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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Congratulations to Gretchen Kaija and Ian Boswell

I'm going to start my column with a little bit of business and town news before I get to some beautiful stuff. The Planning Commission will be holding a public hearing on June 3 at Town Hall to receive comments on the proposed changes to Reading’s Zoning Ordinances. You can pick up a copy of the changes to the ordinance at Town hall or online at If you want more information, you can email

The Planning Commission is also looking for someone to fill the vacant post of recording secretary. The duties are simple: attend the monthly Planning Commission meeting, take notes, and submit a typed-up version to the Town Clerk within five days. There is a small stipend for performing these duties. For more information, contact Stephen Strait at

You know where you can send that email from? Puddledock Park, which has free wifi. Now that the weather has gotten better, the picnic tables are back out! So you can sit down while you write that email. Or you can have lunch, do a little work, read a book, or simply relax and enjoy the scent of the blooming lilacs. Over the months, the park will get some more outdoor furniture, so invite lots of your friends to join you for a little park time.

Now onto the beautiful stuff. It’s not often when I write about two life events in one column. In fact, I can’t recall if I’ve done it before. But here goes. Both of them are celebrations. One of a stage in life just beginning, the other of a life well lived.

First, congratulations to Gretchen Kaija and Ian Boswell who were married last Saturday in Peacham. Ian is a professional cyclist who has raced in competitions that even the non-cycling enthusiast has heard of—the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, for example.

Lifelong friend Sophie Anderson and fellow child of Reading was Gretchen’s maid of honor, and Gretchen’s brother Oliver officiated. The reception was held in a former three-story dairy barn on Gretchen and Ian’s property in Peacham, a venue they hope to use for some type of barn-based business, which, I gather, won’t deal with cows. As for a honeymoon, Lisa Kaija tells me that their staymooning or homeymooning. Admittedly, neither has the cleverness or euphony of staycation, but you get the idea. Instead of going somewhere, they’re going to enjoy their 1785 farmhouse and a break from traveling, which, you can imagine, Ian does a lot of in his line of work. Wishing Gretchen and Ian a life of love and happiness!

Second, Leslie Dunning O’Kelly emailed to tell me that the children of Shirley (nee Cooke) Dunning will be holding a celebration of her life on Saturday, June 8, at 11am at the Bailey’s Mills Bed and Breakfast. Friends are welcome. Shirley died on March 2 at Leslie’s and her husband John’s home in East Hampton, Connecticut. She was 98 years old.

Shirley lived on Whitmore Road, just around the corner from me, in a house that has been in the Cooke family for over 200 years. She moved there in the 1940s when her husband, George, was serving as a pilot stationed in England during World War II. When he returned, they moved to Middlebury for a while so he could go to college on the GI Bill. When they returned to Reading, George worked in Springfield, and the family owned the Mount Ascutney Ski Shop. In her free time, Leslie tells me, Shirley was an avid traveler, sailor, a lifelong learner.

Leslie and I shared several emails while I was writing my column, including a few that transpired on both sides of six in the morning (here’s to a fellow early bird!). I mentioned to Leslie that the Reading Historical Society would be hosting the first talk in its speaker series at the museum while she is in town. Leslie told me that her grandfather, Dwight Cooke, founded the Reading Christian Union Church, which, as you probably know, used the same building that is now home to the Reading Historical Society Museum. Shirley was on the board of the RCU until its dissolution.

I would be remiss if I passed up the opportunity to remind you that the talk at the Reading Historical Society Museum titled “Vermont vs. Hollywood: 100 Years of Vermont in Film” happens on June 7 at 7pm. Admission is free and open to everyone.

I’m glad I mentioned the talk to Leslie and, more importantly, that she replied with even more information about her family. One of the things I love about history in general, and the history of Reading specifically is the stories of non-famous people. George Washington may not have slept at the Cooke home on Whitmore Road, but Shirley Dunning did. And so did George Dunning. And Dwight Cooke. Simply by living their lives, Shirley and her family members took part in what, over time, became Reading’s history. They helped build and foster a sense of community. Their lives, their contributions, their stories are worth remembering. And celebrating.

Happy birthday to Sharon Harkins (June 1).

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on May 30, 2019.

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