Super Senior: Mel Stoddard

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 12:24 PM EDT
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WOLCOTT, Vt. (WCAX) - Jay Kennedy never leaves home without his camera, and his lens is often focused on his Wolcott neighbor, Mel Stoddard.

For over a year he’s been on the road capturing Vermont life, including Stoddard, The Wolcott farmer made it into Kennedy’s book, “One Thousand Miles One Thousand Smiles.” “He’s a great subject,” Kennedy said. “A character.”

Born in Craftsbury and raised in Hyde Park, Stoddard is surprised that his life is now in focus. “It’s different, whole bunch different,” he said.

Jay Kennedy: The more I hang around and find older people, I just gain so much knowledge from what they know.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Kind of what I do.

Jay Kennedy: Yeah, yeah, similar way, I just capture them on stills.

Stoddard’s home is just up the road, where he can be found on his tractor doing chores. “Crawling on to 86 now, just have to keep moving,” Stoddard said.

He gets up at 3:30 a.m. and still works every day, raising beef cattle on his 100 acres of land. Farming has been a big part of his life, but for years his main income came from building and remodeling homes in Lamoille County, something he still does on the side.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You’re not going up on roofs anymore.

Mel Stoddard: No, four-foot ladders is plenty.

His life hasn’t always been in the Green Mountains. He joined the Air Force at a young age, landing in Hawaii, Korea, and parts in between. “I was stationed in D.C., Wyoming, New York,” Stoddard said.

While in Wyoming he picked up a magazine. “It had pen pals in there. Well, I saw her name from Duxbury, so I wrote her a letter,” he said. It was addressed to Miss Jennette DeLong. They soon become more than pen pals. “Jadie,” for short, married Stoddard and joined his journey. After 11 years in the Air Force, the couple returned to Vermont to raise their children. Jadie sold real estate in Stowe.

They were married for 57 years. “Just lost her a month ago. Passed away,” Stoddard said. Needless to say, it’s been a rough month. “I’ve got some fine people around me so it helps me a lot.”

Work also helps keep his mind off his loss. “His values are something that we should all try to follow, I believe,” Kennedy said.

Through his lens, he sees a face of good character and strength. “He’s very Vermont -- as good as it gets.”

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