By Liz Harris (as told to Mary Kathleen Mehuron)
Ever since I was a young child, I felt the epicenter of our community was our local grocery store Mehuron’s.
When I pull into the parking lot, I feel an overwhelming sense of love for my small town and the people who I see there. They are my neighbors, my friends and my everyday heroes. I step out of my car, wave to someone I know, share a smile, a story and over the years many tears.
I grab my shopping cart, I have forgotten my list for the millionth time, but it's OK. I know the store like the back of my hand. I could be an employee, but I wouldn’t be able to work, because I love to talk too much, and I wouldn’t be able to get anything done. If you are an out-of-towner and look confused, don’t worry, there is always friendly staff or locals who can point you in the general direction. In most cases they will walk you directly to what you need.
Everyone who enters Mehuron’s has their own lives, their own challenges, their own story. I have millions of stories that originated there over my 45 years of life.
The one I want to share with all of you Is about a man who once owned The Den on the corner of Route 17 and 100. Today it’s known as The Blue Stone (for me, it will always be The Den).
Bobby Welter, long-time Fayston resident owned and operated The Den restaurant where he and his wife raised three amazing children, all of whom are dear friends of mine. Bobby sold The Den and became a manager at Mehuron’s.
In October of 2016 my daughter Mary was killed in a tragic car accident. Bobby, and his wife Valerie reached out to my husband Dan and I and asked if they could take on the monstrous task of spearheading Mary’s celebration of life.
Very few people are prepared when someone in their lives dies. When someone at 16 years of age, at the hands of someone else, alongside four of their childhood friends die together, from the same community, every single person in the Mad River Valley was struck by this enormous tragedy.
Planning a funeral and celebration of life was an unbearable task, so to have someone help ease the load off our shoulders was the truest act of kindness I have ever had bestowed upon me. My husband and I sat in Bobby and Valerie’s daughter Caitlin’s kitchen just a few short days after Mary died. A beautiful spread of food was set in front of us, fresh coffee and juice -- from Mehuron’s.
I remember sitting at the table thinking how grateful I am to have someone care for me so much they were willing to lift any possible weight off me they could. Whatever Dan and I needed they would make happen. We didn’t have to make any phone calls to plan the celebration of our daughter Mary’s life. They took care of everything. Food. (From Mehuron’s and local friends cooking dishes no doubt shopping at Mehuron’s to make these dishes to share.) Music, pictures, signs, whatever the task, Dan and I had our community behind us.
Monday October 17, 2016, Mary’s funeral was surreal, as if I was in a movie. Our Lady of the Snows in Waitsfield had over 1,000 people in attendance, a large white circus tent outside, people spilling out of the church, I knew every face, every person in attendance had touched our lives in some way or another throughout my 40 years here. After her funeral ended, we drove the 6 miles up to Mad River Glen ski area where we were greeted with a beautiful sign that said, “Live Like Mary, Love Like Mary.” As Dan and I stepped out of the limo bus (Mike Jengo’s local limo), we were greeted by Bobby and Valerie as they embraced us in a hug and helped carry us through the hardest day of our lives. Dan and I stood in one spot for hours hugging what seemed like thousands of people from this place I call my home.
When I finally had the strength to step foot in Mehuron’s again (it took many months) I was greeted at the front door with the kindest smile that said I wish I could make this all go away for you, but I can’t. The best I can do is help carry you.
Over the first year after Mary’s death, I found myself in Mehuron’s needing nourishment, yes food, but the nourishment of community. I needed Bobby to greet me at the door and tell me it would be okay. I needed help when I was wandering the aisles staring at the mint chocolate chip ice cream Mary always texted me not to forget. I needed Bobby to make me laugh when I just wanted to cry. I needed the nourishment of the Mehuron’s employees to help bring me back to life, I needed the locals I grew up with. My friends from high school grabbing lunch, I needed to be held up, to let me know that things would be alright because together we make this community. And for me Mehuron’s Market is a daily reminder that there is no place I’d rather be than the Mad River Valley.
My connection to Mehuron’s goes far beyond picking up a gallon of milk. It’s a small-town grocery store where my neighbors and hero’s go every day.
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