To The Editor:
My friend Michele Sonner said goodbye to her childhood home last weekend. It was her home by blood, but mine too, by extension. The house on Carroll Road belonged to many of us. Lisa Loomis lived there. Wally Weiss and family started their Valley odyssey there. How many cars did Hap tow off that road? How many parties were attended by the Shermans, the Ushers, Henri, Mitch and Jennifer, the Oppenheimers, Paul Ravenna, Sigi? The names from Sugarbush’s past bubble up in my mind.
Renee and Stanley Sonner were New Yorkers who discovered skiing early on and began coming to The Valley in the late 1950s. They started at Mad River but transferred to Sugarbush, hiring Dick Brothers to build them an alpine chalet just outside of Waitsfield, the first house of what was to become a classic of the Brothers Building style. Every weekend Renee and Stan left Manhattan at 3 p.m., piling kids Michele and Paul into the station wagon, before seat belts, to make the six-hour drive to Vermont. Most weekends and holidays they invited guests. The house was always full, brimming. There were bunk beds and loft beds, one room was even called “the four-bedded room.” A sauna was installed (that still works), and was sometimes converted to yet more sleeping space. People slept on couches in the mud room. Michele reported to me that she has taken those foam mattresses, covered in orange vinyl, back to her home in Lake Tahoe, California, because the foam is still good. She’s going to use them now as beds for her dogs.
If only a house could talk. That house was a temple, of sorts. More life happened there, more happy times, than any one place I can think of. We all came together to ski, to play tennis, to share meals, to laugh, to enjoy life. Renee was a Holocaust survivor. She and her parents fled Belgium as the Nazis invaded, sailing west and settling first as temporary immigrants in Cuba. After some years they made it to New York, and maybe because of all that escape and trauma, Renee never missed a moment to live life to its fullest, once she had the chance. She and Stan did that by sharing what they had with their friends and family. They traveled a lot because they owned a travel agency and brought back art and artifacts and trinkets from all over the world, filling the house with more life and delight that way.
The time has come for the Sonners, and for all of us, to pass the torch. It is with a lump in my throat that I write this and say my own goodbye.