by Cathy Resmer
I've written before about how Seven Days is working to put all of our archives online. It's a long-term project. This week I posted a bunch of articles from 2001, and we're working forward from there, since those records already exist in digital form.
We skipped back a few years this week, though, and put up a story from 1997. It's a profile of former Republican State Rep. Ted Riehle, author of Vermont's anti-billboard law. Riehle died on New Year's Eve. He was 83.
Seven Days co-founder Paula Routly wrote the 1997 piece, and actually typed it into our database herself on Monday night, after spending the day editing this week's stories. It's a more three-dimensional account of Riehle than others I've seen since he died. In it, Paula wrote:
Riehle is out there — physically and politically. Although he jokinglydescribes himself as "an insensitive Republican bastard," he comesacross as a charming eccentric — a Rush Limbaugh listener who went toboth Grateful Dead shows in Vermont and loved them. His eldest son,Ted, sums up his individualistic father as "Jimmy Stewart meets JohnWayne."
Paula visited Riehle and his wife, Ayn, on their island in Lake Champlain. His house there is off the grid. And that wasn't the only thing that was off. Near the beginning of the story, Riehle explains his skinny dipping policy:
"Oh, and by the way, we don't wear bathing suits. I hope that doesn'tmake you uncomfortable. The policy used to be 'no bathing suitsallowed' on the island," he says. "But I've mellowed."
Paula wrote a few comments about typing up this story, which appear in my Web Page column in the newspaper:
There’s only one thing worse than reading the obituary of a fascinating person you’ll never meet: reading one about someone you knew well — and, in my case, wrote about. There was nothing wrong with the final write-up for Ted Riehle, which appeared in last Friday’s Burlington Free Press, five days after he died in the U.S Virgin Islands. But there was none of the irrepressible, skinny-dipping, billboard-bashing Republican I met 10 years ago, when I interviewed him for a profile in Seven Days. The meeting was no “Charlie Rose” affair; I kayaked out to his home on Savage Island — where he and his wife, Ayn Baldwin, were living year-round — and got a full dose of “Big Ted” for the weekend. He was utterly and totally out there. I can still hear his devilish giggle.
The sad news of Ted’s death moved me to recall the details of my initial visit— which turned into a friendship — by digging up the old story. There was no electronic version of the decade-old article; our encounter predated the digital revolution. But a search through the paper’s morgue turned up a yellowing copy, lost to all but those who happened to remember the issue date. Instead of reading through the story, I felt compelled to type it into my computer, savoring each anecdote as I preserved it in our new online archive. It was my way of honoring Ted’s memory. Thanks to the web, stories don’t die anymore. And old ones can be resurrected. If only the same could be said for the remarkable people we have known, and lost.
Read the article here. The photo is from this summer, and it was taken by Matthew Thorsen.