New 4-H scholarship honors horse lover

BONNIE ROLEAU RIDES a horse in the show ring not too many years ago. The long-time Lincoln resident who died a year ago had a lifelong love of horses. A Memorial Equine 4-H Scholarship Fund was recently started in her honor.

Addison County lost a wonderful woman and local horse enthusiast last spring. Bonnie Roleau was a friend to all, who passed away unexpectedly in May of 2020 and her absence in our community has been so deeply felt ever since. Her bright smile, sharp wit, and positive attitude will never be forgotten.

As a child Bonnie grew up in Mahwah, N.J., raising and riding Arabian horses on her family’s farm. After working at several farms in the Delaware area as a young woman, Bonnie moved to Vermont for a slower pace and found love with William Roleau and the Belgian Workhorse breed. They raised two boys, Ethan and Trent, and together created Isham Brook Farm in Lincoln and showcased their teams at local and regional horse shows. Bonnie and Bill educated many in our community on the skills of farming, caring for, and showing Belgians at the Addison County Fair Field Days.

Bonnie shared her love and knowledge with me, her niece and many other youths of Addison County. One summer evening in 1985 Bonnie and Bill delivered a mellow chestnut Arabian gelding named Shenandoah to me. With Bonnie’s gentle encouragement, she helped me to excel at horseback riding and assisted me in gaining knowledge of the equine world.

Bonnie and her contagious enthusiasm could be found at county 4-H horse shows, helping youngsters with their skill and confidence. So, with all of this said, it was a natural and fitting decision to create a Memorial Equine 4-H Scholarship Fund in Bonnie’s name to carry on her memory throughout Addison County youths love for horses.

A Go-Fund-Me Fundraiser was created back in May and over the course of a few months $13,000 was raised by friends and loved ones of Bonnie’s. Initially it was intended for the care of the animals she left behind, then it was to be used to build Bonnies’ Barn, which was a huge piece of Bonnie’s retirement dream. In the end, Bill chose to have the money allocated in such a way as to keep Bonnie’s spirit alive for many years to come and to be able to help the youth of Addison County coming up through the 4-H Equine Program.

Bonnie’s Barn has since been built in Lincoln on Atkins Road. In the coming years it will serve as a place for people of all ages to gather and learn about horse care and farming, just as Bonnie dreamed it would be. Bonnie will be missed by many people!

The Bonnie Roleau Memorial Equine 4-H Scholarship will be awarded to Addison County high school seniors that are Equine 4-H members in good standing with 4-H. Any high school 4-H Equine members interested in this scholarship, please contact the UVM Extension Office in Middlebury.

The Family is planning a Celebration of Life in Bonnie Roleau’s Memory on July 17 at 11 a.m. It will take place at the Addison County Fair and Field Grounds.

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