Monday, February 16, 2015

Jean Cormier


Jean was born in Manchester, NH in December 1923.  She's just celebrated her 91st birthday.  She told me a little about her early life in New Hampshire where her Dad delivered ice before moving his family to Berlin, NH to work in a paper mill.  The family always struggled.  "He was a worker", she recalls, who got off work at 8:00 AM, went to work on a friend's farm, came home for a few hours sleep, then back to the mill.  He later lost an arm in a work accident.  Jean's mother died when she was 13 and at age 16 Jean "took off to find work in Hartford, CT where they told me money grew on trees".

She stayed for 25 years.  In 1947 Jean married Norman Cormier from Van Buren, Maine.  Norman had served in the Pacific during World War II and they settled for a while in Maine where he was a policeman.  Jean and Norman never had children, though they both loved them.  Norman did not want to adopt, so they grew very close to all their nieces and nephews.  When Norman retired they bought a small motor home and traveled for 13 years.  They saw every state and Canadian province.  During this time they took summer jobs in parks including Grand Teton and Flaming Gorge.  They spent winters in Mesa, AZ for 11 years, then Wildwood, FL for 14 years.

Over the years they took their nieces and nephews on many trips and today, says Jean, "I am being repaid a hundredfold" by her large family.  Norman died of a stroke in 1996 and Jean volunteered at Androscoggin Valley Hospital for the next 14 years, being awarded Volunteer of the Year in 2002.  She said, "I don't want to die sitting in a chair".

Jean's sister lived in Vermont and she had always wanted to move near her, so she pulled up stakes and moved to Burlington.  She fell in love with the city "It's alive!", and enjoyed seeing all the young people and activity.  I met Jean at my water aerobics class where she is a regular.  I attended her 90th birthday party with some of our pool friends.  The happy, loving crowd of relatives and friends was pretty amazing.

Jean suffered a heart attack and bypass surgery in the early 2000's, then a mild stroke in December 2013.  But she's been religious about exercise since moving to Vermont saying "I can see what exercise is doing".  Her doctor tells her she's as healthy as she is today because she pushes herself to the water.  At 91 she is a cheerful inspiration to the rest of us over at The Edge.

Jean says, "I don't hope for myself because I am on the way out.  My hopes are for the younger generation, stay positive, stay away from drugs.  'Yes' is easy - 'No' is hard".

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Marty Morrissey

I first encountered Marty Morrissey years ago when I went out with friends for a drink at the Sheraton The Highland Weavers.  I love Irish  and Scottish music although my son Anthony who is a traditional Irish musician, accuses me of preferring "Whiskey in the Jar" to earlier, more pristine tunes.  We do argue about the "Danny Boy" effect, but I just like lots of kinds of music, including baroque, Renaissance, bluegrass, country, gospel and, yes, "Whiskey in the Jar".
in Burlington.  He was playing with a great Celtic band

I digress.  The next time I met Marty was at a the Ice House in Burlington where Irish musicians liked to meet in the 1990s to jam.  At that time Anthony (too young to drive) was immersing himself in this music.  He later became an Uilleann piper, but back then he was playing the bodhran (well, it was a big piece of cardboard while he saved up for a bodhran) and we used to drive him down to the Dockside Restaurant and sit around during the session.

Marty was a very welcoming and encouraging figure to all the hopeful young musicians who came to those sessions.  I saw him again many times over the years at First Night, Finnegan's Pub, The Champlain Valley Folk Festival, etc.,  so, after I started this blog he came to mind as an interesting subject.

Marty was born in Essex, Mass. in 1938.  His father was an Irish tenor and his mother a pianist.  He remembers singing on table tops as a young boy, so I guess you'd have to say music was in his blood.  Starting in his teens he would come to Vermont to ski and decided to look for a way to make a living here. After college he started as a printer with George Little Press and stayed until 1992.  Marty enjoyed his career as a printer and had particular respect for George Little himself.  He left in 1992 after the company had been sold a couple of times and older, better paid printers were encouraged to move on.  He freelanced for a while then decided to go into music full time.

As Marty says, "If I have to start over again, I might as well do something completely different".

Marty had kept up his musical interests since childhood and in 1981 began his performing career when he and some friends formed The Highland Weavers playing Celtic music in bars, pubs and folk festivals.  Marty sang and played guitar and concertina and The Highland Weavers became and continue to be a poplar fixture in northwestern Vermont.  He cobbled together other paying jobs including a long term house sitting gig, and explored opportunities to play music.  Where was the country music?  Marty had always liked country music since childhood and finally found a country community when he moved next door to Frank Provost a longtime country band leader.  The country band he joined was Classic Country, covering the music of Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Eddie Arnold and other country legends.  Four of the six band members are over 70.  He also dived into Klezmer music with his friend and Highland Weavers comrade Robert Resnik (also the host of Vermont Public Radio's All The Traditions).  Their recent recording Old and New Songs of Lake Champlain is available on CD or MP3.  Marty's energy and ecumenical approach to musical styles helps keep him performing all over the area.

His love of skiing eventually morphed into a love of hiking and snowshoeing.  In 2012 he completed The Long Trail, Vermont's section of the Appalachian Trail.  Marty says there were some duplications and odd wanderings over the years, along with some delays due to forces of nature, including the devastation inflicted on the trail during Hurricane Irene, but he's happy to have achieved the goal he set to cover every inch in Vermont.

Currently Marty works part time driving for The Good News Garage Ready to Go program which provides transportation for many Vermonters without cars.  He plays music as often as he can including a volunteer jam session every Monday evening at the Milton Senior Center.  Marty stopped playing in bars years ago before the smoking bans were implemented.  His favorite venues are places where people get up and dance which occurs regularly at senior centers.

Marty also has a deep interest in history, musical and otherwise.  He is a voracious reader and has made ten trips to Ireland in his life.  He is a member of the Chittenden County Stamp Club with a particular interest in stamps commemorating printing from a Chinese press 400 years before Guttenberg to modern times.  He is busy preparing his eclectic collection for a national show to be held later this spring.

Marty told me that being successful means something totally different to him than it did when he was younger.  Staying healthy is very important and he keeps fit outdoors as much as possible.  Doing what you love is the key to a satisfying life and he feels fortunate to have been able to follow his interests to such a great degree.  He's reached most of the goals he has set in his life.  Looking to the future, Marty would like to do some more traveling, especially to the U.S. National Parks.

I really enjoyed chatting with Marty.  He is a vibrant and interesting conversationalist with a great outlook.  The photo below is of the Classic Country band playing for the Addison County Eagles Club Valentines Day dinner/dance.

Friday, June 22, 2012


I introduced myself to Phil Bowler in Healthy Living where he eats lunch and reads the newspaper every day when he's home.  My impetus was pure photographer selfishness: he had such a great face!  As we talked, the cornucopia of his interests just overflowed and I realized one interview could not possibly contain it.  So I asked him a series of questions and am posting his answers, in his own voice.  Since I met Phil in early Spring, he's recently completed a 25,000 mile from Hamburg, Germany to Shanghai, China and back on the container ship CMA CGM CORTE REAL, taken an extended Vermont to Florida road trip and is currently exploring Central Europe.  With his permission I would like to link some of his essays on economics to the blog soon.

"I always say that I was born very close to my mother, a long time ago, on a galaxy far away.  However, some recent research has indicated that it was in Amsterdam, New York on June 22nd, one of the longest days of the year.  It makes me act like the Energizer Bunny, always on the go.

"I grew up 'independently poor' with my mother, father and two younger sisters in upstate New York but have been in Burlington since 1961. I received a fabulous basic education in schools at Amsterdam and Broadalbin, New York.  I have been married and have two children and four grandchildren."I started working when I was 12 years old with a newspaper route of 130 papers for 6 days a week.  I helped out on local farms, worked taking care of ponies, shoveled snow and mowed lawns at a very early age.  During my high school years, I set pins in a bowling alley for 7 days a week, often setting over 400 games a week.  My first full time job was in Bridgeport, Connecticut at the Sikorsky Aircraft Division (Helicopters) of United Aircraft as an Aircraft Sheetmetalsmith. Loss of an enormous government contract caused a layoff of several thousand workers. I went to work nearby at Trio Industries, a commercial application architectural window, door and curtain wall manufacturer.  I started out as an Architectural Metalsmith and ended up as Chief Expediter. I came to Burlington, Vermont in 1961 and went to work in the Engineering Development Lab of General Electric as a technician.  In 1966 I went to IBM Essex in the Design Department and left there in 1981 as a Staff Engineer.  In 1976, I started buying apartment houses and was a landlord in Burlington and South Burlington for 27 years.

"In the summer between my Junior and Senior years I hitchhiked from upstate New York to Las Vegas to visit an aunt who was working there. There were no interstates back then and I spent about two months on the road.  I learned to read maps, make selections, and figure out the rigors of travel on a very limited budget.  I spent lots of nights sleeping on the ground. I loved what I saw in this country and hoped to be able to travel when "I grew up."  I am not sure that I have reached that point yet.  There is still a lot of kid and adventure in me.  A big motivator for me was reading William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways.  I am also a member of the "Vermont 251 Club" and am a 251+ member because I have been to every town in Vermont.  I try to read extensively almost all non-fiction books on history, business, economics and travel.  I do several Sudoko and crossword puzzles everyday when I can.  I have been a mostly NASCAR race car mechanic (specializing in tires and race car physics) since the late 1960's and have been to race tracks from as far as 300 miles north of Montreal to Daytona and to many races all over the country.  I currently volunteer for the 12 Hours of Sebring (Florida) races.

"I struggled to complete my education, doing almost all of it at night or summer school while working full time and married with two children.  I graduated from UVM in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.  According to the records office at UVM at the time, I was the first person to ever graduate from there who did not go full time.  I received my Master of Business Administration at UVM in 1973.  I then started towards a Doctorate in Behavioral Psychology at UVM, mostly for engineering applications vs. clinical psychology and got 15 credits into that before starting the apartment rental business.  I have taken dozens of continuing education courses on a very broad spectrum of subjects at BHS and many other places.  I try to learn something every day.

"Since I have started to travel, mostly after retiring, I have been to every one of the 3143 counties in the United States, every continent including five days in Antarctica, and I have been to 63 countries and it will be 70 when I complete this summer's trip to Central Europe.  I have spent about a year of my life in Hawaii spread out over 6 years and over a year on the oceans and seas of the world traveling on container ships (84 days and 71 days), a Roll On/Roll Off car carrier (for 37 days), the world's largest sailing ship, the Royal Clipper (for 28 days) and two commercial cruise ships (for 67 and 66 days) and extensive travel on the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System from Bellingham, Washington out to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians and several other voyages with them.  I have been on every ocean and most but not all of the seas.  I have been through the Panama Canal once, Suez four times, the English Channel 6 times and Gibraltar 7 times.

I have traveled extensively through Europe by train, car and ferry. I have taken the cable car up and WALKED down Gibraltar.  Grandson William and I have been over or under every bridge on the Mississippi River and there were 221 of them at the time we did it.  I have been to almost all of the major Civil  War battlefields and hundreds of other smaller battles and skirmishes.  I have toured the Normandy D-Day battlefields and spent five days touring the Battle of the Bulge sites.  I have retraced Custer's route to the Little Big Horn and been to many of the Indian Wars battle sites (there were five Vermonters with Custer - they all survived) I have been the entire length of the Lewis and Clark Trail from Charlottesville, Virginia to Fort Clatsop in Oregon and done extensive research on Sacajawea and her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.  I belong to the Vermont Historical Society and have been periodically a member of CAMP (Council on America's Military Past.)  I have traced the lives and locations of many artists including Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh and been to where they were born, buried and lived and to many of the world's best art, natural history, paleontology, science, military and many other types of museums.  I have compiled that in all my sailing trips I have sailed the equivalent of three times around the world, but not three total circumnavigations at once.  I have sailed across the Pacific twice, the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Mediterranean four times and twice westward across the Atlantic.

"The most important thing about anyone's life is good health. Without it you can do almost nothing and with it you can do anything.  So I make major efforts everyday in learning about health, exercise and nutrition.  I have written several essays on these issues, as well as some major treatise on domestic and world economics.  I love meeting and talking with people all over the world.  It is enlightening to learn all of the different variations in human culture.  I enjoy writing an almost daily travelogue when I am traveling.

"I look forward to not finding my name in the Burlington Free Press obituary column and wake up every day thankful for my health, freedom, friends and family. I look forward to my travel adventures both in doing and in writing about them.

"I hope for world peace but I realize that is an ever illusive goal.  Surprisingly, a lot of the conflict comes from differing religious/cultural beliefs where almost none of the alleged practitioners really practice what they preach or purport to believe in.  It has been that way for thousands of years of attempting to force 'our' religion/culture on 'their' religion/culture or some short offbeat variations to the same line of thought will in the long run prove catastrophic for everyone.  I don't see that changing in my lifetime, although I have seen snippets of the 'ideal life.'

"I have reported since 2006 that the world economy will NOT turn around and that Global Warming is very real.  Therefore I do not see life being as good for my grandchildren as myself.  I work every day on figuring how that can be turned around but have yet to come up with a successful answer.  But then the project becomes to convince others of whatever the findings are.  If you have not seen the video A Sea Change I would suggest putting it on your agenda. If this is true, the economy is but a whiff of problem on the longevity of the world."

True to form, amendments and corrections to this world traveler tale were made via Internet from Austria.  He writes a travelogue with history and commentary nearly every day.  Phil's latest post ends with this:

"My planning did not begin to imagine what there was to see here in Vienna and I am sure that I could have tacked on another two or three weeks here and still not have seen and felt it all.  As I wrap up Vienna, here on my birthday, and rejoicing at the nice birthday present I have given myself, I am thankful for my health, friendships and good fortune.  I leave at 11:48 for a three hour+ train ride to Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and perhaps some more mountainous scenery."

June 12, 2013 Update.  Phil's planning a new adventure:

Dear Friends,

Several people have asked me about this tour and the logistics of it and "Why are you doing it?" I am always scouting for interesting trips and how to expand my knowledge of the world. I once took a 66 day tour aboard the Holland America MS AMSTERDAM from Vancouver to Long Beach, Ca. and then across the South Pacific to many islands and thence to Australia and New Zealand and then to Samoa and Tonga, Hawaii and return to Long Beach. I was with six wonderful traveling companions, five of whom I had sailed with before. So it was good to share and see familiar faces everyday. But I only met these people because I had ventured on a cruise where I knew NO ONE! But life is an adventure and I am trying always to step outside of my Burlington-centric World and see what life is like on the other side? It has always been a great and awakening experience and I have met many wonderful friends and travel companions.

Needless to say it is always and adventure and it is always fun to meet new people, hear about their lives, share their traveling experiences and have a wonderful time. I probably get more travel brochures from Holland America than my postman wants to deliver. I scan the brochures and rarely see something interesting. But somehow my eye caught on this route. WHY NOT?

So what does it have to offer? If I fly into Amsterdam Schipol, I will land at an airport where it is easy to get from airport to central city by train and then be in a wonderful city where the top Vincent Van Gogh Museum in the world is located. I can readily take the train to ROTTERDAM. In Rotterdam I can take a repeat short river ferry cruise to Kinderdijk which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a photographic panorama of operating windmills. Now that I have a MUCH BETTER CAMERA, it will be a photographic challenge. I have also taken a harbor cruise of Rotterdam, in and out of the multitude of ship channels but nowhere near all of them. I have been to Europort four times on a containership but it is right at the mouth of the river and not easy to get out of the massive port. It is the largest port in Europe. So an objective here is to sail out to sea past all of this massive shipping complex in an approximately 30 mile long ship channel. Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the second largest port in the world in terms of tonnage.

When I went on my Grimaldi M/V GRANDE EUROPA 4500 car carrier Roll on/Roll off, I spent a week at either end in SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND, our first stop. Both the Titanic and the Mayflower sailed from Southampton. I took side day trips to the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, Salisbury/Stonehenge, Winchester, Bath and the magic little town of Hythe just across the river by a short ferry/narrow gauge electric train ride. T. E. Lawrence {Lawrence of Arabia} lived there for about two years. I may re-visit Hythe during the one-day layover there.

The next stop is LISBON, PORTUGAL. It is where Christopher Columbus returned to after his first visit to the "New World." I have tried to get there three times but was stifled by rail connections, not enough time in port at Setubal and held over in Portimao, Portugal for high tides of 5 to 6 meters, again missing Lisbon on a planned trip. I will, at some time, make an extended stay in Portugal and western and northwestern Spain.

We then sail on to GIBRALTAR. I will be my 8th time thru the Straits of Gibraltar. As you pass through the Straits, known in ancient times as the Pillars of Hercules, you actually sail into the Albaran Sea {I wonder if that is where Kellogg's makes their cereal} vs. the Mediterranean Sea. In 2011, while on a 10 week Spain tour, I took a local bus from Algeciras, Spain and went to Gibraltar. Once there, I got some Gibraltar Pounds and then took the cable car up to the top and WALKED DOWN! This time it will be cable car UP and DOWN! There is an incredible 360°, 32 mile panoramic view from up top and skeletons of the Neanderthal Man have been found on Gibraltar. Remember "Tariq's Mountain travelogue?}

Then on to MALAGA, SPAIN. Malaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso with his home and museum {no photos} there. It is also the entrance city to Grenada where Ferdinand and Isabella are buried, as well as the mammoth {bring your good walking shoes} Alhambra, where Washington Irving wrote {Tales of the Alhambra} and M. K. Escher copied designs of the mosaic tiles with their geometrically repeating patterns.

While aboard the massive CMA CGM CORTE REAL we stopped at the port of Marsaxlokk, Malta where for two days we loaded 6700 empty containers to return to China. Both days I took a one-hour local bus ride into beautiful VALLETTA. So it will be a food/internet site for me as I have already visited many of the small local museums.

The next port of call is KUDASASI, TURKEY {EPHESUS} where there is supposedly the largest collection of Roman Ruins and is allegedly the last place that Mary, mother of Jesus lived and is buried? But I have also been to her alleged burial place in Jerusalem? Tourism marketing is an amazing science. I have visited nearby Izmir and the mammoth bazaar/marketplace there.

PIRAEUS, GREECE, the entry port to ATHENS, is next on the agenda. We were scheduled to stop there on the GRANDE EUROPA but a stevedores strike forced us to go to Volos on the eastern side of Greece. So there will be many opportunities to try to catch up on some of these "missed" places. I hope to be able to figure out how to get to Athens and back to the ship?

We will then drop anchor off of PORT SAID, EGYPT in preparation for a daylight passage through SUEZ CANAL which will be my fifth trip through there. The Suez Canal entry actually starts around midnight. After sailing for a few hours we will drop anchor in Bitter Lake while the northbound ships pass. So it is a great opportunity to see almost every type of ship slowly sail by and offer great photo ops. We will exit at PORT SUEZ and head southward into the massive, warm water RED SEA, which is some 300 miles wide and 1300 miles long. If you have sailed on it, it is extremely difficult to imagine these massive waters "parting" for any reason? We are then in for a three-day sail including a stop at SAFAGA, EGYPT, entry port for LUXOR and "The Valley of the Kings."}. From about 3/4 of the way down the RED SEA to and through most of the INDIAN OCEAN, will be in the PIRATE ZONE, although no ships have been attacked since May, 2012. However, if you are trying to get me, I will be sleeping UNDER MY BED!

We will pass through the SEA OF ADEN and head northeast into the port of SALLALA, OMAN {pronounced UH-Man} to this surprisingly "modern country." Frankincense is a from here. {Where is Igor?} It is a very progressive Arabic country where women have equal rights and GERMAN is taught as a Second Language? I have already purchased Lonely Planet and CULTURE SMART-OMAN so that I get all of my ducks lined up before I fly! We will also have a stop in MUSCAT, the Capitol City. We will be in MUSCAT FOR TWO DAYS!

Prepare for MASSIVENESS! After a day or so at sea we will visit MUMBAI, INDIA for TWO DAYS. The metropolitan area population there is 21 MILLION! SO I will probably not get to see all of the sites. Ultra-conservative sister, Shirley has visited India and said that she loves it there. But I am not sure how I will adjust to the sites and SMELLS of which I have had many, many negative reports. But this will be a great opportunity to "Smell the Roses" and/or other. It comparable to New York City in metropolitan area but I suspect MUCH DIFFERENT? My exposure has been through "Gandhi," "Passage to India," and "Slumdog Millionaire." So you can imagine what I must be expecting? A change from perception to REALITY?

We next venture to GOA with a population of around 2 MILLION. Coming from relatively tiny Vermont most of these places are real eye openers. But if I don't travel, I will never experience these wonders of the world.

The next stop will be COLOMBO, SRI LANKA. I first visited there in 2006 aboard the MS PENANG SENATOR a 4554 TEU container ship. When we pulled into the harbor there was a dull gray patrol boat cruising there with a soldier standing behind a post mounted dual machine gun with a metal shield in front of it. The port was an armed camp with barbed wire 40 feet high with armed guards in towers about every 100 feet. Many of the crew went ashore there and decided to take a cab into town but I decided to walk because I could see the tower of the FLYING ANGEL CENTRE which was the Mariner's Center there run by the Episcopal Church. As I went through the gate with sharpened iron spikes facing me, I ran into the minister who was leaving for a short errand. As I entered the gate I was staring at the muzzle of a machine gun and several soldiers behind a sandbagged barrier. It was an armed camp. I finally got some postcards, stamps and went up to the Hilton Hotel for lunch with an armed soldier in the driveway. When all was said and done it was quite an experience. I got my first ride back to the port in one of those little three wheeled Tuk Tuk's or motorized ricksha with a covered top for only a $1.00 U.S.

From there we will move on to PHUKET, THAILAND. I tried to take a trip there aboard STAR CRUIES sailboat but I guess that the slow speed made them a sitting duck for PIRATES so that route was cancelled. The MS ROTTERDAM will be slightly bigger and may well have armed guards aboard. But after Colombo, we will be well out of the pirate zone.

The next stops are PENANG, MALAYSIA {"The Pearl of the Orient"} and PORT KLANG, MALAYSIA where I have been to the magnificent container port there three times. On my first visit aboard the PENANG SENATOR, I asked the Captain if he could find me a ride into KUALA LUMPUR, which he did through a friend of the agents. It was my first experience driving at breakneck speed in a right hand drive Ford Pickup with the driver yakking away on a cellphone. I was overawed by the modernity, cleanliness and very well dressed people there. We visited the architectural marvels of the PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS, which at the time were the tallest towers in the world.

We will then make a one day stop in SINGAPORE , the second largest port in the world! This will be my fourth visit there and I have spent some considerable time visiting the city and the SINGAPORE MARINERS CLUB where I may try to stay at the end of the voyage for a few days.

INDONESIA? Right at the top of your knowledge agenda, right? Well it is around the bottom of mine, although I have passed dribs and drabs of it while passing through the Straits of Malacca, the world's busiest shipping channel. There are lots of "dribs and drabs" because the country is made up of over 17,000 islands and I will probably not hit every one of them on this trip! Little did I know that INDONESIA is the 4TH LARGEST COUNTRY BY POPULATION, right after the United States. That and the fact that its economy is growing at an annual rate of 6% while ours is tumbling at warp speed made this a MUST on my agenda. It is also the country in the world with the LARGEST MUSLIM POPULATION. But you hear very little of terrorism originating here? It will be a gigantic psychological leap for me.

There are many beckoning places that we will be stopping in INDONESIA including TWO DAYS IN BALI {Population 4,220,000 - So much for serenity?} Other Indonesian places we will stop at are: LEMBAR-LOMBOK, SEMARANG-JAVA {Metro Population 1.5 million}, SURABAYA {Pop. 3.1 Million}, MAKASSAR, TANJUNG PRIAK {Gateway to Jakarta- Nation's capitol with 28 million - Metro Population}, and ULUNG PRADANG. It looks like an amazing "Shopping Cart" of parts of the world that I have not been.

I am contemplating perhaps an earlier departure and spending Christmas in PARIS, where I have never been in the winter and then by train to Amsterdam. I am also tossing around covering several ideas of return from SINGAPOR. This may include flying by EMIRATES to DUBAI {Perhaps with a layover in what would be my 77th country?} and then onward to CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA {sister Shirley says it is the most beautiful place she has ever been} JOHANNESBURG and maybe some more there depending on how further planning plays out? EMIRATES FLYS THE AIRBUS 380, which I would go on. I saw the second flight of the AIRBUS 380 while I was taking an AIRBUS PLANT TOUR at Colomiers, France in 2004. Probably from there the interminably long flight to New York and home to BTV? That part is speculative at this point. My two weeks on MONHEGAN ISLAND after return from Poland will give me plenty of time to meditate on those aspects and plan more?



Monday, May 21, 2012

Robert Jones

Bob says trains "just get in your blood."  He had his first steam engine cab ride in a Canadian Pacific locomotive at East Rygate, VT at the age of four - and he has never looked back.

Bob was born in December 1934 on a day that a few years later would be known around the world as a "day of infamy" - after the bombing of Peal Harbor and the start of World War II.  He was born in the Cottage Hospital in Woodsville, NH, across the Connecticut River from the family home in East Ryegate, VT.  He says his wife has never let him forget he is not a "native Vermonter."  (She was born in the Fanny Allen Hospital in Colchester, VT).

Bob's father, Cecil, worked fifty years on the Canadian Pacific Railway, his only employer.  During the World War II years his father was sent to Farnham, Quebec to become qualified as a train dispatcher (a job comparable to today's air traffic controllers).  The Jones's relocation to Richford, VT made it possible for Bob's Dad to see the family occasionally.  People generally worked 5.5 to 6 days a week at that time.  Young Bob was often allowed to travel the 35 miles by train to visit his Dad overnight.  A very understanding landlady let Bob stay in his Dad's room on these trips and even put up lunches for both father and son.

Bob's first railroad job could probably be classified as "illegal."    With a minimum age requirement of 16, the job of station janitor at the busy Richford passenger and freight station became available in 1947.  But Bob was only 13!  World War II was over and Bob's Dad was able to return to hid old job as third-trick operator at Richford.  So, what to do about an underage prospective railroad employee?  The solution was that Cecil bid off the job - all $1 a day and 7 days a week of it.  Then on payday, after cashing his check, he would had Bob his share.

Incidentally, this job involved mopping the two waiting rooms (one for men and one for ladies) and two large offices, emptying the trash, dusting, carrying ashes up from the basement, mowing the lawn and shoveling snow.  Bob definitely earned his $1 a day.

Bob wanted to 'go railroading' full time, but his Dad said "no", telling him that there was no future in it, with diesels coming in people would be laid off.  So Bob was accepted at the University of Vermont in Burlington and in 1956 earned a B.S. degree in Commerce and Economics with a major in Industrial Management.  During these four years he hitchhiked between Burlington and Richford, 60 miles, on weekends during the school year.  This allowed Bob to continue his part-time railroad work as a freight clerk and track worker.

After graduation, Bob was called to active duty from the active reserves.  Always athletic, he played first base on a military fast-pitch softball team at Fort Dix, NJ.  His teammates included Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax and Charley Neal, of the then Brooklyn Dodgers, along with Roosevelt Grier of the New York football Giants.

Bob and Janet were married in 1956 and a few years later Bob began a 33-year teaching career
at Shelburne (VT), later Champlain Valley Union High School, earning the position of Department Chairman.

Bob started working as a freight brakeman and conductor on the Vermont Railway in 1967, often teaching by day and railroading at night.  He worked every job and soon became qualified to operate over the entire system.  In a normal year he worked as brakeman, conductor and engineer for 100 - 115 trips.  Bob said, "I always carried my railroad bag and work clothes in the car."

He retired from railroading in 1999 with 41 years' service, having worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway in Vermont, the Vermont Railway and the Clarendon and Pittsford (Burlington, Rutland and Bennington to Whitehall and Hoosick Jct., NY), the Green Mountain Railroad out of Bellows Falls and the New England Central out of St. Albans.  Bob says, "there aren't too many miles of track in the state of Vermont that I haven't worked on."  During the summer of 1976 Bob worked as the Vermont Railway's pilot engineer on Vermont's Bi-Centennial Steam Train - "a great experience" he vividly recalls.

One of Bob's most satisfying railroad experiences was working a few years on the New England Central with his son Marc.  "I guess quite a bit of my love for railroading rubbed off on the boys".  Son Jim produces railroad DVDs under the name of Tell Tale Productions.  Check out Vermont Rail System; A Railroad Renaissance.
Unfortunately a third son, Steve, died in a boating accident on Lake Champlain just before entering his senior year of high school.

Janet was also bitten by the railroad bug.  She worked in a tourist passenger service on both the Vermont Railway and the Green Mountain Railroad for nine years.  If you can't lick 'em, you may as well join 'em, was her thinking.

Bob and Janet's cozy home is filled with books and DVDs about trains, beautiful paintings and models of trains.  Bob has researched written and published a total of 24 large hardcover books, many by Evergreen Press a company Bob founded in 1998.  He's also written many magazine articles for national railroad publications.

Railroads have been a rewarding life-long passion for Bob, a connection to his roots and a legacy to share with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  He is very optimistic about the future of both freight and passenger service in this country.

Bob's not one to sit idly while the world goes by.  He has a part time job at a supermarket, is involved in church and family activities, works out daily at a health club and generally "keeps his ear to the rails."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jane Packard Bryant

IRREPRESSIBLE.  I think that's the word I'd choose to describe Jane.  Irrepressible and always on the go.

She was born in 1932 on Moose Mountain in New Hampshire, near Hanover.  Times were very hard and Jane and her sister, along with their parents "worked their heads off" on their dairy farm  They also made maple syrup which Jane doesn't like to this day because it reminds her of being so poor.

An accident changed her life.  At age 11 Jane was kicked by a horse and developed osteomyelitis (an acute or chronic bone infection) of the femur.  In those days there was no real treatment and Jane spent nearly two years in the hospital where doctors hoped to save her leg from amputation.  In a last ditch effort, they decided on a brand new drug and Jane became the first person in New Hampshire to be treated with penicillin.

Jane remembers her time in the hospital as a window on the world.  Her family's isolation on the farm, the tiny one room school and Depression era poverty had kept her awareness very limited.  She began to see other people and had more access to books and ideas.  She would watch at the window from a stretcher and see healthy children playing outside.  She determined that if she ever regained health and strength, she would spend her life helping others, especially children.

After nursing school and five children Jane began a 30 year career with the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties.

She became Vermont's first pediatric nurse practitioner and from 1970-80, through a grant facilitated by the VNA and Vermont Health Dept., helped organize  and run a community health center for low income children with funding from a  Model Cities grant and then HEW (Health Education and Welfare).  Childhood poverty was endemic in Winooski in the 1970s and The Winooski Child Health Center benefitted from collaboration with area pediatricians,  the Vermont Health Dept. the UVM Medical School Department of Pediatrics.  Jane says the project fell victim to Reaganomics and the population they served "went back to the emergency room" for care.

Throughout her life Jane had been open to the spiritual aspect of health and healing.  She knew the value of clinical competence, but noticed outcomes could differ widely.  One of her last endeavors at the VNA was working with hospice patients.  She became convinced that "the spiritual energy of love and intention could make the difference" and began to study Therapeutic Touch.  She became a certified practitioner of Healing Touch and opened a practice after retiring from the VNA in 1997.  Jane now sees patients in her healing room at All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne, at their homes, in the hospital or wherever she is needed.  She published articles in two national nursing journals and wrote two chapters in the book "History of Nursing in Vermont."  Jane also writes poetry and a work in progress is called "Moose Mountain Chronicle", an autobiographical account of her childhood.

Along with her busy nursing career, Jane's boundless energy led her to explore many other avenues to helping, healing and living in tune with the earth.  After her father made the suggestion she learned the ancient art of dowsing in the 1980s and enjoys the rewarding and vitally important work of bringing water to humanity.  Jane is a professional dowser and takes on 3 - 5 jobs every summer.

Another ancient and transformative practice Jane embraces is belly dancing which she finds "very grounding, but ethereal".  Over the years she has given talks and demonstrations at many womens' group  and events, performed at weddings, plays and at book signings.

Jane was a single parent for much of the time while her five daughters were young.  They decided to live their values and connect with the earth as far as possible.  In 1964 they began farming and raised sheep, pigs and chicken, boarded as many as seven horses at a time and sold eggs at church.

After the girls were grown, Jane married Cyrus Bryant a professional singer, conductor, violist and pianist (and retired physics professor) and reawakened an older part of her life ~ the joy of music.  Her father was "a jolly Frenchman" and music was a big part of their life on the farm.  Now she and Cy sing in the Burlington Choral Society, the Green Mountain Mahler Festival and The Unitarian Universalist Society choir.  They are rehearsing two to four nights a week, to say nothing of performances.  Jane's favorites are "the three Bs and Mahler", along with any "good Mass in Latin".

Jane likes to say she has nine lives and referred to their separate, but connected aspects a number of times.  I think I counted them:  child of the Depression, young wife and mother, nurse, farmer, dowser, belly dancer, healer, musical soul and grandmother.  No doubt there are even more.  Jane is very serious about the problems people face on the road to health and happiness, but her optimism and natural good humor smooth the way in doing what she can to help.

When I caught up with her last week Jane was spending time with one of her granddaughters, had just finished making lunch and a batch of oatmeal cookies.  Cy was at the piano as she was tidying up the garden.  I don't think I know anyone who laughs and smiles more than Jane.

Friday, March 2, 2012


I was interested in learning about some of the newest Vermonters.  Most of us were born here or chose Vermont for work or for all the beauty, recreation, tolerance and small scale it offers.  The subjects of this post Nandi, Bhagi and Toma arrived as refugees from Bhutan.  Their traditional greeting is "Namaste".

First a very brief background to their story:

The Kingdom of Bhutan, a South Asian country bordered by China to the north and India to the south, was a collection of warring fiefdoms until the early 17th century when the area was unified by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who fled religious persecution in Tibet and cultivated a separate Bhutanese identity.  In 1907 Ugyen Wangchuck became king and his fifth descendant is king today.  In 2007 Bhutan made the transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy.

Bhutan's climate is Alpine in the north where the people are culturally aligned with Buddhist Tibetans and subtropical in the southern plains.  Beginning in the 19th century a government policy of development allowed the immigration of ethnic Nepalis to farm and build roads.  In most accounts the immigrants were to be awarded citizenship for their service.  The south became the breadbasket of the country and by 1960 one third of the people in Bhutan were reckoned to be of Nepali descent, mostly Hindus.

By the middle of the 20th century the Bhutanese government began a series of measures aimed at suppressing the Lhotshampa (the word means 'southerners') population including closing schools, fines and imprisonment for speaking Nepali, wearing anything but the national dress (wool and layers, suitable in the north, but impossible in the tropical south), confiscation of property, etc.  Eventually the Bhutanese of Nepali descent were expelled.  Since the late 1980s, over 100,000 Lhotshampa have been forced out of Bhutan, accused by the government of being illegal aliens.  Between 1988-1993, thousands of others left alleging ethnic and political repression.

Nepal has not accepted the refugees into its population.  In 2008 the U.S. offered to resettle 60,000 of the 107,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese origin then living in seven U.N. refugee camps in southeastern Nepal.  The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program has placed 900 Bhutanese since 2008 and, under its five year plan will accept 300 more.  For more information about Lhotshampa refugees click hereAbout Bhutan, click here.


They were born in the village of Salami, Chirang District.  Nandi is 88 and his wife Bhagi is 86.  They arrived in Vermont with two of their sons and families in May 2008.  It was summer, but when winter closed in it was a shock and their first experience of snow.

 After they married Nandi and Bhagi were farmers raising corn, vegetables and rice for their family's food and oranges, cardamom and cattle for sale.  Hindus do not kill animals in general, or cattle in particular, so the cattle were used for dairy products and sale.  Village life revolved around agriculture, family, festivals and prayer.  Of Nandi and Bhagi's seven living children, three are in the U.S., one in Nepal and three still in Bhutan.

Here in Burlington they share a house with their son and his family.  As they pointed out, parents invest in their children when they are young and the sons would be shamed if they did not take care of their parents in their old age.  They say they are happy in Vermont and glad to see that in the U.S. the government is committed to services for older people because there is no such help in South Asia.

Nandi and Bhagi like to go out when it's not too cold.  They need to go with family because they don't drive and have very limited English, but they enjoy Vermont, especially visiting farms and gardens.  They like watching Animal Planet on TV, no English needed.  Their sons are working and grandchildren attend Burlington High School.  Bhagi would like to cook, but her daughters-in-law laugh and say they will cook for her.

Without a Hindu temple in Vermont the Nandi and Bhagi follow home rituals and gather with other families for the principal Nepali festivals of Dashain and Tihar.  They recently held a celebration with fasting and feasting to give thanks for being able to purchase their home in Burlington.

Before writing about Toma, I want to thank Madhu Neupane who introduced me to Lhotshampa families and translated my questions and their answers.  He lives in Burlington with his wife and two daughters.

Before writing about Toma, I want to thank Madhu Neupane who introduced me to Lhotshampa families and translated my questions and their answers.

Madhu works for the Burlington School Department as a translator and cultural liaison helping Bhutanese children and their families learn navigate the ins and outs of living in Vermont, as well as helping school faculty and staff understand the culture of the students.  He helped organize the Vermont Bhutanese Association to facilitate understanding in and outside the refugee community.  He lives in Burlington with his wife and two daughters.

When he arrived in Vermont Madhu wrote a moving essay about life in the Nepal camps.

 For more information of the Vermont Bhutanese Association, click here.


Toma, 88, was born in Nikasi in the northeastern Indian state of Assam on the border of Bhutan.  Her family moved to Bhutan to farm and she was married at age 10.  Early marriage for women was expected at that time.  Toma explained that during Mughal Rule in India, a culture of rape and violence against Hindu women was common and one means of defense was for the women and girls to display the sindoor, a vermillion mark on the forehead and wear a green garland that signified the woman was married.

Toma and her husband were early settlers southern Bhutan and cleared jungle and helped establish their village.  She says the only items they ever purchased were salt, kerosene and some clothes.  They wove fabric for most of their clothing and grew rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, sugar cane, oranges and cardamom, along with any vegetables that would grow!  They kept just what was needed for the family and sold the rest.

As one of three wives, Toma's life changed for the worse when he died at 55.  Her own three children had died when at age 68 she was exiled to a refugee camp in Nepal.  She was a woman alone with nowhere to sleep, no food and no one to care for her.  Life in the camps was "like Hell" for nearly a year until three of her husband's other children arrived in the camps and she regained the security of family structure.  Toma spent 19 years in the camps before resettlement in Vermont with Narad and his family in 2010.  They were followed by more family five months later and now comprise four households in Burlington.

In the Vermont Bhutanese community all the sons and grandsons and granddaughters work or are in school helping to build a better life for the whole family.   For more information of the Vermont Bhutanese Association, click here.

Toma has some hip problems and needs a wheelchair when she goes out with family, but says she enjoys winter.  The snow is "lovely" from the inside.  In warmer weather she enjoys looking around her new surroundings and has visited Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, Shelburne Farms and regularly visits Battery Park.  With her sons' families she travels to festivals and Nepali community events, weddings, birth celebrations, funerals.  She says her life is full.  "I feel I have a good life.  Although so many are dead, I am pretty lucky to see America and different parts of the world."

I am sure many of us, seeing our country through the lens of our day to day lives, find the immigrant experience perplexing.  While the overwhelming majority of our families came from somewhere else, often fleeing persecution, it was a long time ago and seems remote.  Being welcomed so warmly by these Bhutanese families and seeing their happiness at being here with their families safe, working or in school despite the barriers of language and c-o-l-d was inspiring.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Richard Kemp

As Richard likes to say, he's "in his eightieth year".  Born in 1932, he grew up in Brooklyn, NY with two sisters and three brothers.  After high school he worked as a machinist and later as a clerk for the Social Security Administration.

Married with six children, Richard decided to get politically involved in 1969 after the Stonewall Riots in New York.  He joined the Democratic Party, moved to New Bedford, Mass. and went to work for the Job Corps at Fort Rodman an inactive Army base.  Job Corps was initiated as the central program of the Johnson Administration's War on Poverty, part of his domestic agenda known as the Great Society.  Job Corps' mission is to help young people ages 16 through 24 improve the quality of their lives through vocational and academic training. Along with many anti-war Democrats, Richard argues that spending on the Vietnam War choked off the Great Society.  When funding for Job Corps was withdrawn, Richard began work for Science Research Associates a subsidiary of IBM, which had the Job Corps contract at Ft. Rodman.

Working for IBM in Armonk, NY and later Essex Junction, VT, Richard continued his community involvement.  After retiring he got involved with the Progressive Party in Burlington and became an outspoken advocate for affordable housing.  Richard says his pension from IBM and Social Security allow him to spend time on the social issues that are so important to him.

You may have noticed Richard around Burlington.  He's tall and ramrod straight, an imposing and outgoing figure, wildly expressive, always ready to engage in conversation.  He has a strong theatrical side and hosts "Progressive Thought" on Channel 17/Town Meeting TV.  Most of his guests represent non-profit groups and get to talk about what they are doing in the community.  A true world citizen, he's the owner of Kemp Krafts, Inc., marketing calendars, books and other items.  He's an exhibitor at the annual Vermont International Festival and has traveled the world doing research and learning where help is needed.  I asked him to wear one of his colorful dashikis for some of our photographs.

Richard lives at the Flynn Avenue  Co-op in Burlington a community administered by The Champlain Housing Trust which serves the people and communities of Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle Counties.  He believes there is an affordable housing crisis right here in Vermont and cites the $22 per hour wage needed to afford a decent place to live.  In 2010 CHT recognized Richard with the Carole Pack Volunteer of the Year Award and he also represented residents and the Board at the United Nations World Habitat Day celebration in Angola where CHT was presented with a World Habitat Award.

Through Kemp Krafts, Richard donates used and discarded medical textbooks purchased from UVM to a medical school in Cape Coast, Ghana.  He also regularly visits Recycle North, trolling for  used, low cost medical supplies, crutches, etc. to send to a small hospital in Guatemala.

Where does all his energy come from?  Richard chooses not to own a car and walks or bicycles in all but the worst weather.  He tries to think about the larger impact of every decision and invested in a CSA to get fresh, high quality food and support jobs and farmers.  He says he eats well, has an occasional glass of wine and keeps busy with his interests.  I've only been able to name a few here.

When I asked if he had a philosophy he could share Richard said, "Align yourself with people who are interested in social, economic and racial justice.  If you can help out, you'll be satisfied.  It only takes time, effort and a little bit of money."