Pownal mourns well-known farmer Henry Strohmaier

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POWNAL — A farmer through-and-through with endless knowledge of Pownal. That's how community members described Henry Strohmaier, who died on Tuesday at the age of 76.

"We've lost a good one," said Jim Winchester, owner of Winchester's Country Store on Route 7. "I've been here 40 years at the store, and Henry's been in and out of so many good things in town."

Strohmaier was one of the founders of the Pownal Valley Fair, and had served on both the Select Board and the planning commission, Winchester said.

But despite all his efforts, Strohmaier didn't seek recognition.

"He didn't like to [get] credit for anything, really," Winchester said. "Just a great community guy. He probably wouldn't even want me to tell you."

Winchester characterized Strohmaier as the "biggest farmer in Pownal" — a dairy farmer and town native with an eventful life.

"Probably owned the most land in town, and the most cows around," Winchester said.

The farm was founded in 1929, and by the 1970s it had grown to become one of the largest in the region, The Berkshire Eagle previously reported.

Winchester said he and Strohmaier saw each other quite a bit over the years, off and on.

"He was a busy guy, I was a busy guy," he said. "We crossed paths a lot. Got along well."

For a busy farmer, Strohmaier still managed to find time to be an involved community member for Pownal, Winchester said.

"He went to meetings. He understood who we were, and what we thought we were," he said. "He didn't need any attention. Just wanted to live here and give that big smile of his and laugh."

Winchester remembers Strohmaier as a quiet, gentle giant — who loved to wave his hands when he talked.

"You thought you took him for somebody not too smart — be careful, he'd get you," he recalled. "He was a very smart man, in the ways of people."

State Rep. Nelson Brownell, D-Pownal, knew Strohmaier for many years, as both a friend and mentor.

The two served on the Select Board together for several years during Strohmaier's tenure.

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"He sort of broke me in as a selectman," Brownell recalled. " He sort of taught me the ropes of the town and the lay of how selectmen work. He was very knowledgeable, and a very good person to work with."

Strohmaier came from a family of farmers. Strohmaier Road is named after Strohmaier's father, "because his father had the farm out there first," Brownell said.

"He was a farmer at heart," Brownell said. "I think he always was, and he was just as generous as most farmers when it came to helping people. He was certainly always there to share knowledge of the town."

As a board member and a person, Strohmaier was friendly, he said.

"He wasn't a person who would create controversy or anything like that," he said. "He would try to solve problems and make things better."

And he certainly had his heart in the town, Brownell said.

"...He loved the town dearly, and he certainly showed it and taught it to the rest of us," he said. "He'll truly be missed, no doubt about it."

When he thinks about Strohmaier, Brownell said, he most remembers his knowledge about all things Pownal.

"I always used to run up there to talk to him, once in a while," he said. "Just to get some of his wisdom."

Frank Lamb also worked with Strohmaier on the Select Board for six years, years ago.

They worked on quite a few projects together, Lamb recalled, including buying the land for the transfer station and getting the town office committee up and running.

"Henry always believed, as I believed, that you made a plan, and you went about trying to implement the plan," Lamb said. "He was very dedicated, and he made sure that you knew where he stood on whatever issue he was discussing at the time."

Lamb described Strohmaier as a very dedicated person — to his business, his family and the town of Pownal.

"He was a storehouse of knowledge, as far as the town was concerned, and people in the town," he said.

Lamb said he doesn't know a great deal about Strohmaier's past — he didn't talk about it much.

"Only the part we were living," Lamb said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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