ROCKINGHAM — Everybody loves Richard Stickney in the town of Rockingham. (That’s a fact.)
And almost everybody wanted to celebrate the retired dairy farmer’s 90th birthday.
Stickney, or “Stick” or “Dick” or just plain Richard, has lived in the Stickney farmhouse on Pleasant Valley Road outside of the village of Saxtons River all his life. And as of last week, that was 90 years — and counting.
Last Saturday, close to 70 cars and trucks filled with people, as well as a couple of bicyclists, drove past the Stickney Farm a little after 1 p.m. to wish him a happy birthday and many more. Most of the cars and trucks carried signs, proclaiming their love for the quintessential Vermont farmer.
They honked, flashed their lights, and stopped and shouted and even sang happy birthday to Stickney and his clan, which had gathered for a cookout to celebrate their patriarch’s birth.
With his wife of 67 years, Barbara, at his side, Stickney, still dressed in his fluorescent orange bird- hunting clothes from the morning, greeted his friends and neighbors jubilantly, with both arms raised and a wonderful grin on his face.
The Stickney farm is only three miles outside of Saxtons River, so the lineup for the parade started on Pleasant and Main streets and made the short trip up Pleasant Valley Road. Originally planned as a surprise by Barbie Kurkul of Saxtons River, someone spilled the beans to Stickney, so the parade wasn’t a complete surprise.
Kurkul’s father was one of Stickney’s best friends from high school, and the pair even roomed together a year (or was it two?) at the University of Vermont, where they both studied dairy science, both returning to Windham County to operate dairy farms. Kurkul’s car sported an inflatable unicorn on the roof. Others sported handmade signs and balloons, full of birthday wishes.
“WE (heart) RICHARD” proclaimed the truck driven by Anna Darrow of Dummerston. Mary Lou Massucco of Saxtons River decorated her Subaru to look like a Holstein cow. The farm’s longtime veterinarian, Dr. Vincent DiBernardo, showed up in his red BLANK convertible.
Stickneys have been milking cows at the home place for at least FOUR generations, when his great-grandfather moved from North Hill in Andover to Rockingham in 1896 so his daughters could attend high school, Stickney said in a later interview.
Being a farmer was the best thing he could do with his life, he said.
Except for his stint in the Army (he and Barbara spent it in Kansas, where he was the company clerk and they lived on a Kansas dairy farm and Richard milked cows every day before his Army duty) Richard and Barbara have lived their lives on Pleasant Valley Road and raised four children there: Suzanne, Ann, Peter and Matthew.
Peter and Matthew still live close by: Peter teaches history and runs the dairy farm at the Putney School, and Matt lives in Athens and logs, and works with heavy equipment. Their two daughters both live in South Burlington.
The couple have nine grandchildren and BLANK great-grandchildren.
One of the couple’s grandsons, Robert Stickney, son of Matthew, is taking over the operation of the Stickney Farm, which has made the switch to raising crops and beef cattle, taking care of Wagyu young stock for SpringRock Farm in Springfield. Stickney stopped milking cows in 1998 (check)
Stickney has done more than milk cows, bale hay and raise corn. He had served Rockingham as a justice of the peace for many many years, and only recently stepped down from that job.
“I learned a lot,” he said, not just from marrying couples, but learning about tax policy