November 10th, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — The Ripton United Methodist Church (RUMC) is a quiet place these days, but its worship hall still echoes with the roar of fiery sermons, the gentle sobs of mourners and the euphoric cheers of wedding parties.
The venerable wooden building off Route 125 in Ripton village has seen its share of history. The tiny Confederate submarine Hunley torpedoed the USS Housatonic during the Civil War as workers were painstakingly completing work on the Ripton church in early 1864. The International Red Cross was founded during that same year in Geneva, Switzerland.
Unfortunately, the passage of time has also left its mark on the church, in the form of a shifting foundation, a leaky roof and porous windows. The last substantial repairs to the building were spearheaded more than a half-century ago by none other than poet laureate Robert Frost.
“In the meantime, the interior and exterior of the church have been painted once; it has not had a great deal of care,” said Charles Billings, one of six generations of his family who have attended services at the church throughout the years.
He knows his ancestors would be pleased to see the church building preserved. His great-aunt, the late Eunice Billings, was a parishioner. Eunice Billings rented a room to Robert Frost at a time when Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus could not accommodate him. When Eunice’s husband, Homer Noble, died, she sold that home to Frost. It was in Eunice Billings Noble’s name that Frost set up a fund to make repairs to the church back in the 1950s.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
CORNWALL — In 28 years leading the Middlebury College football program, retired Panther head coach Mickey Heinecken’s teams won 126 games.
But none of those victories may have meant as much to the 69-year-old Cornwall resident as did Democratic President-elect Barack Obama’s surge to victory on Election Day.
Heinecken spent a month living in his camper in Berlin, N.H., as a volunteer for the Obama campaign, knocking on doors and seeking votes on Nov. 4.
Heinecken had never volunteered for a campaign before, but had been impressed with Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and decided to support him during the primary season.
“There’s such a sense of optimism that’s been missing in the country,” Heinecken said, back in Addison County late last week. “All of those things aren’t going to happen, but the tone that he set is so different than that we’ve lived with the last eight years that I became a believer.
“I’m retired, and my life revolves around stuff that isn’t important at all, and there was really no reason not to,” Heinecken continued. “And I had a neighbor (Bill Mandigo, the Middlebury College women’s hockey coach and his former football assistant) that said to me a while back that if you feel it’s so important, get off your fanny and do something … And he was right.”
Heinecken said he had also seen “ill will” toward America when traveling abroad with his wife, Carol.
“People were always nice to us, and I think they liked Americans, but ... after 9-11 people would have given us the shirt off their backs they had such empathy for us, and now to be seen in such an ill light was so frustrating,” he said.
By POOJA SHAHANI
SHOREHAM — Rita Davis, 73-year-old cousin of deceased Army sergeant Richard Desautels, will always remember her cousin as a lively and vibrant young boy.
“He was full of energy,” recalled Davis, who was only 14 years old when Desautels left their native Shoreham for a tour in the U.S. Army in the Korean War. “His family had this small tractor and he’d come down the hill. He would push the clutch in and come tearing down that hill with the dog right behind him. I remember my stepfather having a royal fit.
“He was just being a boy. That was Richard.”
Desautels enlisted as a soldier in the Army when he was 17 years old. In late December 1951, the family found out that Desautels had been taken as a prisoner of war to China. The family hung their hopes on the possibility that Richard would be returned in a prisoner-of-war exchange.
“I can remember his parents were coming to the house because they were going to announce the names on television of the POWs coming to be exchanged. His name was on there. Then when they exchanged them, he didn’t come back,” Davis remembered.
For decades, the Desautels family waited for some information about their missing son. Then, in May 2003, Desautels’ elder brother, Rolland, received a summary from the Pentagon of what a Chinese army official had related about the case. The report acknowledged that Desautels had been a prisoner of war in China and it said he had become mentally ill on April 22, 1953, and died a few days later.
Rolland Desautels sent this report to a POW/MIA advocacy group The National Alliance of Families for further investigation. However, this information was kept a secret from the general public because the Desautels did not believe the authenticity of the report from the Chinese officials.
By JOHN FLOWERS
VERGENNES — The second time proved to be the charm for Vergennes Democrat Diane Lanpher, who pulled off an upset of sorts by winning one of two House seats in the traditional GOP stronghold of Addison-3, toppling one-term incumbent and former Vergennes mayor Kitty Oxholm in the process.
Lanpher, a Vergennes City Council member, received 1,928 tallies in heavy voting in the House district that includes Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham. She finished second in the balloting to three-term incumbent Greg Clark, R-Vergennes, who topped the field with a total of 2,220 votes.
Oxholm, finishing her first term, was third with 1,858 votes — 70 behind Lanpher. Rounding out the field was first-time candidate Jean Richardson, a Ferrisburgh Democrat, who garnered 1,558 votes.
Lanpher credited her win to a lot of hard work, both by her and supporters who worked on her behalf. She walked door-to-door within the district and said she was gratified by how many people knew her. Some of the people with whom she spoke in her travels even thought she was an incumbent representative.
“I took that as a positive,” Lanpher said, adding her recent election to the Vergennes City Council and voters’ interest in Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket probably also helped her House bid.
Lanpher had finished fourth, with 1,217 tallies, in a five-way race for the two Addison-3 seats in 2006. She said she is pleased to have prevailed this year.
“I’m very, very excited,” Lanpher said on Tuesday night. “I feel I’m in a position to get things done.”
By ANDY KIRKALDY
ADDISON COUNTY — Yes, Addison County and Brandon did.
Most local voters joined their peers statewide in backing President-elect Barack Obama as Vermont became the first state that national news networks placed in the Democrat’s column on Tuesday night, just minutes after polls in the state closed at 7 p.m.
In heavy turnout that averaged 78 percent and topped 80 percent in at least a dozen local communities, Addison County and Brandon residents also backed statewide winners, including three candidates for major offices who faced opposition: Republican Gov. Jim Douglas of Middlebury, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie and Democratic Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, who garnered the most votes in these parts in all contested races (see chart).
In every case, local voters’ support for the statewide and national winners, all of whom prevailed by comfortable margins, exceeded their margins statewide.
As of mid-morning on Wednesday, Obama, a first-term U.S. Senator from Illinois, had claimed 67 percent of the Vermont vote with 87 percent of the overall ballots reported counted.
Assuming that percentage holds, that will be the second-largest margin of victory Obama enjoyed in any state in the nation, trailing only his birth state of Hawaii, where he polled 72 percent. Rhode Island came in third at 63 percent. The heavily African-American District of Columbia backed Obama by an even greater 93 percent.
With 100 percent of the local vote counted, Obama swept to victory in all 24 towns and captured roughly 70 percent of the ballots cast. In four towns, more than 80 percent of voters favored Obama over Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee.
Ripton led the way with 83 percent of voters supporting Obama, and voters in Goshen, Lincoln and Middlebury all backed the winning Democratic ticket at a rate of roughly 81 percent.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
BRISTOL — Autumn Harp Inc., the largest private employer in Bristol, announced Wednesday that the company is folding its Bristol operations into its Essex facility.
The 30-year-old manufacturer of cosmetics and personal care products employs 160 full-time employees at its Bristol facility and 40 in Essex. All of the company’s Bristol-based employees will be offered the chance to work in Essex, and the company intends to offer transportation for the 30-mile commute between Bristol and Essex.
Autumn Harp owner David Logan said that while it is impossible to know how many of the employees currently working in Bristol will make the jump to Essex, he is hopeful that most of the 160 will consider the offer.
Logan said that the Bristol property will make a great home for another small business, but that Autumn Harp has outgrown the 47,000-square foot facility on Pine Street.
“Unfortunately, we’re in a residential neighborhood,” Logan said, “and we’re very restricted in the amount that we could expand and grow the company here. We just can’t change that.”
Logan also said that the lack of a town wastewater disposal system contributed the decision to move out of Bristol.
Plans are in the works to expand the company’s 77,000-square foot Essex facility to roughly 125,000 square feet. Logan said that the company also hopes to expand its workforce, which currently stands at around 200 full-time employees, incrementally over time.
Clippings article published Oct. 23, 2008
Let’s talk about editorials and this newspaper’s perspective over the past eight years.
Since 2000, this editor has been roundly criticized — and applauded — by readers reacting to editorials on the national or international scene. Many of those editorials have been about the elections with George W., about the invasion of Iraq, the economy, and what I have considered to be the misguided policies of the Bush administration.
Contrary to some publications, editorials are written with the premise of the piece clearly stated and one side of the issue boldly supported. Very few editorials are middle-of-the-road essays that point out both sides of the issue and let the reader decide which group of facts has the most validity. Picking one side of the issue and defending that point of view is precisely what editorials should do. And, yes, that means the editorials are biased. Of course they are. They reflect my research and my point of view. That doesn’t mean, however, they are not supported by facts or credible evidence that counters an opposing agenda.
But why write about those issues when that’s the purview of national publications, some critics ask, then suggest we write solely about local and state issues.
It’s a good point, and frankly, I would do my job better if I made it a priority to always include a local editorial to accompany any editorial on the world or national scene. Two shorter editorials would almost always be preferable.
But when the issues get mixed up with people’s emotional framework, rational discussion often falls by the wayside and partisan politics enters the fray. The strategic reasons for invading Iraq or not, for example, get lost within the emotional context of patriotism, God and country, and supporting the troops.
“Never in living memory has an election been more critical than (this) — that’s the quadrennial cliché, as expected as the balloons and the bombast. And yet when has it ever felt so urgently true? When have so many Americans had so clear a sense that a presidency has — at levels of competence, vision and integrity — undermined the country and its ideals?”
That was the opening paragraph of The New Yorker’s endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama for president on Oct. 13. It continued: “The Presidency of George W. Bush is the worst since Reconstruction, so there is no mystery about why the Republican Party — which has held dominion over the executive branch of the federal government for the past eight years and the legislative branch for most that time — has little desire to defend its record, domestic or foreign … Meanwhile, the nominee, Sen. John McCain, (has) played the part of a vaudeville illusionist, asking to be regarded as an apostle of change after years of embracing the essentials of the Bush agenda with ever-increasing ardor.”
That this presidential election is the most critical of our times is a debate for historians decades hence, but certainly a record 93 percent of the American populace, according to recent polls, say we are going in the wrong direction. And certainly these two major party candidates offer stark differences in style and in the policies they would pursue.
It is no surprise to readers of this paper that we enthusiastically endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president. We are impressed with his coolness under fire; his thoughtful and deliberate approach when addressing difficult issues; his skills as a campaigner, organizer and director of a massive undertaking these past 18 months that delivered a consistent message of hope that has inspired tens of millions of supporters. And he has done it with honor, integrity and clarity of purpose.