try to make it personal.”
Brosseau has his own personal tale of serving in the Vermont military. For 13 months, beginning in 1954, he was deployed to Alaska to help keep tabs on the Russians. With no television or telephones and very little activity, Brosseau spent most of his time playing cards, trying to stay warm and keeping an eye out for polar bears.
When an unidentified aircraft entered U.S. territory en route from Russia one day, things suddenly got serious for Brosseau and company. Or so it seemed. Soon after relaying the message that an enemy fighter plane had crossed into American airspace, Brosseau’s squad discovered that the aircraft was actually a U.S. photo recon plane returning from a top secret mission in Russia.
“This never happened,” was the message Brosseau says Air Force higher-ups told his squad to remember.
But it did happen. Brosseau was there. For proof, all you have to do is wander into the small library at the back of the facility. In fact, Brosseau does just that, leafing through several reference books listing names of all Vermonters who served in various wars. Eventually he picks up a book and, sure enough, there it is: Brosseau, Roland….Staff Sergeant, Korean War.
Veterans who frequent the museum often make the same pit stop in the library to find their names listed. Saint Michael’s history students also use the library for research on occasion. Books reach as high as the ceilings, though its modest size makes it hard to believe that the library was all that was here nearly 40 years ago.
The museum aspect was introduced later, though as Bernie Phenning – a volunteer at the facility for 10 years and a veteran of the Vermont Air National Guard – recalls, “It used to be a little trailer.”
Donations continued to roll in, however, and the collection swelled. That necessitated the addition of some recycled Camp Johnson buildings, and today the Vermont Veterans Militia Museum and Library is a spacious setup worthy of Vermont’s rich military history.
And now the museum has its own Web site. For more information about its ever-expanding list of exhibits, visit www.vermontmilitarymuseum.com. The Vermont Veterans Militia Museum is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Admission is free, though donations are accepted.