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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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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Lawsuit alleges voter fraud in Victory

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copyright the Chronicle August 23, 2017

 

 by Tena Starr

 

VICTORY — In a town the size of Victory, whose population is about the size of a big extended family, a small number of votes can make a very big difference in a local election. In fact, former Victory Town Clerk Tracey Martel claims four votes in particular, which she alleges were illegal, contributed to her defeat as town clerk and treasurer at Town Meeting in March.

She also claims that others who might have voted for her were prevented from voting. Her opponent, current and incumbent Town Clerk Carol Easter, actively kept people from voting by failing to mail absentee ballots on a timely basis and challenging some people’s residency, Ms. Martel charges.

She has sued the town, Ms. Easter, the Victory Board of Civil Authority, and a host of others — 18 people or entities in all — including Robert and Toni Flanigan and their two adult sons, who she says are residents of Connecticut, not Victory, and should not have been allowed to vote in the March Town Meeting election for local office.

The lawsuit is the latest, or near latest, in Victory where conducting town business can be so fractious that law enforcement attends select board meetings. Essex County Sheriff Trevor Colby said the town has contracted with his Sheriff’s Department to provide security at all select board meetings.

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Beware of fake eclipse viewing glasses

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copyright the Chronicle August 16, 2017

 

 by Tena Starr

 

Northeast Vision Center in Newport recently bought 100 pairs of special glasses to hand out to patients so they could safely watch the August 21 solar eclipse. They intended the glasses to be a gesture of good will, a service to their customers.

But on Monday Amazon delivered the unfortunate news that the glasses might not be safe after all.

Now, Northeast Vision is urging patients who received the glasses to throw them away. Instead they can come in and get a new pair that will be safe.

The problem, Sophie Logan at Northeast Vision said, is that the market has suddenly been flooded with fraudulent eclipse-viewing glasses as a result of the rare eclipse. And the fraudulent marketers have gotten very good at making their fakes appear to be the real thing.

“We are all so devastated,” Ms. Logan said. “Thank God we only had 100 of them to give out. We have 100 to replace those now, and we’re getting another 100 on Friday for people to come and get.”

The result of viewing a partial solar eclipse without proper glasses could be blindness, Ms. Logan said.

“It’s pretty scary stuff,” she said. “I feel like everyone should be aware of this. In general, I know a lot of people who have ordered from Amazon.”

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Bleak outlook for forestry industry

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copyright the Chronicle August 2, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

Nearly 50 years ago, a few weeks out of high school, Ken Davis had a tiff with his farmer father that set him on a new career course. Instead of a farmer, he became a logger.

And for nearly half a century that’s pretty much how he’s made his living.

Until recently, that is, when the venerable logging industry went to pieces, especially in the Northeast Kingdom.

“I gave it up over a year ago,” Mr. Davis said in a recent interview. “I logged for 48 years. It’s pretty bleak out there from a logger’s point of view.  I couldn’t make a profit anymore.”

He still operates a logging station in Hardwick, meaning he takes in wood from loggers, then finds a market and distributes it.  But even that has become increasingly precarious, he said.

“We aren’t sure what the future is going to bring. We did find a pine market up in Maine. That’s helped us. We’re still in business, but it’s a dire situation.”

 

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Non-stop rain taking its toll on farmers

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copyright the Chronicle July 19, 201

 

by Tena Starr

 

Farmers, who have been accused of complaining about the weather even more than most Vermonters, have good reason this year.

It’s rained, and it’s rained some more, making it nearly impossible to get in dry hay. Plus it’s often been on the chilly side. And in few places did corn reach the hoped for knee high by the Fourth of July stage.

It’s no one’s imagination that it’s been raining a lot, but since that rain has frequently come in the form of showers rather than a uniform, steady rainfall, some places have fared a little better than others.

At the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, it rained 18 out of 31 days in May; 18 out of 30 days in June; and half of the first 16 days in July.

At meteorologist Steve Maleski’s weather station in Sutton, measurable rain was recorded 21 out of 31 days in May, including nine out of the first ten days; 20 out of 30 days in June, including six consecutive days to start the month, and 11 out of 12 days between June 19 and June 30. It rained nine out of the first 16 days of July.

The Chronicle’s recent weather records, which are from Brownington, say that between June 13 and July 17 it rained 23 out of 35 days.

Gary Lyman of West Glover said this is his forty-third year farming, and he’s “never been through anything like this year. It’s wicked tough.”

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Justice Deptartment asked to look at legality of Act 46

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copyright the Chronicle July 19, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

Two former school board members from Franklin County have asked the federal Department of Justice to investigate the legality of Act 46, the Vermont law that requires school districts to consolidate.

Jay Denault and James Jewitt have filed a complaint saying it’s their belief that Act 46 violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as two other sections of federal law that prohibit intimidation, threatening, or coercion of voters.

Essentially, they assert, the law contains what amounts to both bribes and threats aimed at pushing people toward voting how the state wants them to vote.

“…said legislation contains descriptions of coercion and multiple, significant financial rewards, being provided in exchange for an affirmative vote by the electorate to implement the requirements of Act 46,” the complaint says. “Further, this legislation contains specific language which details threats and intimidation of the electorate for failing to comply with the requirements of Act 46. Such threats include, but are not limited to, the authority provided by Act 46 to the Vermont State Department of Education to force compliance with the requirement of Act 46 against the will of the people.”

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Peggy Day Gibson steps aside at the Old Stone House Museum

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copyright the Chronicle July 12, 201

 

by Tena Starr

 

BROWNINGTON — For the past ten years or so Peggy Day Gibson has turned her capable and enthusiastic hand to transforming the picturesque Brownington neighborhood that’s home to the Old Stone Museum into vibrant history, as well as a destination.

She leaves the job of museum director in October and hopes her replacement has the vision to follow the museum’s recent trajectory. Brownington’s historic district is a remarkable place, she said, a repository of a region’s history and stories with old buildings as well as vast collections that chronicle a time, a place, a way of doing things, and the lives of people who knew how to do those things.

Ms. Gibson hopes that whoever follows her will see that the historic district is a place so special that it’s poised to earn its own income through bus tours, events, and facility rentals. It has all the potential to become a destination spot, she said.

Under Ms. Gibson’s tenure, the property, owned by the Orleans County Historical Society, has expanded. It includes seven historic buildings; some new buildings, meant to replicate some old ones; as well as additions. The neighborhood, Ms. Gibson said in an interview last week, is currently pretty much what it was in the 1830s when Alexander Twilight was principal of the Orleans County Grammar School, which returned to its original location, hauled there by 23 teams of oxen, last summer.

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Maple production nears historic levels

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copyright the Chronicle June 28, 201

 

by Tena Starr

 

Although maple sugaring in Vermont has grown at a startling rate in the past decade, it still hasn’t reached pre1935 levels, at least in terms of the number of trees tapped.

That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA), which last week released its annual statistic on maple syrup production. This year, 5.4 million Vermont trees were tapped, the USDA said. Before 1935, though, between 5.5 and 6 million trees were tapped on a regular basis.

The USDA also said that Vermont’s 2017 maple syrup production totaled 1.98 million gallons, which was the second highest production on record. That’s up 12 percent from 2016 “and the largest number of taps since 1935,” according to USDA statistics.

Sugaring’s dramatic growth is due, in part, to the fact that it also fell dramatically. The number of trees tapped dipped to around 1.5 million in the 1960s, according to the USDA. In 2003, it climbed to 2.12 million. Growth has been pretty steady since 2007 except for a sharp dip in 2011.

“There used to be a lot more agriculture in the state,” said Tim Perkins, director of the Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill. “Back at that time, people didn’t do much of anything else.”

In early spring, farmers could either cut firewood or make syrup, he said. Syrup was a cash crop, and almost every dairy farm had a sugarbush that farmers made good use of.

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Dollar General penalized for scanner violations

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copyright the Chronicle June 21, 201

 

by Tena Starr

 

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture has penalized Dollar General in the amount of more than $210,000 for 47 separate price scanner violations since 2013, including $24,000 in penalties this year.

“Agency inspectors have observed repeated pricing inaccuracies, which could shortchange customers, such as discrepancies between the posted shelf price and the price charged at the register,” an Agency of Agriculture press release says.

The Agriculture Agency’s Consumer Protection Section sends out investigators who check the accuracy of weights at stores that use them. They also look for price scanner violations. For the first violation, the agency issues an official notice. If trouble persists, the agency might issue a penalty and take other action.

“The Agency of Agriculture has levied increasing monetary penalties against Dollar General over the past four years,” said Kristin Haas, head of the Agriculture Agency’s Food Safety and Consumer Protection Division.

“We feel it’s important that consumers are aware of these inaccuracies, so they can take an active role in ensuring they’re charged accurately, by checking their receipts and paying close attention in the store.”

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