NORTH BENNINGTON -- By turns a fete and roast, speaker after speaker stood to praise the contributions of this year's Living History honoree during Sunday's event outside Powers Market.
Described as a good man, employer, friend, and board member, numerous speakers also attested to the modesty, perseverance, and humor of this year's honoree. "He would never seek this kind of praise," said Lisa Byer, executive director at Catamount Access Television.
Seated in an armchair in the shade beside wife Cora May, Bob Howe took the praise heaped on him with chagrin. "I never knew about myself before today," he replied toward the end.
"It's strange to hear all these things I didn't know."
"We're still working on a few projects that haven't been completed," said Howe, after hearing from friends, family, past employees, local figures, and many more personal and professional connections made through the years.
Unfinished projects for the man who, upon "retirement" in 2004, confided to David Monks his fear of becoming idle currently include a fountain for Lincoln Square, a municipal sewer connection for Paran Recreations, sustainability for WBTN-AM, and movable modular seating for the relocated Oldcastle Theatre Company.
Recently completed projects that Howe has had a hand in include the redesign of Paulin's in North Bennington and a foot bridge along the Robert Frost Trail.
"Bob's life is about getting involved," summed Tim Smith, a member of the Living History committee, which has chosen a local recipient in the community to honor each year annually since 2006.
Wife and fellow committee member Lisa Smith said the event reinforced just how much one person can contribute. But throughout the event, Howe's wife Cora May was recognized as the "great woman" behind the great man. "It's very much a team effort," said Rob Woolmington, underscoring that partnership.
"You can't have one without the other," said Jeanne McWaters, a past Living History recipient with her husband Rob.
Alisa Del Tufo, president of Paran Recreations, called the Howes' influence in the community "massive," albeit behind the scenes, and she coined a new term for the acronym BYOB: "Be Your Own Bob."
"The world would be a better place," she said.
"This is some day," remarked Cora May Howe after the couple's arrival to Lincoln Square, riding the Vermont Arts Exchange's Art Bus following a procession of marchers.
Speaking to the crowd, Cora May Howe complimented North Bennington as the "perfect place for us to find ourselves."
"What Bob is happiest doing is solving problems," she said. He "has a genius for getting to the bottom. ... Sometimes it's really annoying."
Former business partner David Kelso spoke of co-founding K&H Products Ltd. with Howe, when it was literally just "K and H" in a garage. Howe would continue to run the company until 2004. As a result, Kelso said North Bennington had the world's largest collection of "wooden cameras" -- mock-ups Howe made for miscellaneous PortaBrace cameras bags.
On display Sunday were examples of Howe's woodworking, largely on loan from the Vermont Arts Exchange, which included scale-sized models, wooden children's toys from the 1970s, and complete croquet sets. Perry called the work a "sampling of his skills, not only of his hands but his mind."
Chairman of the North Bennington Board of Trustees Matthew Patterson read a proclamation marking Aug. 12, 2012, Bob Howe Day in the village, while Bennington Select Board Vice-Chairwoman Sharyn Brush read a twin resolution signed by town officials July 23.
Local officials praise Bob
Bennington Rep. Brian Campion called the Living History event a special celebration that "should model what we should do in our daily lives, and that is thanking those around us."
Sunday's event was aired live on WBTN, and concluded with a cake to mark Howe's 80th birthday next month.
Previous Living History honoree Larry Powers began Sunday's event with a tour through history of the buildings surrounding Lincoln Square, and Powers himself received birthday wishes.
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