Vermonters By Choice is an occasional column about people who, like Ethan Allen, came to Vermont from away.
Every year, the Select Board of my town nominates a person or persons to be honored with the dedication in the Town Report. This year they chose Laura and Fred Bacon, and they asked me to write the profile. Few writing assignments have ever given me so much pleasure.
“I love to build and Laura loves to garden,” is how Fred Bacon explains how he and Laura chose to site their house at the east end of a pasture that a town history once described as part of “the best farm in Newfane.” Tucked under the road and above the Rock River, their center-chimney cape features Fred-built cabinetry and overlooks Laura’s extensive garden, a good portion of which is devoted to garlic. While they abandoned their initial plan to sell organic vegetables, Fred remains something of a garlic evangelist, providing seed cloves and growing advice to countless friends, neighbors and acquaintances in Newfane and beyond.
Instead of selling surplus produce, Laura and Fred grow enough to feed themselves through the winter by putting food by. Fred, whose career included time-motion analysis in industry, puts up fifty-two quarts of tomato sauce, one for every Wednesday night of the year. Fred is also the household baker and cider-maker, while Laura grows the tomatoes and everything else, which she freezes, including a cache of zucchini bread (both plain and chocolate) that makes only a brief appearance at community potlucks before it disappears.
Off the farm, both Laura and Fred have served our community, Fred as a member of the Select Board and a Justice of the Peace; Laura on the Old Cemetery Committee that visited and inventoried the town’s antique cemeteries, and she’s been a moving force behind Newfane’s annual Green Up! for years and years. Laura and Fred also have a deep interest in family history; they have traveled around the state digging up their respective families’ genealogical roots dating back to the earliest days of Vermont’s European period.
Laura has taken her interest in history further, to the tremendous benefit of the town. She helped launch Newfane Remembers, a series of historical essays about people and places based on extensive research and interviews with long-time residents. While Castle Freeman wrote the essays, he says, “Laura did all the work!”
As an active member of the Historical Society of Windham County (and current president), Laura has brought both innovative ideas and enormous energy to preserving Newfane’s historical heritage, from organizing the bi-annual Windham County History Expo to spearheading the purchase, fundraising and preservation of the West River Railroad’s depot in Newfane, now part of the HSWC Museum. She plans to preserve the nearby wooden water tank next.
While Laura is out preserving history, Fred is out making it as one of the leading lights of Local Voices, a soiree for local writers that has been meeting monthly at the Moore Free Library since 2009. “Fred’s the anchor,” says participant Bruce Hesselbach. “I don’t think the group would continue without him. Fred keeps it going.”
Fred’s wry poems, anecdotes, and short stories reveal closely observed human behavior with compassion and humor. In addition to reciting his works at the annual Williamsville Talent Show, he has a published collection, Chipmunk Chicken.
More than any number of accomplishments or civic engagement, however, what makes Laura and Fred beloved members of our community is the cheerful assumption of good will with which they greet all who cross their path.
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