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Super Seniors: Ernie and Cookie Shand - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Super Seniors: Ernie and Cookie Shand

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ASCUTNEY, Vt. -

Cruising Interstate 91 through Weathersfield, you can be forgiven for missing the village of Ascutney. Just off the exit, it's quintessential Vermont.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Let's go for a ride.

Cookie: Let's go for a ride

You would be missing Loraine (Cookie) and Ernie Shand, too.

Ernie: Look you see, I open the door for you.

"We're going to the Ascutney Union Church built in 1846, which is the same year the Alamo took place the battle there," said Cookie.

Ernie and Cookie are modern day fighters, from raising money for an addition to their church to making the local library handicapped accessible.

"Extraordinary people and always thinking of others," said Peg Delucia, church staff.

If there was a mayor in town, they would share the duties.

Carroll: Who's more outgoing here? 

Ernie: She is.

Cookie: He is.

Carroll: You two proud of this town?  

Cookie: Very much so.

Ernie: Yeah.

But that pride was tested when they arrived in the early 1970s from Connecticut with their three kids.

Carroll: Was there any resentment when you came into town?  

Ernie: (Laughs) See that picture? We increased the African-American population by 100 percent of Weathersfield when we came to town... Was there resentment? Yes.

Joe: There was?  

Ernie: Well, there was at least one incidence of a threat to burn our house down. 

The Shands said Danny, their son, was resilient and quickly made friends. Ernie got the respect of the community by joining the fire department shortly after arriving.

Ernie: Are you filling up the tank? It's coming out of there I think?

Carroll: Always the watchful eye, I hear.

Darrin Spaulding: He is. He is.

Spaulding is the current fire chief.

"They are my second and third mom and dad," said Spaulding.

But it wasn't just Ernie who joined the department.

"A lot of the male firefighters worked out of town and the response wasn't always the way it should have been," said Cookie.

About a half a dozen woman joined at the time. It was the late 1970s. Cookie didn't think it was a big deal.

Carroll: Well, the Boston Globe paid attention. 

Cookie: Well yes, that's true... which surprised us.

The couple, who are in their 70s, are still members of the fire department but don't go out on as many calls as they once did.

"I was saying before, I was trying to give our gear back and you...," said Cookie

Spaulding: I gave it back.

Danny, too, became a firefighter before he joined the Army. A battlefield medic, he survived two tours in Iraq but was killed in a motorcycle accident at just 42 years old. Cookie and Ernie's love got them through the loss.

Carroll: So this marriage is really a team effort?  

Ernie: Oh yes, oh yes.  

Cookie: We're bonded at the hip, I'm afraid.

They're a power couple.

"They don't stop and think about what it is that they're doing and the benefit they're providing, they just do it," said Kelly Murphy, friend. 

The Shands make a world of difference in a small town.

Ernie might look familiar around the Golden Dome, he was in the Legislature for 10 years.

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