Ways of Seeing: The Roods’ presence graced their town
The year is 1991. Burnham Hall is packed. A small grey-haired woman wanders onstage in hiking boots and khakis, binoculars glued to her eyes, peering intently into the audience. Following close behind is a similarly dressed small gentleman. “Has anyone out there seen a bluebird?” he questions the audience as his partner continues peering about, both improvising the opening scene in our elementary school performance, one of my first as a teacher at Lincoln Community School.
And as I had just discovered, Ron and Peg Rood, though already well into their seventh decade, were always game for a fun time, whether onstage or behind the scenes.
Ron was a naturalist, writer and radio commentator whose fascinating stories told in clear, accessible prose continue to fascinate readers across the generations. Peg taught kindergarten at Mary Hogan Elementary School for 21 years and remains a presence in most of Ron’s stories.
The Roods left Connecticut in 1953 and moved to Lincoln, where they raised four children and served the community in every imaginable way, helping found numerous local organizations, teaching Sunday School, singing in and directing the church choir, serving in elected town offices and on local boards, volunteering and performing and speaking at the local elementary school, and dreaming up countless schemes.
At Peg’s recent memorial service — she died on November 7 at 95 — long-time friend and fellow community builder Bill Finger recalled Peg organizing a parade of torches to be carried by skiers down the slope from Lincoln’s former ski tow. Her planned gentle, evenly spaced procession got jumbled as Peg repeatedly lost one of her skis along the way and required help from other skiers, some flames blowing out in the process.
Once at the bottom, Peg had mapped out a formation of skiers to spell out “Lincoln” with their torches. It seemed there were only enough lit torches left for “Linco” until Peg quickly rearranged the participants, assuring her mission was accomplished. She was known for her gentle persistence.
The Roods attended every subsequent performance by my students after their initial appearance onstage at Burnham Hall. In fact, their presence helped set a standard for the quality of students’ articulation and projection. Our goal was to assure that the couple, whose hearing was faltering, could understand every word. If they gave me a thumbs-up at the afternoon matinee, we were all set for the evening show.
The Roods offered classroom presentations, too. Peg shared her knowledge of birds, while Ron — the more talkative of the two — told the delightful animal stories that made his books so widely popular.
Students loved hearing him explain how he and his family raised an orphaned porcupine, with its gentle yet playful personality and destructive chewing habits, how Piney nestled in their laps, poked his nose into Ron’s ear and accompanied them on trips. But his family set clear limits: “We allowed an animal to stay around the house as long as it wished,” Ron explained, “but always kept in mind that it was a wild creature. When it wanted to go back to the wild again, we let it go.”
Peg rallied after Ron’s passing in 2001, diving into new community pursuits, organizing concerts at Burnham Hall and appearing onstage in her wonderful 1920s-style striped jacket and straw hat. She continued spreading the word about school performances to seniors in the Lincoln community and even arranged their transportation. With her support, our students always reserved special seating for Lincoln’s elders.
The Roods took on their later years with a grace that was always genuine, never rushed. They were wonderful models of how to contribute to a community throughout the life journey.
And journey they did. The Roods had a passion for traveling, returning to Lincoln with accounts of their adventures. Once, after a trip to Hawaii, Ron visited a kindergarten classroom. He passed a volcanic rock around so students could explore its appearance and texture while he described the process by which igneous rock is transformed. The last child to receive the specimen carried it carefully back to the front of the room, cupping it with both hands. As he placed it in Ron’s palm he whispered, “Here you are, Mr. Rood. It’s still warm.”
That warmth continues to radiate and inspire all who remember Peg and Ron Rood.
Alice Leeds, of Bristol, was a public school teacher for 25 years and is currently a writing instructor at the Community College of Vermont in Winooski.
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