30 years in the air took this man everywhere


copyright the Chronicle February 17, 2016

by Tena Starr

Armand Brasseur grew up on a dairy farm in Irasburg, but he didn’t want to milk cows, he wanted to fly.  He knew that when he was a small boy, four or five years old, and watched planes head south from the airport in Newport.

“I cherished my military soldier with a parachute and balsa wood plane with a rubber band as its source of power,” he said.

He was a Northeast Kingdom farm boy, and not many considered either the dream, or the ability to realize it, realistic.

They were wrong.  It took some doing… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

Print subscription

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper.)


Pete Cocoros’ trumpet takes him from Brooklyn to Barton, the long way


Pete Cocoros, veteran, trumpeter, and photographer, plays “Taps” in Glover on Memorial Day, 2013.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Pete Cocoros, veteran, trumpeter, and photographer, plays “Taps” in Glover on Memorial Day, 2013. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle December 23, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

BARTON — As he hears a visitor pull into the dooryard of his camp, only a stone’s throw from Crystal Lake, Pete Cocoros pokes the bell of his trumpet out his door and blows a fanfare. It proves to be an apt prelude to a two-hour conversation about music and the adventurous path blazed by a horn.

Mr. Cocoros has performed for generals, played before thousands at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, entertained troops in Iceland, Morocco, and Greece, and set people to dancing all over the United States.

Most people who know him these days think of Pete Cocoros as the man whose playing of “Taps” brings tears to the eyes of those gathered to celebrate Veterans and Memorial days in Barton. Or they know him as the man whose photographs of local school band concerts appear in the Chronicle a few times a year.

Continue reading


Coach Tom Evans talks soccer, math, family, and how he became a lucky man


Coach Tom Evans watches as his players run drills at practice Monday afternoon.  Now in his thirty-third year coaching boys soccer at Lake Region, he says “I've coached 33 teams, but it's really all one big family.”   Photo by David Dudley

Coach Tom Evans watches as his players run drills at practice Monday afternoon. Now in his thirty-third year coaching boys soccer at Lake Region, he says “I’ve coached 33 teams, but it’s really all one big family.” Photo by David Dudley

copyright the Chronicle September 17, 2014

by David Dudley

NEWPORT — “I tell this story to my players all the time,” Lake Region Union High School soccer Coach Tom Evans said, as he settled into a cream-colored leather chair.  “But, mind you, it’s not really about me. Capiche?”

Though Mr. Evans has achieved a certain degree of success in his 33 years of coaching soccer at Lake Region, he doesn’t view his achievements as his own.  He doesn’t much care for the glare of a spotlight in his face. He’d prefer that the light shine on someone else.

Continue reading


At 91, Francis Whitcomb recalls varied career


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.

Continue reading


Quebec man makes 400-mile sojourn on foot


Regent Hurtubise finds rest and an omelet at Paddie's Snack Bar in North Troy Saturday morning.  Photos by David Dudley

Regent Hurtubise finds rest and an omelet at Paddie’s Snack Bar in North Troy Saturday morning. Photos by David Dudley

copyright the Chronicle August 6, 2014 

by David Dudley

DERBY — If you were driving along Route 105 this past weekend, or Route 5 on Monday, chances are you passed a well-tanned man, walking, pushing a cart with bicycle wheels alongside the road, accompanied by his dog. On Monday afternoon, he rambled his way through Derby, on his fiftieth consecutive day of walking this summer.

That man is Regent Hurtubise, 66, of Chartierville, Quebec, which is just across the New Hampshire border. His beloved dog, who travels with him, is named Rocky. Though Mr. Hurtubise may look, at first glance, like a drifter, he is a homeowner in Quebec, living off a pension from the Canadian government. Mr. Hurtubise and Rocky are on the final leg of a 400-mile walk.

Continue reading


Profile: Bennett retires after 30 years of service to town


Jeannine Bennett.  Photo courtesy of Mrs. Bennett

Jeannine Bennett. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Bennett

copyright the Chronicle March 19, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

CHARLESTON — Town Clerk Jeannine Bennett retired at Town Meeting this year, after 30 years of service to the town.

Actually, she did not attend Town Meeting because she wanted to avoid a big fuss.

“They did the whole cake thing two years ago,” she said.  Instead, she took a trip to Maryland to visit her daughter and son-in-law, Julie and Heath Wilson, and her 12-year-old grandson Jeff.

When Mrs. Bennett started working for the town, a lot of the town records were hand written.

“I knew shorthand.  That’s one of the reasons I got hired,” she said.  She also had excellent penmanship.

Continue reading


Profile: Margaret Pitkin’s Wild Blue Yoga

by Natalie Hormilla

Margaret Pitkin of Craftsbury strikes a pose — the mermaid — in her home studio. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

copyright the chronicle June 20, 2012

CRAFTSBURY — Even if you don’t take yoga classes around here, you’re probably familiar with Margaret Pitkin.  Maybe you grew up with her in Albany, or went to school with her at Lake Region, or maybe you’ve seen the many posters of her in various asanas — also known as yoga poses — in flyers of her tacked to local bulletin boards.

Those who do know Ms. Pitkin through yoga likely know another fact:  that she’s Vermont’s first and only fully certified Anusara yoga teacher — or she was, until she gave up her license in light of Anusara founder John Friend’s very public fall from grace earlier this year.

But to fully understand the significance of such a decision, let’s back up to the beginning.

Ms. Pitkin first got into yoga about ten years ago, while attending Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she was studying geology.

“I was pretty skeptical,” she said, of yoga.  “Growing up here, I wasn’t exposed to it.  I thought it was something for people from southern California.”

Ms. Pitkin, who has the limbs of someone you just know is disciplined, says she couldn’t touch her toes when she first started.  “People never believe me when I say that.”

She took classes from Deb Neubauer, a well-known yogini who taught in the Anusara style.

“So basically I did Anusara from the beginning,” she said.

After graduation in 2004, Ms. Pitkin returned home and began attending a yoga class at the Craftsbury library.  It just happened to be an Anusara yoga class.

After about a year of being home, she began traveling back to Northampton to study with an old philosophy teacher, which Ms. Pitkin considers a cornerstone of her approach to yoga.

The following spring, she drove to Los Angeles, California, to visit her sister, Roberta, and to attend a teaching workshop taught by Mr. Friend.

“That was my first time with John Friend,” she said.  “That made me feel really solid about Anusara, because I really liked him.”  She said he was very positive and good at making people feel comfortable.

When she got back to Vermont, her yoga teacher was pregnant and needed a substitute teacher.  Ms. Pitkin said she didn’t want to do it at first, because she didn’t feel qualified and was scared of speaking in public.

“But once I started doing it, I really liked it,” she said.  “It was easier than I thought to articulate my experience.”

She began training with Ms. Neubauer in Northampton regularly, and attending many teacher trainings and immersions all over the country.

“I’d fly to Miami, California, Arizona,” she said.  She said she spent “thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars,” to study and train to become an Anusara yoga teacher.

“Since 2006, I’ve spent about one weekend a month traveling to some sort of training, up until about the end of 2011,” she said.  “Which was right when some of this stuff started to come out.”

The “stuff” are the allegations made by many Anusara yoga teachers and community members against Mr. Friend since the short-lived website jfexposed.com launched earlier this year.  (The site has since been shut down.)  Some are sexual in nature:  that Mr. Friend had affairs with several of his female teachers, some of whom were married; and that he formed a “Wiccan coven” with several female teachers and employees.  Some are financial:  that he froze employees’ benefits plans and gave moneymaking opportunities to members of the “coven” over others.  And some are just unprofessional:  that he was forcing employees to personally accept deliveries of marijuana at his offices, that he was showing up ranting and unprepared to the teaching workshops that cost students hundreds of dollars a pop, that he was manipulating his better known teachers by withholding opportunities that only he could make possible.  The list goes on.

“When it first came out, I had a bad feeling about it, but I wanted to wait and see,” Ms. Pitkin said.

She said she had seen him publicly shame people at workshops and that she did feel his teaching had slipped from when she first began studying with him.  She said that if anyone spoke up, Mr. Friend would bully them out of the community.

“He had so much clout internationally.  If John decided he was going to promote you, you’re made,” she said.  “The way he set up the whole power structure of the whole thing, it was like if anybody had a problem with John, it was their fault.  Like, ‘you’re not really being open-hearted.’”

Ms. Pitkin formally resigned from Anusara in May.

The Anusara yoga school was founded by Mr. Friend in 1997, and has grown to have over 1,000 licensed teachers all over the world, according to anusara.com.

“I gave up my license, which means I can’t use the word ‘Anusara.’  Technically that’s all it means.  Which, if you think about it, is … ridiculous, because that’s the only thing I’ve ever studied,” she said.

Ms. Pitkin can still teach any other style of yoga.

“Anusara yoga was invented by John Friend, or at least, it’s credited to him, and then he made it into a corporation,” she said.  “So it was a business and a style of yoga.  He trademarked the name, the idea of the Universal Principles of Alignment.”

One of the defining traits of an Anusara class, as opposed to some other styles of yoga, is the touchstone of a philosophical theme woven into the approach to each class.

Ms. Pitkin says the philosophical component is one of the things that really drew her to Anusara.  She said the physical component is powerful, and that she’s even healed injuries with yoga, but that “it’s not the piece I find absolutely indispensable, for myself.  If someone said, ‘ok, you’re going to a desert island and you only get one practice,’ that’s probably the one I’d get rid of.  I’d bring my books.”

Asked how her classes have changed since leaving Anusara behind, Ms. Pitkin said, “I think that’s still in process.  There was a real community of arrogance in Anusara that I bought into.  Like, ‘I know so much, I’ve studied so much,’ like Anusara was the best style in the world.  There was this culture of ‘I’m the best’ and John really built it that way.”

“The main thing that’s changed for me is that I’ve lost my arrogance about what I know and do not know,” she said.

She said one student “felt like my presence as a teacher has changed.  She felt like I was more humble and more respectful of people’s experience.”

She said that yoga is about release, and that it helps you see more clearly, including yourself.  She said that the changes in her life before and after yoga have been extreme.

“I was really mean,” she said, laughing.  “I feel like I was pretty shut down.  I had a lot of defense mechanism-type walls up.  How I engaged with the world was to attack it.  The amount I’ve softened is amazing.”

It doesn’t sound like the end of Anusara is the end of her yoga practice.  “If anything, it’s going to get way better.  I’m going to get better.”

She said she wants to let her whole Anusara experience fall apart, “like compost.  In order for something from the past to be nutritious for the future, it has to dissolve.”

As part of her yoga studies, Ms. Pitkin has been in a two-year-long meditation course with Paul Muller-Ortega of Santa Barbara.  She studies Neelankantha meditation, which involves “listening to a lot of teleseminars on my iPod.”  She also studies philosophy with both Mr. Muller-Ortega and Douglas Brooks, who is a professor at the University of Rochester.  This is another facet of her yoga studies, which requires a lot of time and travel.

“It’s pretty much what I do in my free time,” she said.

She said the types of philosophy she studies “both could fall under the very broad category of nondual Hindu Tantra.  In a very broad sense, it’s the basic sort of belief that there is not a separation between matter and spirit.  That there’s really only one essential thing that’s making up everything.  That all the structures of the universe are working via that same essential power, or flow of energy, or however you want to put it.”

She said nonduality is about “pulling yourself out of the duality of life — pleasure and pain — and to not be at the whims of the roller coaster of life.”

Ms. Pitkin currently teaches seven weekly classes in Craftsbury, Burlington, Hardwick, West Glover and Morrisville.  She also teaches workshops in those towns as well as Montpelier.

She said that when she first started teaching she didn’t think supporting herself from full-time yoga would be possible.  “Because I mean, look where we live.  Where are the people that would take yoga class?”

She’s been able to teach full time since this winter.  In the summer, she does still work two days a week for Annerscaping, the landscaping company owned by Anners Johnson of Albany.

She used to work landscaping full-time while still teaching classes.  “It’s taken a long time to build up, to get my name out there basically.”

She says the reality of being a successful yoga teacher is a lot of time spent not teaching, but “working on my website, answering e-mails, trying to come up with descriptions.  A lot of the work is on the computer.”

“I love teaching,” she said.  “I get a little burned out on the constant e-mail — Internet thing, but teaching is not like work to me.  I get so much out of it.”

Ms. Pitkin lives in Craftsbury with her partner, Gabriel Tempesta.  She will turn 30 in August.

She plans on doing yoga for the rest of her life.

“I’ll definitely be like 90 and still teaching yoga,” she said.  “That’s my plan.”

She’s even got a name for her new style of yoga.  “I’m calling it Wild Blue Yoga, which is just a blend of what I’ve learned.”

contact Natalie Hormilla at [email protected]