Mary Newton worked hard for many years - 40 is what they say - at Lackey's Variety Store in Stowe. She wouldn't hear of taking a day off to get away with her husband Bernie until late October, when those coming to Stowe to see all things country-cute had come and gone.
Mary never missed work because of sickness to my knowledge. She viewed sickness as something that, akin to tourists, would eventually be gone if you stayed the course.
Mary's ability to speak the truth, at all times, was exceptional.
"Hey Mary, the new street lights in the village? I don't think we need em, do you?"
"Well course, I don't know - really, I mean," she'd reply, not offending your opinion.
"But Mary, I've lived here for 40 years and I have yet to get lost on Main Street. We don't need 'em."
Mary would say: "Well, I guess I see your point there. Yah. Course it iz hard ta get lost on Main Street."
Mary was socially gifted, because if for some reason you had cause to question your own thinking - "But then again Mary, I'm surprised how good the street lights look, and, well, these days folks like to feel more safe" - Mary would ride the swell: "Well, yah, I mean, course that's true, too."
I'd rarely pass up an opportunity to stop by the house to see Mary, Bernard, and their son Russ.
A solid knock on the door would elicit a chime from Mary - "Come in!" - and I'd step through the doorway and see her rocking, in her chair, head back turned toward me, and smiling. "Just leave your shoes on Rusty, that's alright," she'd say.
As I'd be getting settled on the living room couch, Mary would do something that is one of the most respectful things one can do for a guest: She'd reach for the remote and shut off the T.V. For that move alone, Mary deserved the U.S. Medal of Freedom.
Me and the fellers would chattle on about this and that, and Mary would hang in there for about 20 minutes, fitting in a few, "How's ma and pa?" questions; then she'd get up to do some house cleaning or laundering.
Mary Newton was always in motion.
The moment Lackey's was free of customers, she'd bolt from behind the counter, grab a rag, and get to dusting.
Ole Frank and Ann Lackey never lost a second of sleep worrying whether or not their payroll investment was being wasted on Mary Newton. She was a true "day's pay for a day's work" kinda gal.
Mary is also remembered for her perpetual walking.
If someone was new to town, and you needed to reference Mary, you'd need only say: "You know the women you see walking...?" for them to know exactly whom you meant. And if there was a severe cold snap (Mary loved the cold) - blizzard, sleet storm, hail shower, or downpour - you'd be wasting your time offering her a ride; she'd keep walking and wave her arm while she shouted through your window, "No, I'm alright, thank you."
Mary Newton will be remembered for her years at Lackey's, her honesty, her good humor, work ethic, her nearly 60-year marriage to Bernie, and her kids and grandchildren.
I'll forever remember Mary for how she greeted me with a sing-songy "Well hellllooo, Russ!" and for the times she put my presence above television.
I'll also remember a conversation I overheard one January day at the local coffee shop.
"Dan, it's cold out there ain't it? What is it, 15 or 20 below?"
"I don't know how much below zero it is," Dan replied. "But I can tell ya what - it's so cold today, Mary Newton took a ride."
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com