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Middlebury Caretaker Steps Down After Years Of Service And Dedication
photo by providedYvon Pouliot pauses for a moment in a busy day on the job in Middlebury. His career spanned twenty-five years and impacted the lives of teens and the beauty of the town so many love.
photo by providedAlways time for one more flower bed and one more garden. For Yvon it was a labor of love.
Tuesday November 15, 2016
By Cookie Steponaitis
Yvon Pouliot was born in Derby, Vermont and grew up on a farm learning to love plants, nature and the soil, until third grade when his parents moved to a home in Newport near Lake Memphremagog. The fifth of seven children, Pouliot never remembers having nothing to do and with the land, woods and beauty of Lake Memphremagog as his playground and laboratory, there were always paths to take, chores to do and things to be learned. His parents insisted that each of the Pouliot children learn to garden and at around eight years old they were given a patch of their own to garden for the season. While Yvon is not quite sure if it was green peas that were his first plants in his own garden, he does remember that they were easy to grow and there was a huge satisfaction in growing some of the family’s food. Also, unique to growing up in that part of Vermont is living on a street where houses were literally on the border between the USA and Canada. There were these homes where the bedrooms were in the U.S. and the living room was north in Canada,” explained Yvon. “I remember these families could come and go into Canada and not have to stop at customs. Of course, they could do that just walking around the house.”
Pouliot graduated from North Country High School in 1974 and spent a year working in the area but found lack of work and possibilities. He moved out of the house while his parents were away on vacation, came to Middlebury to live with friends who had also moved down from Newport. He first worked at Ames where he met his wife, Melanie, and they were married in August of 1977. He moved back to Newport for a year to work with his father but work was scarce so the family headed back to Middlebury. He then started his own taping and painting business which lasted for many years.
Besides a passion for the outdoors and being active, the pair shared a love of hockey and one of Yvon’s longtime connections to the Town of Middlebury was born. Throughout the 1990’s Yvon and Melanie were involved and fixtures in the Middlebury Youth Hockey programs. Housed at the Memorial Sports Center, the Pouliots were coaches, fundraisers, workers and whatever else was needed for season after season of hockey. “We would start in October,” shared Yvon, “and would start misting water and setting up the boards. Depending on the weather and the winter, it could take days or weeks to bring the ice to the right texture. We would borrow huge barn fans and try almost anything to keep the ice at the necessary temperature.” With about 200 children a year in the program plus the others in the teams they played, Yvon and Melanie would watch the joy, the confidence and the youth make new friends while being active. “I was really pleased when we pulled in kids from other towns,” explained Yvon. “It was such a joy to see the kids grow and bloom. It made me feel like I did when I learned to skate all those years ago on ponds in Derby.”
It was decided in 1996 Yvon was just the man to keep the rink up when it was turned into artificial ice and added to those duties he served as the Facilities Supervisor for the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department which included tennis courts, pools, playgrounds, gardens and curb appeal of the town. When winter winds changed the scenery, it meant snow and cleaning of the old gym. Building two greenhouses to keep up with the need, Yvon could always be found working in the garden, keeping the baseball fields or working on the eighteen different gardens in the town for people to enjoy. Each garden spot and area cultivated reflected Ivan’s unique love of plants and color and often came to be made up of plants he selected after talking to people who stopped by. “I so enjoyed the people,” reminisced Pouliot. “They would stop by and ask about flowers or plants and they would always share ideas. I added a Bird of Paradise plant which I took from outside my son's apartment when he went to Loyola in New Orleans freshman year. Each winter I’d bring it in my home and each summer it grew bigger. I can’t count how many people questioned what it was.”
Working with hands, heart and years of skill, Yvon Pouliot served in this capacity until a change in his health brought about his retirement September 28th, 2016. Honored by the Middlebury Select Board at a recent meeting, Ivan looks at his career as a collection of wonderful memories. “One of the most special and biggest part of the Middlebury Recreation and Parks Program that many readers may know about is Camp Kookamunga,” concluded Pouliot. “Each year the camp does wonderful things for local children and they take them places, teach them to swim, share the outdoors with them and pass along that wonder of the natural world. It really is special.”
Special is perhaps the best word to use to describe Pouliot himself and as others take over the care of his beloved town, Pouliot has one last mystery he would like your help with. “There is this plant that appeared in one of the gardens in Cannon Park,” explained Yvon. “It has been there five years now and is very small still. It has leaves like clovers and pink flowers. We have looked in every flower and plant book and have exhausted ourselves trying to find it. If you put it there, please let me know what it is!”
The Valley Voice salutes Yvon and Melanie Pouliot for over twenty-five years of dedication to the programs and care of the Middlebury community. No matter the season or temperature they found ways to enhance lives beautify the area, keep facilities running and maintaining it all for the people who call this area home. It seems that the lessons learned in Derby have come home for Yvon and now his gardening will go back to smaller plots of land, just like his father taught him all those years ago.
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