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A Generous And Clever Man Sharing 105 Years Of Memories With Bill James
photo by providedSeen here at their 50th Anniversary, Bill and Mable James loved family and time spent together.
photo by providedMarried in 1945, the couple had 67 years together before Mable’s passing.
photo by providedAn avid history buff himself, Bill James was delighted to be asked to be a part of the Opening Ceremonies of the new Champlain Bridge.
photo by providedSo proud of his family, Bill James shared this photo of five generations. L-R( Bill, great-great granddaughter, great-granddaughter Kathryn, daughter Susan and granddaughter Stephanie.)
photo by providedNever one to miss a parade, this 2015 photo shows Bill James at his best with people and friends.
Tuesday August 16, 2016
By Cookie Steponaitis
Bill James absolutely loves people and life and at 105, he is active, a television celebrity and able to show off pictures of five generations in his family. He has been a member of Lincoln United church for eighty years, a Mason for seventy years, a member of Bristol Rotary for eighteen years, an active Bristol Rescue member for five years, a member of the Bristol Historical Society and a proud member of the CV Retirees Coffee Club and Old Farts Club for twenty year and twelve years respectively. It is a good thing that mathematics was Bill James’s favorite subject in school, because with a life that has already crossed the century line there are a lot of numbers to add up.
Bill James was born in Lincoln on July 5, 1911where the entire family lived and today has family in Vermont, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington. “During the divorce of my parents I went to live with my grandparents,” explained Bill. “We had seven or eight cows which we milked by hand. No electricity, no running water, no milking machines and no indoor plumbing. I guess by today’s standards you would call that living off the grid, but it was the way of most people in Lincoln at the time. We all were very poor and we knew it, but we didn’t go without. There were only two families with money in the area in the Great Depression and we were all in it together. My grandfather was the toughest man I ever knew. He farmed and would cut logs which were sold as stove wood in the fall months. He was ninety-eight when he died.”
While growing up on the family farm, James fell in love with horses and spent many a day plowing, cutting hay and hauling logs with the draft team. “We had one horse that was quiet and the other was high strung,” grinned James. “You can imagine the quiet one was my favorite, but both horses worked and worked hard for us. To this day, I still love horses.” James attended a one room school in West Lincoln and remembers memorization of key facts he would need in life like the times table, history facts and grinning at this reporter challenges her to quiz him. It was 1927 when electricity came to Lincoln and that was a turning point. “I was a teenager in ’27,” reminisced James. “I followed the electrician around and helped him. I kind of liked it. I was quick at learning by doing and trained to be an electrician. By 1936 I had been an electrician for a bit. One day I was working on a school house and a man from CVPS came to hook the building to the pole. He looked at my work and asked if I would like a job with CVPS and I went to work in Middlebury.”
James worked for CVPS over fifteen years as a lineman in Middlebury until 1955 and moved to Bristol as a district representative until he retired on January 1, 1974 with over thirty years of service total. James swears that the nicest people in the world must have worked for CVPS because they had him all over doing all kinds of things including line work, reading meters, caring for outages and supervising the power station in Bristol that was located across from where Rockdale Nursery is today. When James turned 100 CVPS threw him a birthday party with a twist. Since Bill’s career happened before the electric lift buckets on trucks, he climbed every pole he worked on. When he turned 100 they gave him a ride in the electronic lift bucket which ironically came into use six months after he retired.
1945 was a record year in American history and in the life of Bill James as well. He attended a dance in Monkton and met Mable Lucia who impressed him with her dancing and kindness. “We really hit it off,” recalled James. “Pretty much every weekend we were together going to a movie, seeing friends or going to a dance. On December 31st, 1945 we were married.” They were married sixty-three years before her passing in July 2009.Together the couple raised children Jim, Susan, Maureen and Beverly. The couple bought land in 1950 and built their home themselves with the help of a brother-in-law and what Bill James calls on the job learning and where he still lives today. “I did the electrical, plumbing, carpentry and worked on the house nights, weekends and vacation,” smiled James. “We moved in for good in November of 1953. You know what? We really had an unusually great life. We went on trips, family outings, dances, movies, camping, dinners out, boating and were happy just being together. While family is hard work it is an adventure you never want to trade for anything.”
Bill has five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild to his name, and is delighted with 105 and curious about 106. James, like several members of the Old Farts Club, has been featured in several commercials for the Heritage Auto Group filmed by Mount Mansfield Media. “Last Tuesday we were filming over at the Bristol Legion,” grins James. “Did you know we filmed the first one in a sand pit up in Colchester?” When asked what it entails to be a television commercial celebrity at 105, James simply lets out a hoot of laughter and remarks, “There are a few lines they want me to say, but mostly they just want me to smile and laugh a lot. I don’t have any trouble doing that.”
Sitting with his beloved cat Buddy, James patiently shows photographs of milestones in his life and family and friends. “This is a really great community,” shares James. “Mable and I were conservative and when she passed away I wanted to give some back to help people in the area. I grew up so very poor and I never forgot that people stuck with me. I just want to help.” Indeed, amongst the treasured photos is a plaque presented to James by the Bristol Historical Society for their new building on his 104th birthday, “A generous and a clever man whose heart was always with those in need. Thank you Bill!”
A generous man indeed, James still goes by the idea taught to him so long ago in the church in Lincoln. Respect everyone young and old and let each person walk their own path which was what James taught his own children at Sunday dinner and still what he lives by today. Trying to schedule a follow up visit to review the article is a bit daunting, because at 105 James has a schedule most fifty year olds would struggle to keep. He has appearances, visits, parties, dinners and enjoys the home cooked meals made and brought to him by his daughter every day. “For the most part,” concludes this generous man, “being 105 is a lot of fun.”
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