Communities struggle to find new uses for old churches

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copyright the Chronicle September 14, 2016

by Tena Starr

One of Vermont’s iconic images is the steepled white church that’s at the center of so many villages. But with the number of people who attend services dwindling to near extinction in some cases, the remnants of those congregations are looking at what to do with their gracious old church buildings. Somehow, most of them have been maintained, if lightly used, but that’s getting harder, too.

The First Congregational Church of Westfield stopped having services maybe ten years ago when the handful of remaining churchgoers found the meager pay for a weekly pastor prohibitive. Services there were revived in May with a new pastor, John Klar of Irasburg.

And for the past two years or so Katherine Sims of Lowell and her husband, Jeff Fellinger, have hosted a summer monthly concert series at the building, where once women made enormous batches of pies and sold them as a fund-raiser for the church, where years ago people of all ages attended lively card parties in the basement. The proceeds from the concert series go towards church repairs and maintenance.

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1,000 pounds of onions stolen from Albany farmer

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Andy Paonessa at one of his farm fields.  Last week someone stole about 1,000 pounds of onions and shallots from him and his soon-to-be wife, Meghan Stotko.  Photo by Tena Starr

Andy Paonessa at one of his farm fields. Last week someone stole about 1,000 pounds of onions and shallots from him and his soon-to-be wife, Meghan Stotko. Photo by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle September 23, 2015

by Tena Starr

ALBANY — A puzzled Albany farmer is wondering why anyone would want to steal nearly 1,000 pounds of onions.

Andy Paonessa arrived at one of his farm fields last week to top and crate onions and discovered that he had been robbed of about $2,000 worth of onions and shallots.

“I looked around and thought there’s a lot missing. I looked down at my feet, and I was looking down at tire tracks.”

It turned out that about 1,000 pounds of onions that had been pulled, topped, and crated up for further drying had vanished. There were, and still are, clear tracks indicating that someone with a truck drove in and simply took 20 crates of onions and shallots from the field.

“I said, oh my God, we got robbed out of the field,” Mr. Paonessa said.

He said his workers scratched their heads.

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Peters still holds CDL at 95

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Bill Peters' children recently gave him a plaque, honoring him for possibly being the oldest man in Vermont who still holds a CDL.  He's 95, and was a longtime road commissioner in Albany.   Photo by Tena Starr

Bill Peters’ children recently gave him a plaque, honoring him for possibly being the oldest man in Vermont who still holds a CDL. He’s 95, and was a longtime road commissioner in Albany. Photo by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle May 27, 2015

by Tena Starr  

NORTH HYDE PARK — Former Albany Road Commissioner Bill Peters could well be the oldest man in Vermont who still holds a CDL. That’s a commercial driver’s license, which, among other things, allows a person to drive the big trucks that maintain town roads.

Mr. Peters’ children recently presented their father with a plaque that says: “Congratulations on being the oldest person we could find that still has a CDL and medical card in the state of Vermont. Turned 95 on March 31, 2015. We are proud of you.”

The plaque was the idea of Mr. Peters’ son Donald.

He said he was out shoveling snow in March and thought, what do you get a man who’s 95?….To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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A look at the internal struggles of an early feminist

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WEB marthas mandala bookcopyright the Chronicle March 25, 2015

by Natalie Hormilla

Martha Oliver-Smith of Albany has written something like a memoir, except it’s not really about herself.

The main character of Martha’s Mandala is another Martha, the author’s maternal grandmother, Martha Stringham Bacon, who went by the name of Patty. Ms. Bacon was a talented artist and writer who lived mostly in the first half of the twentieth century, but you had to personally know her to know any of that. She was better known during her life as the wife of Leonard Bacon, an accomplished writer who won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for a collection called Sunderland Capture.

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Albany students meet a musher and his dogs

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Pictured, from left to right, are Austin Smith, 12, Allison Powell, 13, and their science teacher Cheryl Ecklund.   Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Pictured, from left to right, are Austin Smith, 12, Allison Powell, 13, and their science teacher Cheryl Ecklund. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle March 18, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

ALBANY — Albany Community School teachers had a stroke of genius when they decided on a dog-based teaching unit this winter.

“It really energizes the students, even my students that are the most difficult to get to want to read and write are focused and are interested and have questions and have stories,” said teacher Jennifer Schoen.

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VEC will seek help from FEMA for storm damage

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The heavy wet snow that stuck to trees in last week’s big snowstorm has caused power outages to continue throughout the week.   Photos by Tena Starr

The heavy wet snow that stuck to trees in last week’s big snowstorm has caused power outages to continue throughout the week. Photos by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle December 17, 2014 

by Tena Starr

Orleans County got off relatively lightly in last week’s big snowstorm. Several towns received a good foot of snow on the night of Tuesday, December 9. And they got it in a hurry.

But the county was not as affected by power outages as other places in Vermont.

By Monday afternoon, the Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) said that just 260 VEC members were without power. Line crews had repaired more than 35,000 outages since the storm, said spokesman Liz Gamache.

You could call last week’s storm the gift that kept on giving. After the initial mess was cleaned up, utilities warned that the heavy snow could continue to bring down trees and branches, causing more outages. And that’s just what happened.

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Is the postal service shooting itself in the foot?

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The Post Office in Craftsbury Common has strange hours these days.  Residents say they are inconvenient, but the USPS says decreasing hours is the only way to keep some of these offices open. Photos by David Dudley

The Post Office in Craftsbury Common has strange hours these days. Residents say they are inconvenient, but the USPS says decreasing hours is the only way to keep some of these offices open. Photos by David Dudley

copyright the Chronicle October 29, 2014

by David Dudley

In May of 2012 the United States Postal Service (USPS) implemented the Post Plan, which was devised to curb mounting debt, and prevent thousands of offices, many of them rural post offices, such as those in Greensboro Bend, Craftsbury Common, and Albany, from being shut down altogether. The USPS estimated that the plan would be up and running by September of 2014.

For many rural offices in Orleans County, the Post Plan means decreased window hours, which is affecting local businesses that depend on the Postal Service for shipping. Also, many employees have seen their hours cut, and people who work full-time are having trouble getting to the post office while it’s open.

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At 91, Francis Whitcomb recalls varied career

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Judy Bevans, former chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party, looks on while Representative Sam Young of Glover reads a resolution honoring Francis Whitcomb of Albany.   Photo by Donald Houghton

Judy Bevans, former chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party, looks on while Representative Sam Young of Glover reads a resolution honoring Francis Whitcomb of Albany. Photo by Donald Houghton

copyright the Chronicle September 10, 2014

by David Dudley

ALBANY — At 91 years of age, Francis Whitcomb has held any number of titles, formal and otherwise: Lister, moderator, planning commissioner, justice of the peace, chairman of the Orleans County Democratic Committee, teacher, principal, farmer, sugarmaker, singer, advisor, father, and husband, among many others.

Mr. Whitcomb tried to add state Representative to that list, but the title eluded him through seven campaigns.

Sitting at the head of the kitchen table in his old farmhouse in Albany Monday, Mr. Whitcomb had the air of a preacher. He’s tall and was dressed simply, as though he were going to spend the day in the garden, in the sugarhouse, or engaged in one of his favorite pastimes, walking.

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In boys AAU basketball: Orleans County Challengers go to the nationals

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Pictured are the Orleans County Challengers.  In the back row, from left to right, are: Shelly Lanou, Priscilla Stebenne, Isaiah Braithwaite, Ajay Warner, Drew Drageset, Dalton Gentley, Evan Inkel, and Albert Stebenne.  In the front are:  Matthew Menard, Braydon Leach, Landyn Leach, Dillon Stebbins, and Connor Lanou.  Photo courtesy of Martha Braithwaite

Pictured are the Orleans County Challengers. In the back row, from left to right, are: Shelly Lanou, Priscilla Stebenne, Isaiah Braithwaite, Ajay Warner, Drew Drageset, Dalton Gentley, Evan Inkel, and Albert Stebenne. In the front are: Matthew Menard, Braydon Leach, Landyn Leach, Dillon Stebbins, and Connor Lanou. Photo courtesy of Martha Braithwaite

copyright the Chronicle July 23, 2014

by Isaiah Braithwaite

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — We are the Orleans County Challengers. Players from Glover, Irasburg, Albany, Orleans and Derby compete for us. We got together for our first practice in March after our junior high basketball season ended. Despite being competitors just days before, we all immediately got along. Not only playing basketball but off the court, too, we were all friends before teammates.

It was obvious in our first game, that in Vermont, we would be a force to be reckoned with, scoring 79 points in our first game together. After four tournaments, with four games in each one, we were champions — we hadn’t lost a single game.

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Memorial Day weekend

Hannah Roberts, 13, of Newport Center opened Sunday's tractor pull at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on her 1950 Allis-Chalmers C tractor.  Hannah, who is a seventh-grader at North Country Union Junior High School, is pictured here in a pull-off for the 2,750-pound stock class, in which she took second place with 312 feet, 3.24 inches.  Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Hannah Roberts, 13, of Newport Center opened Sunday’s tractor pull at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on her 1950 Allis-Chalmers C tractor. Hannah, who is a seventh-grader at North Country Union Junior High School, is pictured here in a pull-off for the 2,750-pound stock class, in which she took second place with 312 feet, 3.24 inches. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Tyler Young of Irasburg smacks the ball in the Cal Ripken League at the Lake Region Youth Baseball five-team tournament held at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on Sunday.  The Irasburg Angels played the Brownington Indians in the co-ed league for eight- to ten-year-olds.  Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Tyler Young of Irasburg smacks the ball in the Cal Ripken League at the Lake Region Youth Baseball five-team tournament held at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on Sunday. The Irasburg Angels played the Brownington Indians in the co-ed league for eight- to ten-year-olds. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Memorial Day ceremonies in downtown Island Pond Monday included a speech from Representative Vicki Strong of Albany.  Two students from Brighton Elementary School, who won second place in a recent contest sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society, took turns reading the names of 42 Vermonters who were killed from 2003-2011 in either Afghanistan or Iraq.  Cooper Densmore is pictured behind the podium, while classmate Joshua Rivers is standing to his right.   Photo by Paul Lefebvre

Memorial Day ceremonies in downtown Island Pond Monday included a speech from Representative Vicki Strong of Albany. Two students from Brighton Elementary School, who won second place in a recent contest sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society, took turns reading the names of 42 Vermonters who were killed from 2003-2011 in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Cooper Densmore is pictured behind the podium, while classmate Joshua Rivers is standing to his right. Photo by Paul Lefebvre

An enthusiastic group of musicians from Newport City Elementary School marches down Main Street on Memorial Day.  Pictured is Victoria Young playing a cowbell.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

An enthusiastic group of musicians from Newport City Elementary School marches down Main Street on Memorial Day. Pictured is Victoria Young playing a cowbell. Photo by Joseph Gresser

Gage (in yellow) and Joey Prue atop a van in the Memorial Day parade in North Troy Monday.  Pam Prue and Pat Pyne of Paddie’s Snack Bar were their chauffeurs.   Photo by Tena Starr

Gage (in yellow) and Joey Prue atop a van in the Memorial Day parade in North Troy Monday. Pam Prue and Pat Pyne of Paddie’s Snack Bar were their chauffeurs. Photo by Tena Starr

Suki wears this patriotic outfit every Memorial Day and Fourth of July, said her owner, Linda Lyons.  Ms. Lyons and Suki were among those who didn’t mind getting a little wet in order to watch the Memorial Day parade in North Troy on Monday.  Photo by Tena Starr

Suki wears this patriotic outfit every Memorial Day and Fourth of July, said her owner, Linda Lyons. Ms. Lyons and Suki were among those who didn’t mind getting a little wet in order to watch the Memorial Day parade in North Troy on Monday. Photo by Tena Starr

This bell from the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department's 1938 International was chimed in memory of the Vermont soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country in the War on Terror.  Fire department member Justin Peart rang the bell after each name was read aloud by members of American Legion Orleans Post #23 at Monday's Memorial Day observances.  Photo by Richard Creaser

This bell from the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department’s 1938 International was chimed in memory of the Vermont soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country in the War on Terror. Fire department member Justin Peart rang the bell after each name was read aloud by members of American Legion Orleans Post #23 at Monday’s Memorial Day observances. Photo by Richard Creaser

American Legion Orleans Post #23 veteran Maurice "Joe" Blair, accompanied by Mark Wright, takes a place of honor during Monday's Memorial Day observances in Orleans.  Ann Parenteau (second row from left), Mary Ellen Orcutt, Donna Smith, and Dawn Wilcox of the Orleans American Legion Women's Auxiliary follow close behind.  Photo by Richard Creaser

American Legion Orleans Post #23 veteran Maurice “Joe” Blair, accompanied by Mark Wright, takes a place of honor during Monday’s Memorial Day observances in Orleans. Ann Parenteau (second row from left), Mary Ellen Orcutt, Donna Smith, and Dawn Wilcox of the Orleans American Legion Women’s Auxiliary follow close behind. Photo by Richard Creaser

Girl Scout Daisies Eva Thompson (left) and Bianca Davis of Barton Troop #30813 lent a festive air to Barton's annual Memorial Day parade on Monday.  Like their namesake flowers, the Daisies provided a welcome burst of color amidst the rain showers.  The Daisies marched alongside their fellow Girl Scouts from Barton Troop #30053.    Photo by Richard Creaser

Girl Scout Daisies Eva Thompson (left) and Bianca Davis of Barton Troop #30813 lent a festive air to Barton’s annual Memorial Day parade on Monday. Like their namesake flowers, the Daisies provided a welcome burst of color amidst the rain showers. The Daisies marched alongside their fellow Girl Scouts from Barton Troop #30053. Photo by Richard Creaser

For more photos, pick up a copy of our May 28, 2014 edition, or subscribe to our online edition.

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