NORTH BENNINGTON -- A celebration of history in the making, this year’s North Bennington Living History honoree is Robert Howe, whose contributions will be marked Aug. 12 at a ceremony on the green in front of Powers Market.
"I’ll survive it, I suppose," quipped Howe, who said he wasn’t sure what to expect, speaking in advance of the approaching event. But he said he has begun to notice posters with his photo around town.
Speaking to his varied pursuits, "It’s all just part of having fun in life ... especially as I get older," Howe said. "I just get involved."
Born in Troy, N.Y., this year’s Living History honoree moved to Bennington in 1953 with wife, Cora May. "They’re both really a team," said Matthew Perry, director of the Vermont Arts Exchange.
Through the years Howe taught at the local high school, was involved with the construction of Mount Anthony Union High, and ran the company K&H Products Ltd. (makers of PortaBrace camera bags) for 32 years. He has been involved in a range of organizations, owning WBTN-AM during the beginning of its transition from commercial to nonprofit radio.
That radio station will be broadcasting live during the 7th annual North Bennington Living History Day on Sunday, Aug. 12. The event runs from noon to 2 p.m. and is slated to include music and food, speakers and a proclamation marking the day in recognition of Howe.
The annual event began as a way to preserve local history, with a seven-member committee determining each year’s honoree. "We knew people were doing a lot of things behind the scenes and not being recognized for it," said committee member Lisa Smith.
Recent honorees have included Robert Matteson and Oakley Frost. And while there is no age requirement, Smith said the recognition is often timely considering each recipients’ longevity in the community.
Howe will be turning 80 this Sept. 3. "It catches up to you," he said.
Breadth of involvement
Smith said the deciding factor for Howe’s selection was the breadth of his involvement. "I have two pages of contributions," she said, too lengthy to list verbatim.
"Bob Howe came up this year because every time we turned around, he was president or vice president of every function," Smith said.
"I first got to know him as a community supporter, but also as an artist and a woodworker and a teacher," said Perry, who credited Howe for his continuing tenure as VAE board president, and for his work designing and fabricating the interior of the art exchange’s Art Bus.
Howe’s involvement continues at WBTN, the Fund for North Bennington, and Paran Recreations, to name a few, but he said his biggest project at the moment involves designing the portable seating that will be used at Oldcastle Theatre Company, which is in the midst of a move to downtown Bennington.
"It’s a lot of work, (but) I think it will be great for the theater company and the downtown," Howe said, adding he would like to see the relocated theater cater to a wider community audience, including younger generations.
"Bob has a good sense of the opportunity that lies in the community," said Perry. "How can people get together and work together ... (That’s) something he’s looking for, and something he’s done well."
Organizers said they expect a good crowd for the event. More than 100 attended last year’s fete of Matteson, Smith said, despite inopportune scheduling on Aug. 28 -- the day Tropical Storm Irene moved through the area. (The event was moved inside to the arts exchange.)
Bob Howe Day will be Saturday, Aug. 12, with the event in North Bennington scheduled to take place beginning at noon in front of Powers Market. T-shirts and DVDs, including recordings of past events, are on sale with the proceeds supporting Living History Day.
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