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Sharing Memories with Lenore Shewell 91

Lenore Shewell
photo by Marcie Bolton
Lenore Shewell

Tuesday April 3, 2012

By Marcie Bolton

For a woman of 91 years, Lenore Shewell walks quite upright.  At an age when many do not get around too easily, Lenore is up, shoulders back and eyes bright.  She puts on a bit of blush and mascara and perhaps a bit of shadow every day.  Her fingernails are beautifully manicured.  She drives to buy her own groceries and emails her family and friends.   

Sitting in her apartment, it is alive with plants; spiders and jades.  She has a bright red, very healthy poinsettia.  Depending on how well it is cared for may stay in bloom for up to six months.  But that is unusual. Most poinsettias will last for 4 to 6 weeks before the bracts fall off.  Lenore learned about plants from her father who was a master gardener and emigrated to Canada from England when he was 16.  Eventually he worked his way down to Vermont where he settled and worked as a gardener on the Rublee Farm in Enosburg Falls.  Her father was one of her favorite people and she carries on his memory in her beautiful plants.  Her mom was a LaFountain and one of 14 children from St. Albans, Vermont.  Lenore remembers fondly visiting her grandparents in St. A often and always having a cousin or two to play with.  
Besides the plants, her home is adorned with stuffed animals given to her from loved ones.  As we talked, a musical teddy bear sounded off. This reminded Lenore of her husband Ernie who passed away a few years ago.  She proudly hangs a photo of them as a younger couple on her wall.  She misses him.

Lenore was born in 1921 in Enosburg Falls, Vermont and graduated high school in 1939. “Enosburg Falls was ok when I was young, but when I graduated from high school, there were no jobs and it was kind of boring so I followed my two older sisters Betty and Grace to Connecticut.”  There, she worked at the Hartford Insurance Company and would had fun going out to dances with her sisters and their social group.  I can picture them doing the jitterbug or visiting a hall and listening to big band music.  They also loved going to the movies and watched Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers who were Lenore’s favorites.    

A few years later after playing and working, Lenore got restless and decided to help the war effort.  She joined the Marine Corps in 1944 and was stationed in Cherry Point, North Carolina.  In 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States knew it had to increase troops and began recruiting around the country.  Thousands of men joined up and the women were needed to join the war effort as well.  The Marine Corps developed the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve in 1943.  While at first women were not overly welcome in the military, they were most definitely needed, and much of the unease was quieted for a while.  Lenore was in the marines for two and a half years.  After serving her country Lenore moved to Burlington, Vermont to attend the Burlington Business College (now Champlain College) and studied secretarial skills.  While she was attending school she met fellow student and her husband Ernie Shewell.  Soon after they wed, they both decided to move on with their married life and moved to Bennington and started a family.  Lenore says, “We had one daughter and then we threw away the pattern.”    

After a while she and Ernie moved to Connecticut and then back to Vermont in 1979.  They settled in Middlebury and stayed.  I asked Lenore what she liked best about Middlebury and she said “Well not the snow!  I like the people.  Everywhere you go people are friendly.”  Today, Lenore loves spending time with her best friend Agnes.  She thrives on being with others and chatting to people as she does her errands around town.  One of her favorite times in her life was recently when she volunteered in Shelly Hudson’s elementary school classroom and Mary Hogan School.  The kids were so excited when she came in and always greeted her warmly.  They had such enthusiasm for the littlest things.  Lenore loved working with the kids.  Since Ms. Hudson’s retirement, Lenore retired from the classroom as well.  She thoroughly recommends volunteering in the school system.    

If Lenore were to give a bit of advice to people today, she would tell parents to never spank their children, but work to teach them to mind adults.  She also would tell high school students to work hard and earn a degree or learn a skill.  If college is not your thing and you want to work with your hands, Lenore believes it is solid and honorable to learn a trade after high school.  Thank you Lenore, for sharing some memories.

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