Lifelong educators honored for service to Brandon

BRANDON — The gathering at the Brandon Town Hall Monday evening may go down as the feel-good town meeting of this young century.
Not only were local residents excited to hold this year’s town meeting in the Brandon Town Hall for the first time since 1979, but they enjoyed the highlight of the evening: the homage paid to lifelong residents Jane and Bud Coolidge and their expressions of thanks.
This year’s Brandon Town Report was dedicated to the Coolidges. The beloved couple are Brandon natives who spent their working lives shepherding the town’s children through elementary school.
The roomful of town meeting attendees, 115 strong, gave the couple a standing ovation as they were introduced and made their way to the front of the hall. The crowd stayed on their feet as Jane Coolidge began by saying what an honor it was to have the town report dedicated to them.
“I was flabbergasted when I saw our picture,” she exclaimed. “I want to thank you for the kind words. I love Brandon. I love the people, and I love teaching school. It’s a privilege for me to be part of Brandon. It’s a privilege to be part of this community.”
Jane was born in Middlebury but moved to Brandon and grew up here. Both husband and wife attended Castleton State College, where they earned teaching degrees. They both taught first at the Seminary Hill School and then at the Neshobe Elementary School. Jane was an elementary teacher and Bud taught science and was then principal at Seminary Hill and at Neshobe for decades.
They have always been very involved in the community. As selectboard Chair Doug Bailey said in his introduction, “Bud has been a justice of the peace forever.”
The Coolidges are active in the Forest Dale Wesleyan Church, the Brandon Senior Center and the Brandon Area Food Shelf.
Their son Brian is a Brandon selectman.
When it was Bud’s turn to speak, he warned those still standing that he had more to say.
“I think you should probably sit down,” he said, always the principal, and everyone sat down. He then took a moment, clearly he was filled with emotion.
“Brandon is hometown,” he said.
He stifled a sniffle and continued.
“This is not easy for me,” he said, his voice catching. “We can only thank the Lord for all that Brandon means to us. We love it and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Bud said that over the years, friends have tried to convince the couple to move to a warmer climate.
“No, Brandon is where we belong,” he said. “The school boards, the selectboard, the teachers, the churches … Certain people in this town have left a mark on my life. These people meant a lot. Jane and I hope we’ve been able to leave some sort of a mark, and not just with my paddle, with some children in this community.”
Everyone laughed, as Coolidge was a kind but firm school principal back in the day.
In closing, Coolidge had a directive for his fellow townspeople.
“We love it here and we want to stay here as long as we possibly can,” he said. “Just keep loving everybody, folks, because this is what Brandon is all about.”
And with that, the Coolidges returned to their seats amid another standing ovation.

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