By Kim Howard
Bev Thomas came across the old newspaper while packing up her Williston home of 33 years. The real estate section from 1973 showed a picture of her North Williston home, with an asking price of $43,500.
How times have changed. And not just monetarily.
Decades ago, the North Williston Road outside the Thomas family home became the location for Saturday night “kick the can” games; but they didn’t have to worry about cars coming by. Sundays they played soccer on the field that now houses the Pleasant Acres development.
The post office was in the small building currently occupied by the fire department on the village green. The first time Bev went to get her mail, she said, “I walked through the door and they knew who I was. It blew me away.”
After 33 years on North Williston Road, Beverly and her husband of 26 years, Dick Thomas, are moving to Plainfield. A house came up for sale there across the street from one of their 10 children – they have a blended family from previous marriages, Beverly said – and the couple decided it was time to downsize.
Sitting in their nearly empty home last week, the movers long gone, Bev and Dick said they’ll miss the relationships they’ve built. Given the years of service the pair have contributed to the town, it is clear many in Williston also will miss them.
“Bev has done so much,” said Jill Coffrin, youth services librarian at Dorothy Alling Library. “She has really been committed to serving the families of not only Williston but also St. George.”
Bev’s early volunteer work in Williston began as a scout leader and as a coordinator of a parent-teacher organization ski and winter equipment sale. But it was her professional work as a preschool special education teacher that made her decide she wanted a way to stay connected to young families in the community.
Upon her retirement over six years ago, Bev became coordinator of the Williston Early Childhood Connection. She ran the Mother Goose Early Literacy program through the Vermont Center for the Book. The program introduces parents to books appropriate for the age of their children and gives them free books to take home to share with their children. Bev also organized and coordinated a group for first-time parents to share their struggles and how to overcome them. A baby welcoming program and a program to share books with home-based childcare centers also were part of Bev’s volunteer responsibilities.
Williston resident Karen Allen first met Bev when her oldest son, Ryan, now 12, was enrolled in the Early Essential Education preschool program. She crossed paths with Bev again when Bev brought welcome baby program gifts after her middle and youngest sons were born.
“She’s very thoughtful and kind, and very compassionate and caring,” Allen said. “She just loves children.”
Dick Thomas’ contributions to town life began in the mid 1980s, he said, when the Pleasant Acres development was proposed. Dick, an attorney, joined the Planning Commission and not long thereafter was asked to fill in on the Selectboard. He then ran for a one-year and later a three-year term, seeing Williston through its second town plan. A proposal for the Pyramid Mall that never came to fruition – its proposed size was larger than University Mall in South Burlington – was a big topic of discussion during his tenure.
“I guess for close to two years we spent what must have been 10 hours a week with either a zoning-type meeting or a regular Selectboard-type meeting,” he said. In recent years, while running his law office from home, he’s served on the Interfaith Affordable Housing Task Force as well as a town committee addressing a recreation path proposed for North Williston Road.
Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden said Dick’s personality is “low key but to the point” and that Dick is a hard worker.
“He brought a wealth of experience,” Boyden said. “I always felt that he brought a lot of concern and passion for the environmental issues.”
With only a corner of houseplants left to pack up before closing the door on their home of so many years, the Thomases plan to maintain the connections they value.
“We’ll still be in touch,” Bev said. “That’s not going to end.”