ARLINGTON — The patriarch of the extended family that operates the Wilcox Ice Cream business, Howard A. Wilcox, died Sunday at Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center. He was 80.
Wilcox, whose family also owned a prominent dairy farm on Route 7A in Manchester before a devastating fire destroyed the main buildings in 2001, was among the fourth generation of the family to participate in the business.
More recently, he worked with two newer generations of the family and other Wilcox Ice Cream employees at a production facility in East Arlington.
According to his obituary, Wilcox was the director of the company’s ice cream products and a flavor master.
Among those offering condolences to the Wilcox family online were Jackie and Jeff Wilson, longtime school and municipal officials in the Northshire, who said, “We were so sorry to hear about Howard’s passing. We never saw him without a smile on his face and a kind word to say — he was a cornerstone of our community and will be missed by many.”
Kim Hawley of the Sugar Shack in Arlington said, “Our most heart felt sympathies to the entire Wilcox family. Howard taught me everything I know about ice cream! I will miss our chats. Love and healing prayers to all!”
Calling hours are scheduled for Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Brewster & Shea Funeral Home in Manchester.
A service will be held at Christ Our Savior (St. Paul’s) Catholic Church in Manchester on Saturday at 1 p.m. Burial will follow at Ira Allen Cemetery in Sunderland.
A celebration with food, ice cream music and more will follow the graveside service at the Lions Pavilion at Arlington Rec Park.
Wilcox was born in Bennington in 1942, to Howard E. and Dorothy (Markey) Wilcox of Manchester.
He was a 1960 graduate of Burr and Burton Seminary, and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1966 with a degree in animal science. He married his wife, Sandra Hill, who survived him, that same year.
The May 2001 fire destroyed much of the ice cream manufacturing facility and farming operation in Manchester. But the family kept the ice cream business going, utilizing four different production locations in the region.
In 2016, they opened a new ice cream facility in East Arlington.
According to Manchester Journal files, the history of the Wilcox family dairy and ice cream dates to at least 1879, when an invoice was received by E.A. Wilcox — then based on a farm in Sandgate — from the Equinox Hotel. After moving to a farm on River Road in Manchester Village in 1892, his son, E.E. Wilcox, bought the farm on what is now Route 7A in 1902.
In 1928, Howard “Dutch” Wilcox and his brother, Roger, sons of E.E. Wilcox, started making ice cream in Manchester Village, harvesting ice from Equinox Pond.
In the 1960s, Howard’s two sons entered the business, with Howard A. Wilcox focused on the ice cream part and Gerald on the dairy farm. The business expanded with distribution routes through Vermont and three neighboring states.
According to the obituary, contributions may be made in Wilcox’s memory to the Manchester Historical Society or local rescue squads through the office of the Mahar Funeral Home, 628 Main St., Bennington, VT 05201.