Love is in the air…

We received nearly two dozen nominations for this year’s Valentine’s Day Contest – stories of laughter, family, perseverance, and most importantly, love. 

The three couples below have been chosen as our lucky lovebirds:

Prize Package #1: Danielle Gross & Rob Connolly

Danielle is a kindhearted person who is always willing to lend a hand to help out or a shoulder to cry on. She’s also a kicka** nurse at RRMC and is rolling with the punches that Covid is constantly throwing her way.

Rob’s laughter and enthusiasm for life are contagious. He makes everyone, including those he’s just met, feel welcome.

Together, Danielle and Rob are an unstoppable force that exude happiness and light. They certainly deserve a special night to unwind and celebrate their love.

Submitted by: Jenna

Prize Package #2: Cindy & Chris Gebo

I nominate my son, Chris, and his wife of over 25 years, Cindy, for this night out. They met when Cindy was starting her devoted years of nursing in the ED department of UVMMC, serving VARS, and Chris was a young, enthusiastic firefighter in the City of Vergennes Fire Department. 

Their lives are devoted to each other and their families. Often, Chris makes Cindy some of her favorite meals as her job as a charge nurse is beyond stressful. They both help my husband & me who aren’t in the best of health, regardless of how busy or tired they are. Chris and Cindy love to go on cruises, pre-pandemic, and have a group of friends known & loved since elementary school who they travel with. Because Cindy is interested in different wines, for their 10th anniversary, Chris took her to Napa Valley, CA where she took classes. They loved their time away sightseeing and being together.

Chris works at UVM, and they both give many long hours to their jobs (and Chris, to VFD). They deserve this treat to celebrate their love for each other and have time to relax, which is rare in their lives for the past few years.

Please consider them for this special gift of time together to enjoy each other’s company and probably reminisce about the special times they have shared.

Nominated by: Cecile

Prize Package #3: Nicole Webb & Jake Waldron

Nicole and Jake of Brandon, Vermont are not your average couple. Bonded, united, and cherished for the last 6 years, this pair is unmatched. Seeing them grow from first date to first child, there is nothing that can stop these two from a good time or powering through life’s hurdles together. From the start of their early years, you are most likely to run into them at a taco truck while listening to outdoor live music and checking out a local Vermont town’s newly opened craft brewery. Their first daughter, Leah, joined their world in 2019 and has been the best addition to their adventures and to those around them.

July of 2021 arrived with their announcement of twins! Their perseverance through the unknowns and complex stories from other families with twins did not stop their journey of tackling parenthood of what would soon be three daughters. On the evening of January 16th, 2022, the new Waldron sisters, Izzy and Evie, arrived early in the NICU at UVM. For the last several weeks, this power couple has made their daily commute north and south on Route 7 to visit the new additions in hopes of them coming home soon.

Please consider these two love birds for Addison Independent’s Valentine’s giveaway for 2022. Regardless of competition or contest, in my eyes, Nicole and Jake have already won and will continue to win this game of life.


A proud and grateful friend

 Nominated by: Alex

Honorable Mentions

(Click the images to read each story)

When I was 8 and I met Steve when he was 13, I knew he was the one, but as time went by we moved away and he went into the service. We both kept in touch over time. I later got married to another man for 25 years. My husband of 25 years got lung cancer and passed away. About 3 years later Steve came to visit me then we started dating. We then later lived together. He got cancer 3 times and between the hospital and I, he was nursed back to being cancer-free. We have been together 23 years and got married on March 31, 2020, the date we started dating. I know that we didn't nominate another couple but thought that we could nominate ourselves.Thank you! Nominated by: Linda

Linda King & Stephen Billings

They have been working nonstop getting a new auto repair business in Bridport off the ground during Covid, on top of remodeling a home they just bought on their own. They work nonstop. They met on a cruise when both were cruising with their parents. Liz is from Middlebury, Trevor is from Utah, 2500 miles apart, they have been together 2 .5 years. He moved to Middlebury one year later. We were sitting by the pool and I (Trevor’s mom) saw a long dark haired girl in a hot pink bathing suit go up the stairs of the slide and I told Trevor, There’s a cute girl. You should go talk to her". Next thing I see is him in the hot tub with her. I only saw him one time after that in the next 12 days of the cruise, when it was time to leave he went home with her, we spent 3 days in Boston then he met us at the airport to come home. We moved him to Middlebury 6 months later. Now he owns a successful business in Bridport, VT - AutoRX repair and performance. Quite the love story! Nominated by: Monica

Liz Mullikin & Trevor Larkin

Peter and Jody met in 1969– sharing a first kiss on the steps of Battell Hall when she was a first year and Peter a high school junior. They have been a dynamic duo since then, generously sharing their love, laughter, and good sense with everyone they meet. They deserve a night out for being the ham, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, onions and sriracha mayo in the “sandwich generation” providing daily care for not only their parents and (grown?) kids, but also 6 adoring grandkids. Need a hand? They’re already on their way over, cookies and jokes in hand. Nominated by: Megan

Jody & Peter Brakely

These two wonderful people met briefly about 40 years ago but didn't fall in love until a few years later. MariAnn met Peter when she was visiting her brother and he stopped by to see a buddy (Peter) who had recently been in a motorcycle accident. She doesn't remember much from that visit, except the huge cast his leg was in. They re-met a few years later when she visited her brother for a few weeks in the summer. Her brother was living and working in Marblehead, MA - Peter's hometown. The two men had met through college friends and Peter had invited MariAnn's brother to come work in Marblehead for the summer. MariAnn and Peter had an instant attraction. On their first date they picked out the name for their future daughter (me!). It was a whirlwind romance and they were engaged in a few months. They married in the summer of 1985 and moved to Vermont in 1992.  Peter and MariAnn are some of the most loyal, hardworking and happy people I know. They are best friends, who despite disagreeing sometimes, always support each other. They are a team who live life side-by-side. Both know the other so well that they know how to help before that person even knows they need it. They show me everyday what it means to be a loving and supportive partner. They love life, love their friends, are always there for family and are the best grandparents I could have ever asked for for my boys. These two work tirelessly to help others and be there for family and friends alike. They have experienced life's hardships and always manage to make sure others are taken care of before they are. If anyone deserves a special night, it's Oz and Babe. Nominated by: Anna

MariAnn & Peter Osborne

In the past year, Jess has helped Alex through a traumatic brain injury, which Jess calls his Concuss-iversary. Alex helped Jess when she injured both of her hands at the same time (resembling Lobster Lady). They both took EMT courses and they are official firefighters who volunteer for their town. They also care for their 4 dogs (the WORF Pack), 2 cats, and their outdoor pets: sheep, goats and a grand pig. And...they both work full time. They are generous, caring, funny and never ask for help. Not even now when they are in their second week of Covid. Our family can always count on them and they absolutely deserve a break! They are a wonderful couple who complement each other well and we wish them a Happy Valentine's Day! Nominated by: Karen

Jess Krol & Alex Kansky

I’m writing to nominate Pieter Broucke and Ilaria Brancoli Bousdraghi for this :) As anyone who knows them will tell you, they are the best dinner hosts in Addison County. They are always willing to make room at their table, and they ply their guests with delicious home-cooked food year round. Their Thanksgivings are famous for crowding a list of usual suspects plus newcomers each year. Often they host a Middlebury college student who is not able to go home for the holiday. These two are kind hearted above all else. They are welcoming to everyone. They take such pleasure in good food that I want this for them so they can enjoy a night of good food for themselves.

Ilaria Brancoli Bousdraghi & Pieter Broucke

Hunter and Niwa met in March of 2020, just as the world was being introduced to some new terms like social distancing, community spread, N95, flattening the curve, and Coronavirus. (Remember the run on toilet paper? Hunter brought Niwa beautifully wrapped toilet paper for their second date and charmed her to tears.)  Hunter is a native Vermonter and English teacher at Rutland High School. Niwa is originally from Tanzania and is a Geography professor at Middlebury College. They are both wonderful people making our community better- and they are working to plan a pandemic wedding and definitely deserve some flowers and a night out! Nominated by: Andrew

Niwa Kimambo & Hunter Berryhill

My husband and I met on social media in 2016. Little did I know, it was days after his father had tragically passed from falling through the ice at Shelburne Pond. My husband also had a little girl who was 4 years old at the time. He was not looking for anything or anyone else at the time but for whatever reason, I was persistent and felt he needed someone to be there for him. So we continued to hang out a little bit here and there. That summer I went on a trip to Colorado with my sister and when I came back, Lyman said that's what he needed to make him realize he wanted to be with me and asked me to be his girlfriend. I, of course, said yes. Fast forward to 2018, Lyman came into my workplace, Shear Cuts in Vergennes, and got down on one knee while I was shampooing my uncle's hair. I, again, of course said yes. We got married 6 months later as we had already been living together and his daughter was very excited and we aren't over the top people so we wanted a simple and cheap wedding so we could buy a house sooner rather than later. We got married under the big oak tree that stands tall over my grandparents' farm in New Haven, Vermont, Elgin Spring Farm in July 2018. I had my Papa Earl drive me in his John Deere Gator from their farmhouse up to the oak tree to marry my husband. A week later, we followed up with a reception at Button Bay State Park with all our friends and family. Three months later, we were pleasantly surprised that I was pregnant! Unfortunately, the day we found out we were pregnant one of our good friends died in a car accident. So on Christmas Eve when we found out that we were going to be welcoming a son into the world in July 2019, we knew exactly what that boy's name was going to be. We chose to name him Kasey Earl Gaudette, as our friend who passed was Casey and we wanted our son the have the same initials as my father-in-law whose middle name was also Earl and, of course, my papa's name is Earl so it just seemed perfect! I could not even have imagined that 6 years later we would have a house to call our own, 2 beautiful children, and a love like neither of us has ever experienced before! We've endured a lot of loss of loved ones over the years but I feel we have only grown from all the things we've had to go through together as a couple. It's not always easy to put ourselves first but we try like hell to do our best everyday not only for ourselves but for the future of our kids! Nominated by: Megan

Megan & Lyman Gaudette

Don and Amy were high school sweethearts (Mt. Abe), and married shortly after high school, but not before they had a new home in which to raise a family. They have been happily married 32 years. They raised 4 children, all except one are now adults with the youngest still in high school. They quickly outgrew their first home and had to build a larger one. Life has not always been easy for them, but they have always had a loving ""family first"" lifestyle. They are both hard working and devoted to their family.  Don became a Master Electrician and started his own electrical business approximately 30 years ago. At the same time, he started coaching, not only their own children, but the children of the 5 town Mt. Abe district, as soon as their first child started preschool (20+ years ago), and has continued to do so ever since. He could be seen on the baseball, softball, and soccer fields, as well as on the basketball court with his teams. He continues to coach Mt. Abe varsity softball, leading the team to the 1st Mt. Abe State Championship as well as two more. He is also a volunteer softball coach for Vermont Storm, which has kept him on the road and involved with the sport and the youths (including his own) for several years.  Amy is one of the best moms around (her children will surely attest this). She worked prior to their first child and with the birth of the next three, put aside her own career until the youngest started school. She then started working at the school which their children attended so she could still be near them. Soon after the children moved on to high school, Amy went to work in the Starksboro Town Offices. Her roles have included Lister, Tax Collector, and she is currently the Starksboro Town Clerk. Amy has also been involved in many fundraisers over the years including walks and/or runs for cancer and other numerous charity events, many of which members of the family have joined her.  This couple puts everyone else's needs first and are certainly deserving of a night out together. Nominated by: Diana

Amy & Donald McCormick

My son and his wife work very long hours at food services at Champlain College. My son works 7 days a week, 12 to 15 hours each day. He is a manager so when people call in sick or don’t show up, he has to fill their spot. They both have young kids (6 years old and 9 months old). I think this couple needs a night off from all the hard work they do. Nominted by: Nancy

Christina & Andrew McIntire

I want to nominate Carol and Marty Kulczyk of Ripton. As the innkeepers at Robert Frost Mountain Cabins, they spend all of their time making other people’s getaways magical. Without hesitation, they get up early to bake cinnamon rolls for their guests, stay up late delivering wine here or fixing someone else’s clogged toilet there and, even after all of that, they somehow manage to still have time to help their neighbors.  In addition to their countless hours of volunteering for our town, Carol and Marty have mowed our meadow when we couldn’t. They helped us put siding on our house when we were up against bank deadlines. They have watched our kids when we have had doctors appointments AND I have even known them to step outside their comfort zone to make my children laugh (I’ve heard tell of some mad hula hooping skills).  But amid all of this giving, Carol and Marty don’t get enough time for themselves. They don’t get to feel the respite their hard work creates for others. They don’t get to share the same quiet moments other couples do at the RFMC even though they live there year round. It is my sincere hope that the Addison Independent recognizes these two community loving people for the compassion they embody by selecting them and showing them love right back. Nominated by: Jaime

Carol & Marty Kulczyk

Matthew and Deborah Dickerson have been married for 33.5 years. Matthew’s father, Willard, moved in with them at the start of the pandemic (4 months before they were expecting to celebrate an “empty nest”). Matthew’s father has Alzheimer’s which has meant that for the past two years, they have rarely been able to have time alone. During 2020, they were occasionally able to leave Willard alone for brief bike rides together, but as his Alzheimer’s has progressed, they have been unable to leave him home alone. They were on 24/7 father/father-in-law duty, often having to get out of bed to respond to his confused wanderings. A “ski date” meant that Matthew and Deborah would take turns skiing, while one sat with Willard in the lodge. However, two weeks ago they were finally able to get Willard the support he needed in assisted living. While they still visit him almost daily, Deborah recently said she feels like she has been able to have a real conversation with Matthew for the first time in two years. They have a lot of date nights to catch up on; one of these flower and dinner packages would be a great start. Nominated by: Mark

Deborah & Matthew Dickerson

Jenna and Bill have been together for about 14 years! They are two of the funniest, kindest, and most awesome people you will meet. I am lucky to call them my best friends.  These two awesome humans decided to make another awesome human (Ruby), and she came into the world around 15 months ago. Between having a toddler and a global pandemic, these two love birds haven't had much time for romantic evenings away. I think it's about time they had a chance to reconnect, relax, and enjoy other another's company! Submitted by: Kaitlyn

Jenna & Bill Hunsinger

Maggie and Anthony met, where else (?) at a bar, ironically named “No Fun” in lower Manhattan. And afterwards, Anthony offered Maggie some of his gyro at the infamous Halal Guys food stand - a proper beginning to a love story, I’d say! They found that they shared an interest in foods and brews - with hops and without, as in great coffee!  While they found Brooklyn a wonderful area to begin their lives together, they dreamed of one day opening their own coffee roaster in VT, where they had vacationed, become engaged and married in 2019 in Waitsfield- can you say Big Fat Greek Wedding?  That dream became a reality in 2021, and together they designed and executed plans to become what we now know as little seed Coffee Roasters in Middlebury! Working side by side during the days and roasting side by side late into the nights, Maggie and Anthony have shown the perfect balance of love, respect and success! Their shared commitment of their ideals toward a cleaner and more just world, through their sip and share initiative, and their overwhelming respect and kindness toward each other, as well as residents of Middlebury, are remarkable, especially for the short time they’ve lovingly called Middlebury home.  Having said all this about Maggie and Anthony speaks for itself as to all of the reasons a night out for this couple is something they have so earned and of which they would be incredibly appreciative!  PS- I could go on about how much they share their love of their cat, Shrimpy, but I’d need another page:)  Thank you for considering Maggie and Anthony as contestant winners! Nominated by: Bop

Maggie & Anthony Gerakos

I would like to nominate Amy and Jay Curtis from Vergennes as a Special Couple this Valentine’s Day. They are always there for relatives, friends, and neighbors to help out when there is a need or just out of friendship. They feed, open their home, give a ride, lend a helping hand and do whatever is needed without expecting a thank you.  They have been involved with many VUHS activities including coaching, team dinners, Booster Club, and anywhere else they see an opening.  Their friends (and anyone who happens to walk by) can attest to the great meals they put on. They are a tough act to follow! Nominated by: Shelly

Amy & Jay Curtis

Molly and Hoby are an amazing couple with fantastic enthusiasm and care. They look after other folks' kids all day, every weekday as part of their licensed, in-home daycare in Middlebury. That makes it possible for at least a dozen parents to work, volunteer, and fully engage in the Addison County community, knowing that their kids are in good hands. They are a wonderful and deserving couple for a Valentine's Day treat! Nominated by: Andrew

Molly & Hoby Leach

My daughter met her childhood sweetheart over 40+ years ago during their high school years. They lost contact for over 30 years and found each other again. They were married 6-30-2018. My daughter and son-in-law deserve a night out due to the fact since Covid hit him in 2020 they have not been out for dinner, for lunch or even to visit family. A good night out for Deanna and Wil is so well deserved. I couldn't think of a nicer thing to happen to this very special couple Mr. and Mrs. Wil Willenbaker. AND my daughter said she needs a "get away and have someone else cook for her". Nominated by: Violet

Deanna & Wil Willenbaker

I would like to nominate my daughter and my son-in-law for the night out. Kristen and Travis are parents to two beautiful girls, and they always put family first.  They plan as much Family time together as possible when they’re not working. It would be great for them to have a night to themselves. And bonus, we could watch our granddaughters! Nominated by: Patti

Kristen & Travis

Brendan & Ylva have been married five years. They had to go through getting immigration papers for Ylva (she immigrated from Sweden). They moved to Vermont from New York, got jobs, bought a new house, trained a Golden Retriever puppy, and all during Covid and all the testing! They are very happy and grateful to be in Vermont! Nominated by: Louise

Ylva & Brendan Picca

Thank you to everyone who nominated the outstanding couples in their lives. All prize packages will be mailed to the winners.

The Valentine’s Day Contest wouldn’t have been possible without generous donations from the following sponsors:

Prize Package #1

Prize Package #2

Prize Package #3