North Country celebrates its fiftieth year

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copyright the Chronicle September 27, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — North Country Union High School, which opened its doors in the fall of 1967, used the occasion of its annual homecoming weekend to mark its fiftieth anniversary in style.

Dean of Students Bob Davis (Class of 1974) assumed the role of pit master and barbecued a pig to the exacting standards expected in North Carolina where he attended Duke University.

Not far from the line for pulled pork sandwiches, North Country Band Director Bill Prue (Class of 1989) was gathering his forces. Several alumni musicians, including trombonist Ray Bowen Jr. (class of 1987) brought their instruments and rejoined their high school band.

Mr. Prue said he intended to honor the school and its earliest graduates by playing a hit song from 1967, “Windy” by the Association. He admitted it wasn’t the number one hit of the year — that distinction went to “To Sir With Love,” by the British singer Lulu.

“It was a little too slow,” Mr. Prue said.

Roger Wells, Sara Williams, and Beatrice Sevigny Deslandes (all Class of 1968) sat on the bumper of Mr. Davis’ barbecue wagon and reminisced.

While the school’s doors opened in 1967, the first senior class did not receive its diplomas until June 1968.

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Widow shares story of husband’s decision to end his own suffering

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copyright the Chronicle September 20, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

EAST CHARLESTON — Eric Stevens was 67 years old last year in July when his son-in-law carried him out to the porch, where, surrounded by his immediate family, he ate a pudding-like mixture of Seconal and maple syrup. Soon, possibly within minutes, he was dead.

Mr. Stevens was a musician and an avid outdoorsman. In a photo taken less than two weeks before his death, he looks young for 67, tanned and robust, his dark eyes looking into the camera in the straightforward manner he was known for.

But he was far from robust by then. He had an advanced case of multiple systems atrophy (MSA), a rare neurological disease.  It’s similar to Parkinson’s, but crueler.  Parkinson’s victims often develop dementia towards the end.  Those who suffer from MSA do not.  Their bodies shut down bit by bit, but the brain is acutely aware of every bodily failure, every indignity, of the next dreadful step in the progression of their fatal disease.

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Still more questions than answers about Shrinedom

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copyright the Chronicle September 20, 2017

 

by Brad Usatch

 

EAST ALBANY — Four days after a planned daylong music festival collapsed for apparent lack of funds, organizers remain reluctant to explain exactly what happened, or what measures, if any, will be taken to compensate ticket holders who feel they were scammed.

Set to take place on the property of the Creek Hill Barn, Shrinedom 2017 was advertised by promoter Marc Clay of Crossova Concepts as a benefit for the Mt. Sinai Shriners #3 based in Montpelier. The Shriners are an international fraternal organization most noted for creating a network of 22 children’s hospitals across North America. According to the Shrinedom Facebook page, Crossova was teaming up with Kingdom Cares, Inc., to produce the show. Kingdom Cares is a Vermont corporation with Shriner Adam B. Johnson of Irasburg listed as its sole agent.

Gates were set to open at 7 a.m. on what turned out to be a picture perfect Saturday on September 16. A trio of rising New England country acts was slated to play from mid-morning into the afternoon, and that part of the concert went off without a hitch.

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Orchard owner searching for stolen apple trees

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copyright the Chronicle September 20, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — Randolph Cross of West Glover is looking for information about who stole two of his best apple trees.

Mr. Cross, who lives on Parker Pond, also owns property on Route 16 in Barton, just north of Glover Village. He’s put up a garage there, and has perennial gardens, a vegetable garden, and a small orchard with apple and nut trees — walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts.

“It’s something to do, to keep my mind working and to keep active,” he said.

It’s a tidy and well-tended place that Mr. Cross said is something of an experiment — to see what grows and thrives here. He did auto repair for 40 years, which is why he built the garage, he said.

The apple trees were four years old and producing well, Mr. Cross said. His theory is that someone dug them up to transplant them in the woods, or a field somewhere, to bait deer.

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Chief says Newport Police Department gravely understaffed

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copyright the Chronicle September 20, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — At its meeting Monday, the city council heard about the difficulties officers face in the city’s understaffed police department. They also voted for November balloting on a $3-million bond for a new water tower, and re-examined downtown renewal efforts.

Newport City Police Chief Seth DiSanto presented council members with a summary of his department’s activities over the past year comparing them with the year before.

Traffic stops accounted for the highest percentage of calls, about 28 percent. But Chief DiSanto said that doesn’t reflect the amount of actual time spent on a call. Larceny calls can take days to investigate, while traffic stops are done in a matter of minutes, he said.

The chief’s main business, though, was a discussion of staffing in his department, which is presently short two officers.

Although he has two recruits undergoing training as part-time officers, the chief said they will not be able to complete training as full-time officers any sooner than June. Even then, the new officers will need at least 400 more hours of on-the-job training before they can wear the Newport badge and uniform, Chief DiSanto said.

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Swastikas, racist slogans sprayed on local roads and buildings

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

GLOVER — Swastikas, racist epithets, and crudely drawn penises were spray painted on road surfaces, mailboxes, and the side of a farm building in Glover sometime during the night of September 7.

The incident prompted a GoFundMe campaign, which was started on Monday by Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm. It raised $4,535 in less than 24 hours toward a reward to help catch the perpetrators.

Jasper Hill is one of the owners of Andersonville Farm in West Glover. A building there was defaced with “get out” and “nigger” along with a hashtag, a swastika, and a Nazi SS symbol.

About ten feet of pavement on the Shadow Lake Road was co-opted for a swastika and the message “I kill niggers.” Sexual drawings and slogans were painted in the oncoming lane.

A swastika was painted on a stop sign at the intersection of Shadow Lake Road and Mud Island Road. A mailbox in that area was defaced with swastikas on one side and the word “nig” on the other. Another mailbox had swastikas, the twin lightning-bolt SS symbol, and a sexual reference.

Law enforcement is handling the incident as unlawful mischief.

A joint press release from the Vermont State Police and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department says, “Sometime after dark on September 7, 2017, the offender(s) spray painted on the side of a barn, the roadway, mailboxes and posts.”

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Broken family wants case resolved

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

When Katrina McCullough of Newport called police last December and accused her husband of bending her fingers back, she had no idea what the consequences of her actions would turn out to be.

Today she finds herself in danger of losing her house and faces severe economic challenges despite having a good job. Ryan McCullough, her husband, lives in a homeless shelter for veterans in Norwich, and the couple’s children see their father only rarely.

Because Orleans County Superior Court has a heavy backlog of cases awaiting trial, the McCulloughs will not see a resolution until January at the earliest.

Ms. McCullough says she was in the clutches of severe mental distress when she dialed the phone in December. Knowing what she does now, she strongly regrets making that call.

Mr. McCullough is facing misdemeanor and felony charges of domestic abuse and, despite filing a speedy trial motion in June, is not scheduled for trial until January.

He had been scheduled for trial in August, but the court schedule was changed and he must now wait an additional five months for resolution.

As a result, Ms. McCullough said in a recent interview, her husband is in the shelter while she and her two daughters are facing the prospect of losing the family house for lack of money to pay the mortgage. Mr. McCullough, a veteran who has struggled with PTSD, cannot stay in the shelter past January and will be homeless in winter if the situation is not resolved by then, his wife said.

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Hemp is hot new agricultural venture

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

EAST BURKE — “Welcome to history,” said Eli Harrington, one of the organizers of Vermont Hemp Fest 2017, held over the weekend at the Burke Mountain Hotel and Conference Center. He’s also co-founder and editor of Heady Vermont, an online magazine and podcast for fans of the hemp plant — cannabis — in all its forms.

It was standing room only at Hemp Fest, a get together mostly for people interested in producing and marketing agricultural hemp. There were speakers from all over the country, evening “hempy hours” and entertainment, and a chance to try and buy hemp-based products ranging from clothing to food and supplements.

Mr. Harrington believes the three-day gathering over the weekend just might be the first time that a cannabis event has occurred at a ski resort.

Speakers took care to clarify that they were there to talk about growing hemp for food, fiber, and medicine.

People traveled from all over and paid admission to get the latest information on growing, refining, and marketing legal hemp products.

“What we’re looking for is a Vermont product with a national market,” Mr. Harrington said.

But many also expressed hope that, after marijuana and hemp are both fully legalized, the tent will be big enough to welcome the full spectrum of cannabis products.

Outside the building, it was obvious from the wafting smoke that some of the pre-conference write-ups about “ganjapreneurship” and “free Maryjane” had drawn their own audience.

Hemp and marijuana are pretty much the same plant. But marijuana gets its kick from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound that also boasts a variety of medical uses.

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Remembering those who died at their own hand

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Matt Chaput said he doesn’t keep track of how long it’s been since his brother Shawn took his own life.

“Four or five years,” was his estimate.

His imprecision is not because he doesn’t care. His brother is never far from his thoughts, and remains close to him physically as well.

Mr. Chaput rolled up his sleeve Saturday morning and showed the startlingly life-like portrait of his brother he had tattooed onto his left forearm.

He was among the more than 200 people who walked through Newport Saturday to commemorate those who died by their own hand, and to do what they can to spare others the sorrow they feel at the loss of loved ones.

Many wore shirts showing who inspired them to participate in Newport’s sixth annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk. Mr. Chaput and many of his friends and family members sported bright blue shirts that read “Team Shawn.” Others wore yellow T-shirts indicating they were part of Team Donnelly, and another team had orange shirts printed with a drawing of a halo and a pair of angels’ wings with the words “in loving memory of Don Cota.”

The walk is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It raises money to pay for programs intended to educate the public about the toll suicide takes on the community, and to help people experiencing dark and dangerous episodes come out alive on the other side.

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Students raise thousands for Harvey victims

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Two Irasburg sisters who made their way to Houston, Texas, to pursue teaching careers came through Hurricane Harvey with their homes intact, but they and their students will be dealing with the devastation wrought by the storm for months if not years.

Chris Eldridge-Grant and Amy Eldridge-Green, who both work for the Klein Independent School District, also inspired an effort in the North Country Supervisory Union (NCSU) schools Monday that raised at least $4,100 for those affected by flooding. According to Liz Butterfield of NCSU, which sponsored “T-shirt Tuesday” to encourage donations, that amount will rise when the money has all been counted Wednesday.

The Klein district is one of two in the Spring area of northwestern Houston. Ms. Eldridge-Grant teaches English at one of the district’s five high schools.

Spring is a diverse community, Ms. Eldridge-Green said. She teaches English as a second language as part of her duties. She said nearly 120 languages are spoken by people who live in the community.

“Natural disaster is the great equalizer,” she said.

Even the more affluent neighborhoods were hit by the storm, she said, and the flooding destroyed many, many vehicles.

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