Thursday July 16, 2015
Saying goodbye to a dear friend is never easy, but no matter how great the pain, a feeling of gratefulness and warmth will always remain.
In 1956, Donald “Don” Dalton, his wife Betty, and their children had found an irreplaceable friend: 1383 Airport Dr., a then newly constructed, single-family, Cape Cod-style home adjacent to the Burlington International Airport.
From the time they purchased the house as its first owners until it was sold through the Burlington International Airport’s home buyout program, it was considered home for nearly 60 years. Together, Don and Betty raised their three children, Cheryl (“Kish”), Bill, and David. They watched neighbors come and go and witnessed the airport flourish. Celebrations and tragedies, laughter and tears - it was all experienced together. Cherished through all of its years of existence by the members of one family, this household was truly, by every definition, a single-family home.
“I liked the location; it’s handy to be near the stores and shops, I liked the schools, and we attended the Baptist Church in Burlington regularly,” Don said, who now resides at Heineberg Senior Housing in Burlington.
Though convenience was certainly a reason why he and Betty, who had been married for 10 years at that point, had moved up from Barre, Vermont, it was the nurturing atmosphere and accommodation to the family’s active lifestyle that left a lasting impression.
“I was so thankful that we found a place ideal for the children, and it was just the right size. It was cozy,” Don said.
Boys League, Boy Scouts, countless days of shooting hoops, watching Kish’s love for reading and writing, celebrating an intimate wedding for David and his wife, painting the front window with seasonal designs, admiring the gorgeous sunrises across the street overlooking the Adirondack Mountains - these are just a handful of the memories that will last a lifetime long after the two-story, six room home is gone.
Living next to the airport never seemed to pose a problem. Certainly, the noise was a factor, Don and children agreed, but it never impeded on their positive lifestyle.
“The FAA says it’s unhealthy to live there, but I figured I was there for 57, 58 years, and I’m still going at 95!” Don said.
“We used to go to the airport’s observation roof,” Bill, now a realtor living in Essex Junction, explained. “We’d watch the planes take off and land.”
Over time, the children grew and moved onto college and then began building lives of their own. Don, a World War II Navy veteran and retired Exxon Mobile employee, had a desire to help others. With his wife, they dedicated nearly every waking moment to serving others. The Champlain Senior Center, Elk Club, and the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging were just a few ways of giving back. In 2010, Don was recognized at the 10th Annual Neighborhood Night of Success at Contois Auditorium in Burlington.
Along with successes, the family also experienced hardships. David passed away in 1980, and Betty passed away in 2006. Despite this, and with his two other children out of the house, Don remained at Airport Drive, a loyal companion.
Don has vivid memories of his home and can still picture Betty in the kitchen whipping up one of her legendary dishes or baked goods.
“She used to make a chocolate mayonnaise cake,” Don said, cracking a smile. It was one of his favorites. “It was one of those cakes that stayed moist. A week after it’s made, it’s just as good as the first [bite].”
Bread, homemade soups, and more, Kish and Bill also attest to their mother’s famed culinary skills.
The Dalton family members weren’t the only ones who reaped the benefits of Betty’s cooking. In the late 50s and early 60s, the New York Giants used to practice at Saint Michael’s College. Being an avid sports fan family, the Daltons were frequent spectators when the Giants were on Vermont turf. Over time, the Daltons got to know the players, and some of them, such as Alex Webster, would come over for dinner.
“My dad would have a beer with them out on the front lawn,” Bill recalled. “It was a novelty for the kids in the neighborhood having pro football players coming to visit us and sharing a little bit of their experience. Alex took us under his wing and on occasion after a game would just say, ‘Betty, why don’t you just go, and I’ll give the boys a ride home.’”
The Dalton family also recalls a time when there was only an open field across the street, an age before the houses and the airport’s parking garage. They’d walk to the neighborhood grocery store and shops down by Hinesburg Road, and they remember when Williston Road was just two lanes. When Bill was a paperboy, he remembered there being no traffic in the early hours of the morning.
The airport, on the other hand, drew in different traffic.
“One year we had Olympic skiers,” Kish said. “And there was always the presence of the military going back and forth.”
A Fond Farewell
Though the 1383 Airport Dr. home still stands, it will soon meet its fate this summer as the demolition project continues.
“It was difficult for me to walk out of the door for the last time, and it’s quite an ordeal to go through the things you’ve collected through all these years and then try to sell them,” Don explained. “What we did was have an auctioneer come in . . . I wasn’t much for yard sales. I don’t think I could handle that.”
Kish flew here from Indiana about every other month during the moving process to help her father, and Bill was just a few towns over. A dear neighbor, Jan Hughes, whom Don and Betty met years ago through AARP, assisted Don with the transition as well.
The bittersweet process opened up fond memories.
“You pull back 50 years and more of life in front of you, and you’re holding it in your hands. You’re looking at pictures, and you’re looking at toys, and you’re looking at old magazines, and old projects from school, certificates and grade cards, which having been part of your life - it all comes back again,” Kish said. “Very touching, very poignant moments, and whatever had been forgotten in the recesses of my mind were brought out and assisted my brother, my father, and I to discuss those [moments] again.”
Even under the circumstances of leaving the home, the relationship between the airport and the Daltons never soured.
“The process the airport used and their ability to not push people - but give them time - that, for us, was comfortable. We didn’t feel that pressure,” Kish said.
“They took care of us,” Don said.
As did the home. Each member left parting words to the house that became their home.
“I love you. I miss you,” Don said. “I just appreciate that we had a happy family.”
“Goodbye to the shell, but inside, the things that happened were a brother’s wedding, an aunt who came after she had a child, a grandmother who came after her husband died, the friends we made . . .” Kish recalled.
“Thanks for the friendly atmosphere and the hominess. We felt comfortable and cared for there,” Bill added.
Even though the home is vacant and the daily buzz has faded, a single flower remains in bloom on the side of the home. This enduring blossom is a reminder of the many memories that will remain long after the home on Airport Dr. is gone.
SOURCE:Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent