Archive - Nov 10, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — The Ripton United Methodist Church (RUMC) is a quiet place these days, but its worship hall still echoes with the roar of fiery sermons, the gentle sobs of mourners and the euphoric cheers of wedding parties.
The venerable wooden building off Route 125 in Ripton village has seen its share of history. The tiny Confederate submarine Hunley torpedoed the USS Housatonic during the Civil War as workers were painstakingly completing work on the Ripton church in early 1864. The International Red Cross was founded during that same year in Geneva, Switzerland.
Unfortunately, the passage of time has also left its mark on the church, in the form of a shifting foundation, a leaky roof and porous windows. The last substantial repairs to the building were spearheaded more than a half-century ago by none other than poet laureate Robert Frost.
“In the meantime, the interior and exterior of the church have been painted once; it has not had a great deal of care,” said Charles Billings, one of six generations of his family who have attended services at the church throughout the years.
He knows his ancestors would be pleased to see the church building preserved. His great-aunt, the late Eunice Billings, was a parishioner. Eunice Billings rented a room to Robert Frost at a time when Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus could not accommodate him. When Eunice’s husband, Homer Noble, died, she sold that home to Frost. It was in Eunice Billings Noble’s name that Frost set up a fund to make repairs to the church back in the 1950s.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
CORNWALL — In 28 years leading the Middlebury College football program, retired Panther head coach Mickey Heinecken’s teams won 126 games.
But none of those victories may have meant as much to the 69-year-old Cornwall resident as did Democratic President-elect Barack Obama’s surge to victory on Election Day.
Heinecken spent a month living in his camper in Berlin, N.H., as a volunteer for the Obama campaign, knocking on doors and seeking votes on Nov. 4.
Heinecken had never volunteered for a campaign before, but had been impressed with Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and decided to support him during the primary season.
“There’s such a sense of optimism that’s been missing in the country,” Heinecken said, back in Addison County late last week. “All of those things aren’t going to happen, but the tone that he set is so different than that we’ve lived with the last eight years that I became a believer.
“I’m retired, and my life revolves around stuff that isn’t important at all, and there was really no reason not to,” Heinecken continued. “And I had a neighbor (Bill Mandigo, the Middlebury College women’s hockey coach and his former football assistant) that said to me a while back that if you feel it’s so important, get off your fanny and do something … And he was right.”
Heinecken said he had also seen “ill will” toward America when traveling abroad with his wife, Carol.
“People were always nice to us, and I think they liked Americans, but ... after 9-11 people would have given us the shirt off their backs they had such empathy for us, and now to be seen in such an ill light was so frustrating,” he said.
By POOJA SHAHANI
SHOREHAM — Rita Davis, 73-year-old cousin of deceased Army sergeant Richard Desautels, will always remember her cousin as a lively and vibrant young boy.
“He was full of energy,” recalled Davis, who was only 14 years old when Desautels left their native Shoreham for a tour in the U.S. Army in the Korean War. “His family had this small tractor and he’d come down the hill. He would push the clutch in and come tearing down that hill with the dog right behind him. I remember my stepfather having a royal fit.
“He was just being a boy. That was Richard.”
Desautels enlisted as a soldier in the Army when he was 17 years old. In late December 1951, the family found out that Desautels had been taken as a prisoner of war to China. The family hung their hopes on the possibility that Richard would be returned in a prisoner-of-war exchange.
“I can remember his parents were coming to the house because they were going to announce the names on television of the POWs coming to be exchanged. His name was on there. Then when they exchanged them, he didn’t come back,” Davis remembered.
For decades, the Desautels family waited for some information about their missing son. Then, in May 2003, Desautels’ elder brother, Rolland, received a summary from the Pentagon of what a Chinese army official had related about the case. The report acknowledged that Desautels had been a prisoner of war in China and it said he had become mentally ill on April 22, 1953, and died a few days later.
Rolland Desautels sent this report to a POW/MIA advocacy group The National Alliance of Families for further investigation. However, this information was kept a secret from the general public because the Desautels did not believe the authenticity of the report from the Chinese officials.