Super Senior: Kermit Smith

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NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) Kermit Smith is well known in the Northeast Kingdom. He's a longtime lawmaker. This Super Senior also an announcement to make.

Kermit Smith is all about the Northeast Kingdom. On this day, we're on a road trip from his home in Newport to the Old Stone House in Brownington. Once a boarding school, it is now home to historic treasure of Orleans County.

His friends, like museum director Peggy Day Gibson, call him "Kerm." Smith was a longtime trustee of the museum.

Reporter Joe Carroll: So Kerm, why is this place so special to you?
Kermit Smith: Well, it's history, Orleans County history.

It's his history, too. Kerm was born on a small farm in the town of Newport.

"The house we were born in, it wasn't a Lincoln log cabin, but it was almost as bad," Smith said.

Like so many in rural Vermont, he started school in a one-room schoolhouse.

"And when I moved to Coventry, Joe, I thought my God, this is the biggest place I've ever seen," he said.

Later, he took a passion for politics and was elected to the Legislature in 1971. At the time, the state was overwhelmingly Republican.

Joe Carroll: You're in the Northeast Kingdom-- having a "D" is almost a scarlet letter.
Kermit Smith: Oh, I know, it was difficult. I look at this, it was twice as hard to run on that ticket as the Republican ticket.

He served both in the House and Senate for many terms.

Joe Carroll: How would you describe yourself politically?
Kermit Smith: Independent, independent.

He was so popular, he was then elected sergeant-at-arms and served Vermont for six more years.

"I do thank everybody because it's truly been a great experience. Let me leave it at that. I thank you, thank you very much," Smith said at a Statehouse retirement ceremony back in 1993.

Joe Carroll: What was that day like?
Kermit Smith: That was a sad day.

Kerm came home to the Kingdom to be with Bev, his wife of over 40 years. The plans were to winter in Florida, but they only made it through one season.

"She went to Hanover and she died in the hospital there. Sad, sad day," Smith said.

Her heart gave out and Kermit was heartbroken. He found strength from his four boys. The next year he went to Florida and met Gloria. They have been married for 24 years.

Kerm's service to the community didn't go unnoticed.

"Here's the bridge right here," Smith said, pointing out the Derby bridge named after him last year.

It was a surprise.

"Kind of nice to have your name on a bridge," he said.

It's appropriate that Kerm would have a bridge named after him, after all, he brought two political sides together in Montpelier.

The bridge sign is permanent, the real estate sign in front of his home is not.

"Really wonderful, wonderful place to live," Smith said.

The 89-year-old is selling his house and moving to Ohio to be with Gloria. They will live in an independent living facility for seniors that is close to her family.

"I think it's another chapter in my life," he said.

Joe Carroll: What does Vermont mean to you?
Kermit Smith: Oh, Vermont means everything. Vermont is a special place.

In October, he will hit the road but his heart will never leave.

"They can't take the Vermont out of me," he said.