By Lisa Loomis and Kara Herlihy
While news stories come and news stories go, some stories fall into the category of "feel good" stories. Some are human interest, some are fun, some are feats of great athleticism or community mindedness. Here are some that fall into that category from 2009.
1. Vietnam vet creates monument for local fallen soldiers
Three young men who served in Vietnam were honored with a new memorial at Couples Club Field in Waitsfield.
The three, Bobby Fielder, Waitsfield, Brian Orr, Waitsfield and Wendell Weston, Warren, all played at the rec field and it is there that Dick Kingsbury of Waitsfield felt the memorial should be created.
Kingsbury, also a Vietnam vet, played sports with the three soldiers and said creating a memorial for them was something he'd wanted to do for quite some time. Kingsbury enlisted the aid of other individuals and businesses in the community and the memorial was completed in time for a dedication ceremony at the field on Saturday, May 2, between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. The dedication occured in conjunction with the annual Mad River Valley Little League parade.
One of the things that prompted Kingsbury to take action, he said, was the fact that people don't remember the three young men. He said there is a Bobby Fielder athlete award at Harwood and no one knows who Fielder was.
Kingsbury compiled information about the soldiers, all of whom he played sports with while in high school.
Bobby Fielder died in Vietnam on March 3, 1966. Fielder's parents were Fletcher and Fannie Fielder and his two sisters are Betty Ann Lacy and Mary Lou (Loopy) Quinones. Bobby was known by all as "Flakey." He was tall, 6 foot, 4 inches, and over 200 pounds and loved sports. He was a skier and played basketball, baseball and soccer. He also loved hunting. He was a left-handed pitcher and spent a fair amount of time driving back and forth to Rochester to visit his girlfriend there. He served in the Marine Corps.
Brian Orr was born on February 4, 1950, and died in Vietnam on May 12, 1970. His father, Stanley Orr died at age 92 on January 1, 2009. His mother is Eleanor Orr who ran Orr's Ark West in Waitsfield. His sister Peggy died in childbirth and he is survived by siblings Debbie and Reggie. Brian was a motorcycle enthusiast who loved hunting and tinkering in the backyard on some piece of equipment. He was a skier who loved sports in general and he got his first deer at the age of 12. He served in the Army.
Wendell Weston was born on April 27, 1948, and died in Vietnam on May 12, 1969. His parents were Raymond and Glennis Weston and his siblings are Raymond Jr., Danny and Richard. He was a quiet kid who was also a good athlete. He was a pitcher for the Waitsfield High School baseball team. He rarely got into trouble and loved to go fishing and hunting with his father.
The tribute to the fallen heroes includes a 40-foot flagpole and an 8-by-15-foot flag visible from Route 100. A gold star was placed on top of the stone etched with their names. A slew of local people and businesses helped Kingsbury with the project, including Stan Barosky of the Couples Club, Ed Read of the Mad River Valley Garden Center, Fred Viens of Viens Excavating, Jim Parker of Parker Aviation, Bill Pring of Pring Plumbing and Steve Miller.
2. An 1800s-era flag found in Warren Town Hall
This year marked the discovery of a rare 39-star American flag found inside the Warren Town Hall. The artifact is believed to have been manufactured between 1878 and 1890.
Warren Department of Public Works director Barry Simpson shared news of the flag's discovery with members of the Warren Select Board at their March 10 meeting. Simpson said the flag was originally a 38-star flag that had an additional star sewn on separately in anticipation of the Dakota Territory becoming a state.
The flag was never "officially a flag," according to Simpson, because the Dakota Territory became two states (North and South Dakota) instead of the anticipated one state addition. As a result, the official American Flag went from 38 stars to 40 stars with the addition of North and South Dakota.
The flag is 20 feet wide by 30 feet long, according to Simpson, and has incurred some damage due to water and mice. The 125-year-old flag has "a huge dollar value," according to Warren Road Foreman Rae Weston, but "will never sell" even though "the town would never want to sell it," he continued.
Former Warren Select Board chair Burt Bauchner said the flag elicited a large interest and response from townspeople.
The flag was displayed at the Town Hall and at the Warren School in March.
3. Harwood cross country claims another state title
The year 2009 was a year of victories for many of Harwood Union High School's athletic teams. The legendary cross country teams swept the state titles once again with both teams qualifying for the New England championships and runner Tim Shepard earning the top finish in the state. Coach John Kerrigan did a victory lap in celebration of his teams' double victory at the Vermont State Championships held on Saturday, October 31, on the wooded trails of Thetford Academy. Harwood girls defeated defending state champion Burr and Burton by over 30 points. It was the fourth Vermont cross country state title for Harwood girls and their first since 2000. Harwood girls were led by freshman Jamie Thomas.
4. HU soccer teams goes to finals
The Harwood girls' soccer team lost the Division II championship in penalty kicks to defending state champs Milton on Saturday, November 7, at Randolph. A large crowd of Harwood fans came out on a chilly Saturday morning to watch and cheer the Highlander girls on.
It took Harwood some time to get in their game as the first 30 minutes of play was dominated by the Yellow Jackets of Milton with a goal in the first 14 minutes by Milton player Kaitlin Cleary. The Highlanders took control of the game playing their style of ball control leaving Milton very few opportunities to score. The Highlander girls came back in the second half to even up the score 1-1 with a goal by senior Caroline Dillon with the assist from freshman Laura Moore.
Harwood's goalkeeper, Taylor Burdett, had 11 saves fending off attempts by Milton to score.
The game went into two overtimes without a score, so after a long season which included an upset victory over number-one ranked Montpelier it came down to penalty kicks. The tension was incredible as the crowd that had been rowdy for the past 100 minutes of soccer play became dead silent during the penalty kick-off. The Highlanders lost 4-3 in penalty kicks.
5. Harwood softball loses state title in semi-finals
After holding an early lead, the Harwood Union softball team fell to a strong Lyndon team 5-3 in the Division II semi-finals on June 11. The Lady Highlanders' season was packed with victories up until their narrow loss in the semi-final round.
The Highlander's quarter-final victory over the Lamoille Lancers was their 15th win of the season and gave them a strong shot at a state title.
The Highlanders took advantage of four Lancer errors to take a 2-0 lead in the first inning. In the third inning, Harwood shortstop Hannah Lovely dropped a single behind third base. Brittany Hoare followed with a single to right field, and when the right fielder misplayed the ball, Lovely came all the way around to score.
The score remained tied for the rest of regulation and through the seventh. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Harwood's Sarah Danaher smoked a hard single between first and second, just out of the reach of the second baseman. Chelsea Delphia advanced Danaher with a sacrifice bunt. After the second out was recorded, Katy Bickford came to bat. Bickford poked a soft but high liner into right center. The Lamoille centerfielder could not put the ball away as it popped out of her glove and onto the ground. Danaher dashed home for the winning run and into a mob of Harwood players as she reached the dugout.
6. Harwood girls' gymnastics loses state title to Essex
With an impressive win/loss record and a high team score average, the Harwood gymnastics team lost their shot at a state title to Essex High School on February 14, 2009, following a successful overall season.
The team entered the championships seeded fourth. Essex took first place with a score of 146.050 while Harwood secured fourth place with a score of 125.225.
The previous year, the girls hit a high score of 127. Even after losing five top-scoring seniors, the girls beat that by almost a full point by their second meet of the season. The girls then set a new goal of 128 and have not only exceeded it once but three times this past season; many individual goals have been achieved as well.
7. Ten years after the promise, cow underpass is completed
It took over a decade, an enormous amount of political pressure, closing private land to public use, serious lobbying and inter-legislative committee wrangling and, ultimately, a little over a month of construction, but the Turner Dairy Farm cow underpass has been completed.
Starting in the fall the cows began their twice-daily journey under Route 100 rather than over the top, with cars. Traffic on Route 100 was in one direction only, while the project was construction.
In December 2005, Waitsfield dairy farmers Doug and Sharon Turner, along with their son Joe, took the drastic step of closing their land to public and to recreational uses as a means of sending a message to the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
For over 10 years, the Turners were in negotiations with the Vermont Agency of Transportation to have a cow underpass installed under Route 100 as it passes by their farm just south of the Moretown town line on Route 100.
After over a decade of apparently futile negotiations, the Turners closed their land to the public and asked for the public's help in lobbying the AOT to install the underpass. Their land is widely used by snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and dogsled racers and they also host the canoe pullout and bike start portion of the annual Sugarbush Triathlon. Their land is open for hunting and fishing as well.
When the Turners got nowhere with the Agency of Transportation, they turned to Washington County Senator Phil Scott, who began to move the behemoth wheels at the state level to free up funding for the project in 2006.
It took another year to secure funding and negotiate an easement with an adjoining landowner and a second year to engineer the project. The cow underpass is a square, concrete culvert that was installed under Route 100 from a site near the Turner's driveway on the east side of Route 100, at a diagonal to the west side. Route 100 was dug up, one lane at a time, and the underpass installed with Route 100 repaving taking place.
Doug and Sharon Turner, whose land was donated to the Vermont Land Trust some years back, are the third generation to farm the land. Their son Joe, 27, is following in their footsteps.
The project cost between $200,000 and $300,000 to complete. Senator Scott, in 2006, secured $100,000 from Agency of Transportation funds and $100,000 from the Vermont Department of Agriculture to be used towards the project.
8. Local schools see new principals/WWSU superintendent
This year two Valley elementary schools welcomed new principals and a new Washington County Superintendent was hired.
Brigid Scheffert became the superintendent of Washington West Supervisory Union. Scheffert was the principal at Johnson Elementary School for 20 years and has been involved in statewide initiatives in policy work in the past five years.
Kaiya Korb was hired as the new principal of the Waitsfield Elementary School. Korb lives in Fayston with her husband and two children.
Debbie Lesure took over as principal of the Moretown Elementary School in July.
Lesure, whose background is in school psychology, has been involved in education for about 30 years. She comes to Moretown from a year as interim principal at East Montpelier Elementary School. Prior to that, she spent four years as principal at an elementary school in Antrim, New Hampshire.
Lesure and her husband live in Fayston. They have had a house in the Mad River Valley for 10 years.
9. Mad River Path to expand/Waitsfield gets a crosswalk
Members of the Mad River Path Association board sought and received approval from the Waitsfield Select Board this summer to pursue an extension of the path from Irasville to the Lareau Swim Hole.
Currently the recreation path ends at Fiddler's Green. Board members want to extend the path either across two private properties to get to town-owned Austin land north of the swim hole or along the Route 100 right of way to get to the Austin property. The proposed route would run along the river across the Austin property and the Lareau Swim Hole.
In other path news, board member Mike Ware reported that two out of three agreements had been secured to extend the path from Bridge Street behind the Bridge Street Marketplace, along the river to William Maclay Architects and Planners. From there the path will run along the sidewalk until Carroll Road where it will cross Route 100 and continue south via a boardwalk and mowed section to Shaw's.
And in other pedestrian access news, Waitsfield is requesting that the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) install a crosswalk in Irasville, near the Carroll Road.
The town made the request this fall. Town Administrator Valerie Capels said that the effort to have a crosswalk installed came as a result of a coalition of local groups meeting to work on the issue. This summer, Capels met with members of the Mad River Path Association, representatives of the Safe Routes to School group, the Mad River Valley Health Center and others who share an interest in improving the town's pedestrian access.
Until recently, the town has been unable to convince VTrans to install proper crosswalks in Waitsfield because of a state requirement that crosswalks connect sidewalk to sidewalk. With work set to begin on Waitsfield's sidewalk next summer (which will run on the east side of Route 100 across from the town pond), the town is working under the assumption that the Mad River Path will suffice as the connecting sidewalk and meet the state requirements.
10. Kids from near and far play on Freddie Viens' homemade rope tow in North Fayston
With synchronistic timing, Freddie Viens got his homemade rope tow operational for school vacation week, to the delight of kids and adults alike. A week of perfect weather and kids released from school made for a great introduction to this homemade tow.
The rope tow was a popular attraction visible from the North Fayston Road, where skiers, riders and sledders dismount, and ran far down the hill, through the woods and into the Viens' family dooryard.
Freddie Viens, an auto body repairman by trade and collector, tinkerer and creator by habit, put the rope tow together with an old milking machine engine that came from Otis Wallis' barn and was given to him by Wallis' niece Anne Wallis-Bull. Butch Hartshorn, in Warren, helped him with some of the other equipment and Viens cobbled together the invention.
The engine pulls a thick cable that runs on wheel rims on several posts from the top of the hill to the dooryard.
Part of the charm of the rope tow itself was how unslick it is. The track in which skiers/sledders/riders get towed up the hill cants perilously to the right. The rope itself dips underground on its way down in places -- covered in snow; and on the way up there are big droops in the rope that tighten unpredictably, throwing riders off balance and sometimes off the lift entirely.
11. The Valley Reporter wins four awards in Better Newspaper Contest
The Valley Reporter, Waitsfield, received four awards in the National Newspaper Association's 2009 Better Newspaper Contest.
There were 1,713 entries in the Better Newspaper Contest and 356 entries in the Better Newspaper Advertising Contest for a total of 2,069 entries. A total of 639 awards were won by 143 member newspapers in 42 States. The Valley Reporter was the only Vermont paper to receive awards in this contest. California had the most combined BNC/BNAC wins with 93, followed by Texas (66) and New Mexico (52).
The Valley Reporter received a second place award in the Best Family Life/Living Section/Pages category for its People, Places and Events Along the Mad River pages on August 21 and September 4, 2009.
Valley Reporter photographer John Williams' soccer shot from October 10, 2008, took second place in the Best Sports Photo division and cartoonist Keith Davidson's "Vermont Stock Report" cartoon from January 24, 2008, received a third place award in the Best Original Cartoon division.
An editorial entitled "Pondering the Pond" by Valley Reporter editor Lisa Loomis took second place in the Best Editorial division.
12. Valley Players Theater celebrated 30th anniversary
The Valley Players celebrated their 30th anniversary with a retrospective show last July at the Valley Players Theater in Waitsfield.
A cast of 25 presented scenes and songs from the last 30 years of community theater productions. Featured performers included Mitchell Kontoff, Bob Law, Nancy Groff and Freddie Mahlmann in scenes from I'm Herbert, Company and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Additional performers included Jennifer Howard, Andra Kisler, Jenifer Tuck, Robbie Harold, Shannon Pitonyak and Marie Schmukal in a dramatic scene from Steel Magnolias, Doug Bergstein, Nina Brennan and Josh Krushenick in a scene from Murder at the Howard Johnson's, and a musical theater company of 12 singers in three show-stopping numbers from On The Twentieth Century, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Oliver!
13. VR Vets tribute grows
For the past five years, The Valley Reporter has been publishing photos of area veterans in honor of Veterans Day on November 11. The first year one page of photos ran, with the name, hometown, dates of service and branch of service. This year The Valley Reporter ran seven pages of veterans' pictures.
With each passing year, the number of pages of veterans' photos has increased and The Valley Reporter is hopeful that this trend will continue and is hopeful that all area vets will submit or provide photographs. It is one small way to pay tribute to those who have served their country.
All members of the armed forces, current and past, are encouraged to submit a photograph for this special tribute. Family members of late veterans are also invited to submit photos.
14. East Warren Community Market opens
This year, the East Warren Community Market opened its doors officially on Monday, September 1, following nearly two years of business planning by the Rootswork board.
The consumer cooperative occupies a space in the East Warren Schoolhouse on Roxbury Mountain Road.
The market is run by a board of directors separate than that of the Rootswork board and has its own set of bylaws and separate bank accounts. The cooperative leases the space from Rootswork, who rents the building from the town.
The term of the lease is one year. If the lease is renewed after the year, the rent will go up. Rootswork rents the building from the town for $600 per year.
Town officials worked with members of the Rootswork board on the terms of the sublease agreement which was approved at the June 9 meeting of the Warren Select Board.
Rootswork representative John Barkhausen met with select board members in March to discuss changes to the market bylaws. The bylaw changes allowed board members to participate in events, according to Barkhausen, and stipulated that no lessees sit on the board.
The changes would also "prevent the creation of a much larger conflict of interest," according to the select board. The board recommended that all specific financial relationships be transparent and leave no questions of monetary arrangements.
The East Warren Schoolhouse was formerly occupied by Linda and Larry Faillace, who operated the Schoolhouse Market until they were evicted by the Rootswork board in October of 2007.
The eviction resulted from contention over failed negotiations between the Rootswork board and their tenants, the Faillaces, over alleged unpaid rent, which resulted in the board's refusal to renew their five-year lease.