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Tuesday July 11, 2006 Edition
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Francis Dupoise Family Patriarch Turns 86

Francis Dupoise and his son Steve share a moment at Steve’s County Tire located on Seymour Street in Middlebury.
photo by Cheryl White
Francis Dupoise and his son Steve share a moment at Steve’s County Tire located on Seymour Street in Middlebury.

Tuesday July 11, 2006

By Larry Johnson

    Francis Dupoise is living proof that a lack of formal education need not be a deterrent to great success. Determination, a desire to learn, and a high degree of native intelligence were instrumental in propelling Francis into a rich and rewarding career at Polymers Plastics that spanned 38 years.

Francis was born to Frank and Sophronia Dupoise on July 13, 1920. Francis’s father was a local trucker who delivered freight around the Middlebury area. In 1921 the family bought a dairy farm in Weybridge, where Francis and his brother David grew up. Francis worked on the farm, and occasionally worked for the town of Weybridge highway department until he got married and moved away. He also helped to cut cakes of ice at the dam in Weybridge. Upwards of a 1000 cakes a day were cut, loaded and sold for 2 to 3¢ a piece.The ice cakes were 12” to 18” thick and were blocked in two sizes 12” x 24” and 14” x 28”.    

During the war, Francis trained to be an aircraft spotter. The school lasted 5-6 weeks and once he was trained Francis became a night spotter at the Elmer Wright farm. His job was to identify an airplane, how many engines it had and the direction in which the plane was going. This was volunteer work.

In 1942 Francis and Helen Cyr were married. Francis told me that the two had met at a card party, a form of social entertainment that was popular in those days. After they were married, the couple moved to the Wales’ farm where Francis worked until 1946, when he was offered a job doing carpentry work for Guy Trombley of Forestdale.  

“I loved carpenter work,” Francis told me, “and I had every intention of doing that for the rest of my working life, but destiny had other plans changed that. We finished work on a house in the fall and that was the end of it. There was no more work that winter. I went to work for Polymer’s on the condition that I would only work for the winter and that when spring rolled around I would go back to carpentry. I was the second person that Al Drewes and Gil Shaw hired.” That spring was a very wet one and there was no carpentry work to go back to. So Francis stayed on with Polymers for the next 38 years.

“Both Al and Gil were great to work for,” Francis told me. “I actually got a terrific education by working for them. I learned how to do plumbing and electrical work along with a lot of other things. I grew with the company. There were 225 people working there when I retired in 1985.”

By the time he had retired, Francis was the plant-works manager and was responsible for the operation of the plant and everything in it. “I was on call 24 hours a day,” he told me.  Over the years he had been a multi-task person, participating in almost every job within the company. In the early years, when the company was growing by leaps and bounds, Francis had spent much of his time assembling the various plastic extruders that were the heart and soul of Polymers. Later on, when the company had outgrown its lean-to facility in the Marble Works and had moved to its present location on route 116, Francis’s responsibilities had grown exponentially.

When he first started working for Al Drewes and Gil Shaw, Francis had been a night shift extruder operator. “I worked the first winter on the night shift, 11 to 7, and then I went onto the swing-shift: three weeks on 11 to 7; three weeks 7 to 3; and the next three weeks 3 to 11. Eventually they put me on days assembling machinery; I liked that a lot. It was construction and I always enjoyed putting things together. Plus I spent most of my time working alone and that was okay with me.

“When we moved to 116, I became the plant supervisor. It took us 1 1/2 years to move all the equipment. First we had to fit the plumbing to the new plant and then we’d move the machine in and set it up. It was just one machine at a time.”

Polymers had always done one thing and done it well. “We extruded synthetic fibers for brooms, scrub brushes, cosmetic brushes and anything that required bristle. Later on, we got into Xmas tree fibers. That was a separate department entirely. In 1966 we put up a special building just for the Xmas tree fiber production. We had 54 extruders in that department and they worked seven days a week.”

Later in his career, Francis spent much of his time traveling throughout the country, buying extruder equipment and plastics. It was just another advanced degree in the do-it-yourself education that typifies Francis’s life. He left school after the eighth grade---at that time the town did not pay for tuition or books--- and Francis muses whether anyone with just an eighth grade education could even get a job today, not to mention the improbability of retiring at an executive level in a vibrant company of the status that Polymers eventually became.

Francis retired in August 1985, when Charlie Drewes, Al Drewes’ son was in charge. Today, Francis spends his summers  in New Haven at the home he and his wife Helen have lived in for the past 60 years, and spends his days at County Tire in Middlebury helping his son Steve. Francis and Helen spend their winters in Bonita Springs, Florida, where Francis volunteers his services, helping his many neighbors and friends, using the many skills he has developed over his long and productive life. On July 13th, Francis turns 86 years old. It is difficult for me to think of another life that has been so successful and so well- lived.   


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