Vernon Town Clerk Sandy Harris looks at the Vernon Newspaper. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)
Vernon Town Clerk Sandy Harris looks at the Vernon Newspaper. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)
Saturday December 8, 2012

VERNON -- Featuring a mix of community notifications, folksy news and the wisdom of Yoda, the Vernon Newspaper has been landing regularly in residents' mailboxes for years.

But the driving force behind that publication, Chris Howe, is calling it quits. And that likely spells the end for the town newsletter, too -- at least in its current incarnation.

"I think I will miss it very much," Howe said. "But I have to do what I have to do."

Howe, who is serving her fourth year on Vernon Selectboard, said she is recovering from a serious health issue.

"I have to eliminate stress in my life," she told fellow Selectboard members this week.

While she intends to remain on the governing board, Howe is leaving the town's cemetery committee and no longer will hand out emergency radios and batteries to town residents.

She's also quitting as managing editor of the Vernon Newspaper, a small, town-funded publication Howe has been assembling since 2006. It's not to be confused with Not the Vernon Newspaper, a relatively new newsletter distributed by the town clerk's office.

Howe saw the Vernon Newspaper as a community service and also as entertainment. In addition to providing notice of community events and neighborhood news, an issue might have included some town history or Howe's personal memories of Vernon.

"People used to like my stories," she said.

The most-recent -- and likely final -- edition of the paper featured a front-page story by town historian Barbara Moseley about a diary written by a Vernon widow in 1877.

Inside, interspersed among ads for local businesses, there was news from the Vernon Library, Windham County 4-H Club and Broad Brook Grange along with columns about gardening and "woods side wisdom."

At one point, Howe had tried to launch a quirky advice column called Miss Lilly Pond. One installment featured a letter from "Comfortable in Pajamas," who wondered about the best attire for catching fish.

Unfortunately, Miss Lilly Pond never caught on. Howe said gathering enough material to fill the monthly newspaper was a chronic problem, eventually leading her to scale back to quarterly publication about a year ago.

But each edition's masthead still included a quote from Yoda, the diminutive green Jedi master of "Star Wars" fame: "Do or do not. There is no try."

Howe said she's a "Star Wars" fan who found meaning in the aphorism.

"Just like it says. Think about that," she said. "You either do something or you don't. Nothing in between."

She applied that principle to assembling the paper, a labor-intensive process that could take a week or two for each edition. Howe put the publication together on her home computer but printed it at the town office.

"It took one hour to print 100, and I would print 1,100," she said. "So it took me a day and half just to print the paper."

The work that would follow printing included stuffing inserts and bundling papers for the postal office. The papers were mailed free to every Vernon resident.

It was a labor of love for Howe, who credits her mother with instilling in her a sense of civic duty.

"I felt that I wanted to get it out there for the people," she said.

Howe also thanked several residents for providing consistent help with the Vernon Newspaper, including Shirley Mockler, Jan Bristol, Donna Fecto, Lynda Starorypinski and Brandy Brow, who served as editor.

Howe has another year remaining on the Vernon Selectboard, for which she is vice chairwoman. She said she considered quitting the board after her recent health scare but decided to continue to serve.

"For the most part, it's a rewarding position," Howe said. "And I love it."

She's giving up her other responsibilities reluctantly. Those positions had added to a long Vernon resume that includes past stints as assistant treasurer, treasurer, van driver and member of the planning commission, finance committee and farmland committee.

"I've given a lot of years of volunteering," Howe said. "I care about the town and its people."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.