John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 05.17.04
Fool's Hollow, Quebec


Remembering an excellent lady

NEWPORT, VT | We said our brief formal farewell to Alice at the funeral home and adjourned to a lakeside restaurant to round out the forenoon.

What brought the five of us together was that Alice Copeland had been our homeroom teacher when we were high school seniors.

Everyone had a Miss Copeland story that day. She was smart, sharp, opinionated, demanding - in short, she was formidable.

And unforgettable.

Everyone remembered the clacking of her heels on the wooden floors of Newport High School: quot;Shh! Shh! She's coming, she's coming…"

The friend who spoke so warmly of Alice in the funeral home had been, over the years, her student, her rival in love, her colleague, and finally her close friend.

My Alice story took place about thirty years ago, at the annual NHS Alumni Association reunion.

I introduced myself to her and she said she remembered me and promptly demanded an accounting of my life since graduation some two decades previously.

The army, photography school, work in New York and Boston photo studios, journalist, United Press International, Vermont Press Bureau, college teacher, father of four sons…I summed up the years.

"And what are you doing now, John?"

"Living in a log cabin in Canada and raising pigs," I said.

Oh my, didn't she read me the riot act for not living up to my potential.

That's the way she saw it that evening, but over the years she softened her position.

Alice was very big on people performing to their highest potential, on aspiring to the stars.

She was born in 1917 and grew up on a family farm in Albany, Vermont. It was said that Alice owned but one pair of shoes when she attended the University of Vermont, from which she was graduated in 1939. Over the years she also studied at St. Lawrence University, Middlebury College, and in France under the auspices of the University of Iowa.

She could be a tough adversary, but also very generous.

Alice left everything she had - more than half a million dollars scrimped and saved over a lifetime - to a scholarship fund to help young women from the Northeast Kingdom get to university.

I reckon Alice would want them to be able to afford more than one pair of shoes.