Super Senior: Jean Richardson

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 3:53 PM EST
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NORTH FERRISBURGH, Vt. (WCAX) - Jean Richardson rarely sits still. “I don’t much appreciate downtime,” she said.

A native of England, she has called Vermont home for close to 50 years, living in an 1830 vintage house in North Ferrisburgh. “It’s a gorgeous old place,” Richardson said, showing off her sugaring facility. “I set it up as a one-woman sugaring operation.” But that’s not the only thing on tap. Her hens are around the corner.

Richardson, a self-described people person, has embraced all things Vermont. “There’s lots to do every season of the year,” she said. Last weekend, when the temps hit well below zero, the 79-year-old took it in stride. “You have to go outside every day, regardless. There’s no so thing as bad weather, just bad clothes, right?”

Richardson was a longtime environmental professor at the University of Vermont. Awarded a Fulbright scholarship, she was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve on a committee overseeing environmental issues. “I’ve been interested in the environment ever since I was a little kid in northern England, where the industrial areas were very polluted,” she said.

It was a time when coal was king and thick smog fouled the air. As a child, Richardson suffered with severe asthma. “It meant for three months every winter, pretty much, I was alone in my bedroom, ‘cause it was hard to breathe and there were no medicines,” she said.

Reporter Joe Carroll: It sounds awfully lonely.

Jean Richardson: Well, and for an extravert, yes, quite tough.

But in the summer months when the smog lifted, life was spent outside. “You used army tents when you went camping,” Richardson said.

She had brains and looks. In her early 20s, she became the first woman to be a weathercaster in Great Britain. “I had a good science background and I suppose I looked nice,” Richardson said.

On her first day, the forecast went south. “The man suddenly in front of me went, ‘Oh no!’ And I turned and looked and all the magnets were sliding down to southern England, and so I said, ‘There goes the rain to southern England,’” she said.

Her TV career was short. Richardson was looking west. “The land of opportunity was America, for sure,” she said.

She came ashore via freighter in Chicago. “The first thing I saw when I got off the boat -- which was interesting -- was a mafia shootout just a few yards away from me,” she recalled. It was like a scene out of a movie, but it didn’t deter the young Brit. “Nervous, scared, but mostly very excited.”

Now, decades later, she’s got time to reflect, but the adventures continue. “I really enjoy doing things and I’m curious about everything,” Richardson said.