May 28, 2018

Everyday Gourmet (8/13/09)

Watermelon Waterloo

Aug. 13, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Everyone has a summer recipe they fully intend to try, and then — whamo! — the season is over before our good intentions become reality. Watermelon salad is one of those recipes for me. For a decade, I have been drooling over piles of juicy watermelon salad pictures just begging to be actualized. So last week, when I finally committed to making a trendy version of the recipe, I experienced a crushing defeat. I couldn’t believe how disappointed I was.

It’s entirely my fault. I chose a recipe that calls for the watermelon to be grilled. How crazy is that? Who wants a greasy, charred, dried out piece of melon when the fruit is perfection itself? Sometimes food fads and glossy images sneak-attack, sending my common sense right down the garbage disposal. So, after trying several variations, I did what I always do — I concocted my own simple recipe.

In this season of magnificent produce it’s easy to avoid cooking battles. First, don’t be seduced by a recipe if it sounds too complicated or inane (no matter how pretty the picture is.) Two, take a picture of your own simple creation; I guarantee it will thrill you, your family and friends. And finally, never, ever try for grill marks on something that’s 94 percent water.

Tomato, Melon and Mint Salad

Cut some ripe honeydew melon and watermelon into dice-sized cubes; set the cubes on a paper towel. The fruit should be handled gently and equal 2 to 3 cups. Slice 2 cups of red and yellow cherry tomatoes in half and sprinkle with kosher salt. Measure 4 handfuls of fresh arugula into a salad bowl. Add 2 handfuls of gently torn, fresh mint leaves. Toast 1/2 cup of shelled pistachio nuts in the toaster oven until fragrant.

Dressing: In a small jar combine 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar; add 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1 crushed garlic clove and pinches of salt and pepper. Shake well until creamy.

To serve: Pour dressing over greens and mix gently using clean hands. Portion each chilled plate with greens and top with a generous scattering of the fruits and nuts. Top with crumbled feta cheese and a grind of fresh pepper. Serves 4 main or 6 side salads.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to

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Little Details (8/13/09)

Relighting the candles of memory

Aug. 13, 2009

Katherine Bielawa Stamper

We were selected for special inspection. We weren’t at the airport or a U.S. border crossing. We were standing in line at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. I suggested to my daughter and her classmate that we were chosen because they were especially pretty girls.

“I agree that they’re pretty,” the security guard smiled as he explained how museum guests were randomly chosen for explosives inspections. He deftly ran a special test patch over my purse and said, “When people use explosives, there’s often a residue which remains on their clothing and hands.” He was quick in his task and bid us a pleasant visit to the museum.

Six days later, on a Wednesday morning, 88-year-old James W. von Brunn walked into the same museum with a rifle and shot dead one of the security guards. I looked at the newspaper photo of Stephen Johns, the deceased officer, and wondered could that have been “our” security guard, the one who treated us so kindly, even offering an instructional lesson to the girls? Von Brunn’s vile act of hatred reinforced why such museums need to exist.

The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre Museum has several columns positioned outside its entrance providing a strong visual and, seemingly, an added measure of security. My husband and I visited the museum on a recent rainy Friday afternoon. We entered and were greeted by a smiling, suited security guard.

We received free tickets to the museum when attending the play “Hana’s Suitcase” in Montreal about a year ago. The Geordie Theater presented the child-friendly performance based on the true story of Hana Brady, a young Jewish girl from Czechoslovakia who survived the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt but ultimately perished at Auschwitz. The play focused on what happened when a replica of Hana’s suitcase was sent to a school in Japan as an educative tool and the Japanese children set out to uncover Hana’s story.

We entered the glass doors and were introduced — via video — to Holocaust survivors from Germany, Hungary, Poland, Morocco and Greece who’d settled in Montreal. Surrounding exhibits featured elements of Jewish life, including an invitation to a wedding in pre-war Poland that I readily translated. A wedding dress, tickets to the theater and religious articles were among the precious remnants of a lost era on display.

Subsequent galleries depicted Jewish involvement in the art, academic and political life of the countries in which they resided. Video clips of the survivors we met in the first gallery continued with their reflections on family and community life before the war. We would come to know these people well by the end of our visit — perhaps the most compelling aspect of the museum.

The exhibit continued with the rise of National Socialism in Germany. Film footage of Adolf Hitler delivering speeches, adoring civilians raising their arms in salute to the Fuhrer and images of book burnings unsettled me. This, I thought, this blind obedience, led to the dehumanization and extermination of millions of Jews and, in smaller numbers, Roma, Slavs, homosexuals and others considered inferior.

I first visited Auschwitz, the concentration camp Germany established in occupied Poland, when I was 16. I walked past the crematoria and peered into the gas chambers where Zyclon B, a cyanide-based pesticide once poured forth, extricating life from men, women and children deemed pestilent. I looked at the mountains of shoes, suitcases emblazoned with names and addresses, and images of scared, emaciated prisoners. I mourned the approximately 1.1 million people who died there, the vast majority of whom were Jews. I thought of my Uncle Tomek, whose father, a leader in his village, was among the earliest batches of Polish political prisoners who perished behind the barbed wire.

It was exceedingly hard to wrap my teenage head around the enormity of the crime committed on that patch of solemn soil. I remember feeling sick to my stomach. My parents were intentional in taking my sister and me there. Visiting Auschwitz was a pilgrimage, a necessary emotional journey to try to grasp the horror and magnitude of the war, a war they experienced as children.

Poland is a beautiful country of mountains, medieval towns, castles, lakes and the sea. It’s a burgeoning democracy, emerging from decades of communism. It’s a country with thriving literary and art scenes and a sidewalk café culture rivaling anything I’ve seen in Western Europe. It is also, sadly, the place the Nazis chose to build their largest death camp.

I will soon visit Auschwitz again, this time with my teenage daughter. Will she “get it?” I expect she will. Our pilgrimage will find us walking in the footsteps of those whose candles were extinguished far too early.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at or

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Letters to the Editor (8/13/09)

Aug. 13, 2009

Never again

Never having read the “Liberally Speaking” column, I thought I’d check it out this week. MISTAKE. The adolescent, arrogant yammer didn’t surprise me a bit, but — yawn — exactly where was Steve Mount going with what he wrote?

I saw nothing in that column that would have remotely persuaded me the Democrats have a solid handle on reality. All the Hollywood glitter is wearing off and reality is hitting them square in the face. I honestly believe they don’t have an idea of what to do.

Sorry, Steve, but reading your column once is enough for me.

Kimberly Townsend, Williston

More tax increases

It is property tax time again, and again property taxes have increased over last year. When will it all end? Property values have plummeted considerably, people have lost their jobs and, in some cases, lost their homes.

However, there is a bright spot to all this tax increase: Teachers have received a 12 percent raise over the next three years. This equates to a 4 percent increase in pay per year. By coincidence, my property taxes have increased by 4.5 percent for the coming tax year. I assume the same will hold true for the next two years if spending is not under control. School administrators need to come up with a plan to fund the teachers’ raises without raising property taxes.

Education consumes a large portion of property taxes in Vermont and, as such, must be controlled to be affordable and efficient. Here are some interesting statistics from page 6 of the April/May 2009 “Vermont Property Owners Report:” The number of teaching assistants has increased by 40.9 percent; the number of teachers has increased by 14.8 percent; student to teacher ratio is somewhere around 12 to 15 students per teacher; full-time student enrollment has decreased by more than 8 percent.

Something is wrong with this picture. How could student enrollment decrease while teaching positions increase?

Teaching positions should be reduced, class size increased and teaching assistant positions eliminated to reflect student enrollment.

The answer, in my opinion, to pull Vermont and the nation out of this recession is to control spending at all levels of government and make Vermont an affordable place to live and do business. Lowering cost could result in lowering taxes. Putting a limit on how much taxes can be increased in a year would also have a positive effect on the Vermont economy by creating new business and jobs!

Doug Ferreira, Richmond


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Guest Column (8/13/09)

Green yourself, green the world

Aug. 13, 2009

By Christine Landon

Let’s transition ourselves from non-green to green, as we’re each the little carbon dioxide factories in the cap and trade model.

Locally, the Williston Green Initiatives Group of WING, a volunteer group of green-minded people with a variety of compelling green backgrounds, is conducting efforts to make the town a more environmentally friendly place.

Who are the current members? Come and find out. We meet on Wednesday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Annex.

What does WING do? If you didn’t know it, WING recently promoted recycling awareness at Williston’s ice cream social on July 3, serving products in compostable containers and pointing all in the direction of recycling instead of garbage.

Be sure to practice this at home and while shopping. Check your purchases for paper and disposable products to see if it is compostable — and then, compost!

Next month, a six-week course on green topics is planned. Sign up at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library — 12 spots are available to keep the discussion viable. More classes are planned for the future.

Next is a Button Up winter efficiency fair scheduled for Oct. 24, planned in conjunction with showing off the efficiency work being done at Town Hall.

A series of sustainability fairs are also scheduled, the first on Sept. 23. This is to focus on the topic of garbage, packaging and recycling awareness, hopefully in conjunction with the Chittenden Solid Waste District. We will ask all Williston residents to “voluntarily” attend. As such, three seminars are being considered for garbage, packaging and recycling awareness. The goal: One bag of non-compostable garbage a week, and minimizing recycling needs.

Of a more hands-on nature, WING is working on composting and gardens. One garden is planned for part of the new ball field being eyed near Allen Brook School. There are educational plans around the gardens and rain gardens envisioned, as well.

Additionally, we are endeavoring to apply, on a volunteer basis, for several Economic Recovery Act grants pertaining to green communities and production. The overall hope is to green the entire community in one fell swoop, even putting us on the Smart Grid, which uses energy- and cost-saving digital technology to supply energy, as a “Green Showcase Community.”

If there are any grant writers in town who would be able to volunteer for WING, it would be appreciated, as it does depend on the grants.

What can residents do at home? Make a Green List from the options below and then check off the items. Eventually, it will become second nature.

– Cut out one trip to the store a week; walk somewhere twice a week instead of driving; carpool once if you don’t already.

– Go to a farmers’ market once a month — and walk, car pool, ride a bike, or take the bus to get there).

– Start asking yourself, when you go to buy something, “why do I not need this?”

– Unplug the washer, dryer, television, stove (but not the fridge or freezer), computers, cell phone chargers, iPod chargers and stereos before leaving the house — every time. Efficiency Vermont is a good resource for methods and tools to make this easier. Or, hire a licensed electrician to put all of these on one or two kill switches that are wired to your front door panel; your last thought leaving the house should be, “Kill switch.” It will “kill” your electricity usage, and the bill.

– Replace all your light bulbs with compact fluorescents. The mercury you save by recycling the compact fluorescents and not using the electricity consumed with the regular bulbs (electricity generated by burning coal that can produce mercury) is far greater than any mercury that might accidentally be disposed of with a compact fluorescent. The compact fluorescents should always be recycled, and will pay for themselves. On a budget? Try replacing one to four bulbs a month from a “green change jar.” Make it a game.

– Finally, make a Green Calendar, and for each person in the home, a 10-year Green plan.

See you at the Town Annex on Wednesday!

Christine (Marie-Helene) Landon is a Williston resident and member of WING. She recently launched, a blog dedicated to the process of transitioning non-green folks to green.


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Around Town (8/13/09)

Aug. 13, 2009

Town conducts sewer test

The town of Williston will test sewer lines next week by using smoke to locate leaks.

The Public Works Department, with assistance of the Vermont Rural Water Association inspection crews, will conduct a survey in the following locations: North Williston Road, Lefebvre Lane, Fairway Drive, Hillcrest Lane, Tamarack Drive, Spruce Lane, Michael Lane, Ian Place, Gov. Chittenden Road, Mountain View Road, Pleasant Acres Drive and Jensen Road.

The survey will involve opening manholes, then blowing a non-toxic smoke through lines to locate breaks and defects. Officials said the tests will help the town reduce sewer system operating costs.

The smoke, which may be seen coming from vent stacks on buildings or holes in the ground, is non-toxic and creates no fire hazard, officials said. Smoke should not enter homes unless plumbing is defective or drain traps have dried up. Residents with seldom-used drains should pour water into the drain in advance of the testing dates outlined below.

Correction of leaks on private property is the responsibility of the owner. A licensed plumber should be consulted.

The survey should begin on Wednesday, Aug. 19 and will require three days for fieldwork. For questions or if you observe smoke in your home, call 878-1239 or 373-6004.

Business uses Facebook to benefit Lund

In an effort to support local community families, Williston-based Windows and Doors By Brownell will make a $1 donation to the Lund Family Center of Burlington for every Facebook fan it gets.

The Lund Family Center focuses on strengthening families, reducing child abuse and neglect and helping to create new families through adoption. Its mission is to help children thrive.

According to a press release, “Windows & Doors By Brownell is happy to assist Lund in achieving this goal and feels that strong families are the basis of a strong community.”

The Williston business will make donations for every Facebook fan it receives until Aug. 31 or until it raises $1,000.


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Lawyer wants confession tossed (8/13/09)

Says police violated mother’s rights when asking about abuse

Aug. 13, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A Williston woman who allegedly admitted to knowing that Mark Hulett molested her daughter several years ago is looking to have her confession thrown out and one of the charges against her dismissed.

William Norful, the woman’s lawyer, filed the requests last month as part of the ongoing case. The Observer is not revealing the 34-year-old woman’s name to protect her daughter’s identity.

In December 2008, prosecutors charged the woman with felony aggravated sexual assault on a child younger than 10 and aiding in the commission of a felony. If convicted, the mother faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, far more than Hulett’s sentence.

Hulett was sentenced in January 2006 to three years in prison for sexual assault.

Vermont law has changed since the conviction, and now states that accomplices in sexual assault crimes are to be held as accountable as perpetrators.

Prosecutors say the woman knew about and did not try to stop Hulett from sexually abusing her daughter. The abuse occurred repeatedly at the girl’s home when she was between the ages of 6 and 10.

In an interview with a therapist last summer, the daughter said her mother was aware of what was happening in the home, according to a police affidavit.

But Norful, the mother’s court appointed public defender, believes the woman’s rights were violated when investigators questioned her in November. Norful also argued that the statute of limitations on the sexual assault charge expired before the woman was formally charged.

According to court documents filed by Norful, the woman felt pressured by the police interrogation at her home in November 2008. He believes she was coerced into providing a confession because she believed she was in custody during the questioning.

“(The woman) was in the intimidating presence of two police officers, being reasonably interpreted as custody,” Norful wrote in the motion to dismiss the statements. “While in custody, (the woman) underwent an examination designed to illicit (sic) response (interrogation) without being advised of, nor knowingly and intelligently waiving, her Fifth Amendment constitutional right under the Miranda doctrine, with the examination taking place in a police dominated atmosphere …”

Prosecutors are fighting the defense’s motions to toss out the statement and the cruelty charge. In a response written by prosecutor Susan Hardin, the woman made the statement voluntarily and at no time was she in custody of the police when the statements were recorded.

According to Hardin’s court papers, officers told the woman she was under no obligation to answer any of their questions. It was during this questioning that the woman admitted to “suspecting, observing and ignoring” the sexual acts between Hulett and her daughter, Hardin wrote.

“Neither officer exerted pressure that would undermine the Defendant’s will to resist or compelled her to speak against her will,” Hardin wrote in the court documents.

The defense and prosecution are scheduled to sit down for a motion hearing on Aug. 28, but Norful requested a delay last week so he could assemble an expert on coerced interrogations to testify, according to court papers. As of press deadline, the motion hearing was still scheduled for the late August date.

Meanwhile, Hulett remains in custody after his prison term expired in January. According to Susan Shontelle-Smith, an administrative technician with the Vermont Department of Corrections, Hulett has not found appropriate housing. Convicted child sex offenders must find housing away from schools, playgrounds and other locations depending on ordinances in certain cities and towns.

According to Shontelle-Smith, Hulett has been moved from Southern State Correctional Center in Springfield to the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville, Ky. She said inmates are moved if space is needed at certain correctional facilities.


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Towns sidewalk projects gaining ground (8/13/09)

Segments slated for Mountain View, Vt. 2A

Aug. 13, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The town of Williston will soon construct a recreation path along Mountain View Road, a major milestone in stop-and-go efforts to build bike and pedestrian byways with bond funding approved five years ago.


    Image courtesy of the town of Williston
The map above shows sidewalks that have been proposed in Williston.

The segment, which will run about two-thirds of a mile from North Williston Road to Old Stage Road, has been put out to bid. Construction should start next month and be completed before the construction season ends in October, said Public Works Director Neil Boyden.

The work will move forward despite the fact that two property owners along the route have yet to grant easements for the path. Boyden said he was optimistic that those agreements will be struck before construction starts.

If not, he said, the portion of the path running along those properties  — 300 to 400 feet — will not be built but could be filled in at a later date.

Boyden declined to say who owns the property because publicity could stymie delicate negotiations. He said the owners are “concerned about encroachment on the privacy of their land and how it will affect their lifestyle,” the same issues raised by other landowners who have balked at providing easements in the past.

Indeed, the time-consuming process of getting easements, along with permitting issues, has slowed work on all three segments to be funded entirely by a $2.6 million bond issue approved by voters in 2004: North Williston Road, from U.S. 2 to Mountain View Road; Mountain View Road, from North Williston Road to Old Stage Road; and U.S. 2, from North Brownell Road to Taft Corners. Only the North Williston Road segment is finished, and only after the width of the path was scaled back to allay neighbors’ concerns.

On Mountain View Road, construction was initially delayed as a few homeowners in the Pleasant Acres neighborhood refused to provide easements. Those easements have now been obtained, Boyden said, but a couple of other property owners nearer to the Old Stage Road end of the project have yet to strike agreements with the town.

Other property owners, however, enthusiastically support the path.

“We told them to go for it,” said Scott Adams, co-owner of Adams Apple Orchard & Farm Market at the intersection of Mountain View and Old Stage roads.

He said the path would give customers — particularly children — a safe way to reach the business.

“A lot of people who have children who walk or bike to the store have been waiting anxiously for them to finalize the project,” Adams said, adding that another much-discussed sidewalk extension along Old Stage Road would complete the connection.

The town has received a $20,000 federal grant for permitting and design work on that sidewalk, which would run northward from Wildflower Circle. Boyden said once that is completed, the town will apply for another grant to actually build the sidewalk. He said there is only a “slim” chance the project will be completed in 2010 because of the long lead time involved with applying for and receiving grants.

Meanwhile, efforts continue to complete other sidewalks and recreation paths around Williston.

Construction is scheduled to begin next week on a 750-foot-long sidewalk running from Taft Corners Shopping Center to the East Orchid restaurant on Vermont 2A. The $68,000 project, funded through the town’s capital budget, fills in a gap along the busy thoroughfare, allowing pedestrians to walk from the shopping center to Zephyr Road and Knight Lane.

There are also plans to construct a recreation path along Vermont 2A between River Cove Road and James Brown Drive. The town received a $225,000 state grant for the project earlier this year, but work will be delayed until at least 2010 while the town awaits permits and easements.

When the Mountain View Road segment is completed, two bond-funded stretches will remain, one along U.S. 2 west of Blair Park and another on Vermont 2A from the Meadow Run subdivision to Zephyr Lane. The latter is to be partially funded by bonds, with the rest of the money coming from state or federal grants.

Still on the drawing board is a segment from James Brown Drive to the Winooski River Bridge.

The town’s goal is to eventually connect existing sidewalks along Vermont 2A and in other parts of town, allowing pedestrians, bicyclists and runners to traverse most parts of Williston.


[Read more…]

Couple celebrates 70th wedding anniversary (8/13/09)

Art and Loretta Benoit honor wedding vows

Aug. 13, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Art and Loretta Benoit offer no magic formula for making love last. Over a marriage spanning seven decades, they simply took their wedding vows seriously, particularly the promises to love and honor and stay together forever.


Art and Loretta Benoit, who wed on July 31, 1939 (left), reminisce about 70 years of marriage at their home on Monday (right).

The Williston couple recently celebrated their 70th anniversary, a remarkable milestone but particularly notable considering more than half of all marriages these days end in divorce.

Their six children, along with many of the eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, were on hand July 31 as the couple renewed their vows. Rev. Donald Ravey of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Williston conducted the ceremony at the couple’s home.

The Benoits credit strong family ties and clearly defined roles with providing a solid foundation for their marriage. And they always assumed the relationship was permanent.

“Today, couples will say, ‘Oh, I’m going to get a divorce,’” Loretta Benoit said. “I think the younger people don’t try to stick things out.”

Art Benoit was born 88 years ago in Chrysler, Ontario, a little town near the New York-Canadian border. His family moved to Vermont when he was 5 years old.

His parents, of French-Canadian descent, insisted their 15 children speak French at home. Benoit went to work on the family farm after he finished his sophomore year of high school, following the path of many children of the era.

“Our father was a good old farmer and he needed help,” he said. “If you were 16 years old, you were too old to go to school but just right for work.”

Benoit helped milk the herd of 50 cows without machinery. With arm outstretched, he displayed his oversized, gnarled hands, a trait he attributed to milking duties.

Loretta Benoit, 90, was born in Trois Rivières, Quebec. She was the only girl in a family with nine brothers, a big French-Canadian clan like her husband’s.

The family moved to Burlington when she was 4 years old. Her dad worked in a now long-defunct textile mill in the city’s Lakeside neighborhood. Her parents also spoke French at home.

Her mother died when Loretta Benoit was just 11 years old. After the death, Benoit lived with an aunt and in an orphanage.

The families were linked when one of Art Benoit’s sisters married one of Loretta’s cousins. During family gatherings, the couple-to-be met and became friends.

After all these years, their memories are fuzzy about how their relationship turned romantic. Nor do they remember the details of their first date.

But they do recall liking each other from the start. Then both in their late teens, they dated for a couple of years, sometimes going to drive-in movies on Friday nights.

Loretta Benoit said she was painfully shy at the time, but she found it easy to talk with his family members. Art Benoit said his mother “took to Loretta right quick. As long as she spoke French, I don’t think she could do any wrong.”

The couple married on July 31, 1939. The ceremony was held at St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church in Shelburne because other nearby churches were not large enough to accommodate both families. Art Benoit said about 200 people attended the ceremony.

The newlyweds bought a farm in Hinesburg and settled into a traditional family life.

Art Benoit was the breadwinner, initially earning money as a farmer, then as a trucker transporting bales of hay back and forth across the Canadian border. In later years, he bought and sold real estate.

His wife, meanwhile, was a stay-at-home mom. She had six children in an eight-year period early in their marriage.

In 1958, the couple bought a farm off East Hill Road in Williston. They still live in the rambling white farmhouse on that land.

Asked why their marriage lasted a lifetime when so many others crumble after a few years, the Benoits said they always try to remain civil, even when they argue.

They didn’t mention it as a factor, but during an interview at their home the couple’s good humor seemed like an integral part of their relationship.

“I wait on him hand and foot,” Loretta Benoit said as she described their relationship.

“And I let her,” her husband retorted. They both laughed.

The couple said their own parents set a good example of how to get along. Neither could recall any serious arguments during their upbringing.

That tradition of even-keel marriages seems to have been passed down to Art and Loretta Benoit and then carried on by their own children, four of whom have been married 40 or more years.

“All couples bicker,” said Rita Benoit, one of the two children who are single. “They have disagreements, too, but they work them out.”

She said her parents’ Catholic upbringing came with the assumption that they would remain married no matter what, an idea seconded by her brother, Bill Benoit.

“I believe that they really believe that they were meant to stay together,” he said. “I don’t believe it ever crossed their mind to leave the marriage.”

Rita Benoit said people of her parents’ generation had fewer options than today’s dual-career couples, who are more likely to break up when the relationship hits a rocky patch.

“I think people from my parents’ generation were much more dependent on each other than they are today,” she said. “People look today and say, ‘I do have other choices.’”

Eldest son Roland Benoit has been married 49 years. He and his wife, Sheila, will celebrate their golden anniversary next month.

He attributes both his own and his parents’ marital longevity to hard work, trust and “good moral values.”

“It’s actually pretty simple,” he said. “You make an agreement and you have to work at it. If you don’t, it doesn’t work.”


[Read more…]

Fishing for aquatic knowledge of the Allen Brook (8/13/09)

Crews work to return waterway to natural state

Aug. 13, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Waders on, buckets ready and nets in hand, four young crewmembers from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps stepped into the Allen Brook on Monday morning. Their job was to help state and town workers determine the number of fish inhabiting the impaired stream that runs through Williston.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Department of Conservation workers Jim Deschler (left) and Rich Langdon wear generator packs, which provide the electricity that temporarily stuns fish for survey purposes.

Equipped with generators mounted on their backs, Rich Langdon and Jim Deschler from Vermont’s Department of Conservation placed long electric rods into the stream. They administered quick doses of electricity through the water, temporarily stunning any nearby fish in the Allen Brook. As fish floated to the surface, the VYCC crewmembers scooped the creatures into buckets.

“We’re going to miss some, so don’t be too concerned about it,” Langdon told the workers, who waded behind him collecting immobile fish.

“Mine’s still alive,” crewmember Hannah Gill cried out as she plucked a tiny minnow, flopping back into consciousness, from the Allen Brook.

“They should all be still alive,” Langdon replied.

After slowly walking the stream and collecting specimens of various fish, Langdon and his young researchers counted, then released their catch.

The work was part of an ongoing Allen Brook restoration project. Williston’s Environmental Planner Jessica Andreoletti, who has organized much of the Allen Brook restoration project, said the goal is to return the stream to the way it was before farmers began transforming the land 300 years ago.

Other projects along the brook have included tree plantings and riverbank restoration. In the spring, Williston Central School students in Tad Dippel’s science class helped the town by planting trees along the stream behind the Williston Fire Station — the same stretch of river where Monday’s fish count took place.

Further plantings and restoration work will continue for the next week and a half while VYCC crew members are in town. Members of the crew were looking forward to working in Williston after finishing two weeks restoring trails at the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, crew leader Brent Sawyer said. Planting trees and restoring rivers will be a different and varied challenge, he said.

“We’re excited about switching it up,” Sawyer said. “This a real productive group.”

During Monday’s fish count, Langdon, Deschler and the VYCC crew counted nine species of minnows, suckers and dace. Most of the fish collected came in at fewer than 6 inches in length. Andreoletti said she’d like to see a few larger fish species in the Allen Brook, and hopes that through further restoration work, they might return.

“The goal is to restore the river to what it used to be, but there’s no documentation that it was ever a trout stream,” Andreoletti said.

Before Vermont farmers began transforming the land for agriculture in the 1700s, the Allen Brook was a quiet and meandering stream banked by large willows and maple trees. As farms dominated Williston, farmers removed the trees for fields and straightened the Allen Brook’s path. The changes led to less shade for aquatic species, faster flowing water during rainstorms and, consequently, huge amounts of erosion, Andreoletti said.

Along a section of the Allen Brook adjacent to the Southridge neighborhood, stream restoration has already begun. Town crews removed large amounts of dirt, transforming a steep riverbank into a sloping one. Andreoletti said the work kept an untold amount of sediment out of the stream and will also allow the brook to create a more meandering course.

Later this week, VYCC crews will begin planting willow and red maple trees along the bank, which Andreoletti said are long-term “Band-Aids” for the Allen Brook. In the short term, the VYCC will install revetments along the banks to curb further erosion.

The fixes will go a long way toward creating natural shade for the Allen Brook, which will in turn cool the water. Thirty or 40 years from now, some of the planted trees will die off and fall into the stream, creating pools for wildlife.

As the Allen Brook returns to its natural state, larger fish may return and a more diverse habitat may take hold. Projects like Monday’s fish count will help town and state conservation workers understand the future of the Allen Brook, said Andreoletti.

“The whole river is the responsibility of Williston,” Andreoletti told the VYCC crewmembers Monday. “The work we’re going to do is going to make a huge difference.”


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Williston All-Stars


    Courtesy photo by Tim O’Brien
Williston Little League All-Star Christopher O’Brien takes off from second base while Zach Roy leaves first and first base coach Colton Layman watches a blast from Sam Mikell. The Williston team was playing Burlington American on July 25. See story below.

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