POWNAL -- For the second time in three years the Pownal Select Board has lost a sitting member.
Dale E. Palmer Sr., 65, of Washing Brook Road, died Friday of a heart attack he suffered while shoveling snow outside his home. Palmer was appointed the board in 2011 to fill a seat left vacant by Don Prouty, who also died while holding office. Palmer was voted in the following March to fill out Prouty's term, and he ran successfully for a three-year seat in 2013.
The board will have to appoint a person to replace him after elections this March.
His widow, Betty Palmer, along with friends and family, was busy Tuesday making funeral arrangements at the home the couple had lived in together for some 41 years. On the kitchen table a board had been laid out featuring dozens of photographs. They showed Dale Palmer sitting in his chair with one of his beloved dogs, him in his Army uniform, and playing in a sandbox with his sons.
Betty Palmer, formerly Kelley, met her future husband on a blind date in Bennington. She was working at Putnam Memorial Hospital (now Southwestern Vermont Medical Center) in a "med/surg" unit. She and Palmer's first outing involved sledding at Sucker Pond.
He had enlisted in the Army after graduating high school, but because his father suffered a heart attack he was allowed to postpone his deployment. He was sent to Germany for three years and carried on a long-term relationship with the girl he'd gone sledding with, then married her not long after his return.
They lived on Main Street in Bennington for a little while before deciding apartment life was not for them. They found a home they liked at the bottom of Middle Pownal Road and never left.
"It was far enough out so we could have some privacy and not worry about people sneezing on the windows, so to speak," Betty Palmer said.
The house allowed Dale Palmer some space to develop his woodworking hobby.
"This probably sounds silly, but he made me a toilet paper holder for the bathroom, and made me a book case that sits by my chair in the sun room. He made the flower boxes that we needed for his mom and dad and grandfather for the cemetery," Betty Palmer said. "We sat down and figured out what we wanted, and he built it. Little things, you know? He repaired and glued furniture. Nothing big and bad, but you know, important things."
His sons were active in sports, and their father attended all of their games making it a point to cheer for not only them but their friends from the sidelines. The kids played basketball, and baseball, and their taking up soccer led Dale Palmer to become an avid fan of the sport. He and his wife eventually started a snack bar providing candy and coffee to players and their parents.
His second son, Roy Palmer, said his father was like a second parent to many other boys in the neighborhood. "You might say he had more than three sons in some respects. He was very tight with his sons' friends."
"He would gather in with their shenanigans sometimes," said Betty Palmer. "He wanted to be one of the boys."
Roy Palmer said he and his brothers heard many of their father's jokes repeated over and over again, for they were told to each of their friends in turn.
Dale Palmer's other hobby was genealogy. He traced his family tree back to the 1600s, learning that his ancestors were from England and had come to the American colonies not on the Mayflower, but the ship that followed it.
It was at his wife's suggestion that he ask to be appointed to the board following Prouty's death. Betty Palmer said the family was friendly with Prouty and grieved his passing. "He learned a lot," Betty Palmer said. "There's not a job description that goes with that job. You just sort of show up with your notepad and listen, and observe."
Dale Palmer volunteered in the kitchen at their church, Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington. He worked for many years as a welder at United McGill, and the last two years before his retirement he spent at Vermont Composites.
"He really wanted to see a new town office built," Betty Palmer said.
He suffered a heart attack about 10 years ago, and was careful when it came to shoveling snow. "He was never a person to shovel snow in a hurry," she said. "He would take his time and rest after a few scoops and start again."
Even so, her husband was not a man who could easily spend his golden years sitting quietly in a rocking chair. Friday he had cleared a layer of snow, tossing it to the dog so it could play, and was back to shoveling in the afternoon to clear off another layer before the skies laid down the next.
"I retired in May after 45 years at SVMC and was just getting used to not having to go to work every day and get out in all kinds of nasty weather and stuff, and we would take day trips and whatnot," Betty Palmer said. "Now I have to get used to being by myself. Just take one day at a time, because this certainly wasn't anything that was planned for. It just sort of happened."
Board Chairman Stephen Kauppi, who went to school with Dale Palmer, said his loss is another blow to the board and town employees who worked with Palmer.
"He was a good person, and he was good on the board," said Kauppi. "He did a lot of things behind the scenes for the Select Board. He was good on the computer and helped us put our policies together."
According to Palmer's obituary, his funeral will be held on Friday, Feb. 21, at 9:30 a.m. at the Mahar and Son Funeral Home. His wake will be Feb. 20 at the funeral home between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Donations in his name can be made to Second Chance Animal Shelter or H.I.S Pantry via the funeral home at 628 Main St., Bennington, Vt., 05201.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.