Super Seniors: Peter & Marion Abell

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 6:31 PM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - Peter and Marion Abell have lived a life in harmony.

“I love to sing,” Peter said.

“That’s for sure,” added Marion

While Marion tickles the ivories, Peter strums on his vintage banjo. “It’s older than I am,” Peter said.

The Dixieland duo met on a blind date. Peter asked a friend if she had any sorority sisters that were unattached. “She said, ‘Yes, there is one but she’s too good for you.’ So I said, ‘Great, give me her number,’” Peter recalled.

He called, but Marion was out on another date. “Being who I am, I decided to call him back,” Marion said. The two eventually married. Peter, the retired dentist, and Marion, the former guidance counselor, have lived in Brattleboro for decades, bound together by music and the desire to help others.

The couple has traveled on numerous humanitarian trips, including to El Salvador in the early ‘90s, just after a long and brutal civil war. “Out of these visits, it more or less morphed into what we call “sight and bite” trips. An optometrist and a dentist,” Peter said.

Marion would join the team assisting Peter with dental procedures for the local population. “And over the years, we went back maybe 10 times,” Peter said.

“It was a pretty primitive setup. We were part of a team of other dentists,” Marion said.

They also traveled to Haiti, where a grandmother made an impassioned plea. “She wanted to give the baby to us,” Marion said.

“To take back to the United States to have a better opportunity in life,” added Peter.

That, of course, didn’t happen. But in southern Vermont, 90 Afghans are now looking for a better life, fleeing their country after the recent U.S. withdrawal. “And so we have an obligation to help them,” Peter said.

At the Congregational church in town, Peter and Marion, along with other members, did something unorthodox. “So, the Muslins can come in and go out through this door over here,” Peter explained.

The congregation gave them a place to pray -- a small room with four bare walls, three rugs, two entries, and one Koran. The Abells say there hasn’t been any pushback from church members with this in-house, interfaith arrangement.

“I don’t want to get too political, but the fact of the matter is, we were there and we left in a hurry and we have some responsibility to take care of these people in need,” Marion said.

A couple well-versed in a life of giving to people all over the world.

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