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Craven: George Kempton Remembrance

Kempton family
Successful Peacham dairy farmer George Kempton was rooted in generations of Vermont farming tradition – and, yet, totally up to date.";

George Kempton’s passing marks the end of an era here in Peacham.

He was a successful farmer - even as fluctuating milk prices and always escalating costs of production made dairy farming a tough proposition. But George was smart and he worked hard. He seemed to have a magic touch and was surely lucky that his son Matt stepped into take charge when he needed someone.

George participated in all aspects of community life, from the local church to the School and Select Boards. I first came to know him as a sturdy supporter and board member of the Peacham School, a cool arts and writing-based experiential learning alternative that annually served 60 kids from surrounding towns. The school had its detractors and depended mightily on its advocates, given its progressive bent. George carried more weight than anyone in town when it came to standing up for the Peacham School. And all five of his kids attended.

George loved to ski – and he kept the town’s ancient community rope tow operating for local kids and families every weekend, well into the 1970’s. He raised a couple of springer spaniels for bird hunting and his well-read weekly copy of The New Yorker routinely topped his re-cycle stack of dairy newsletters and the local Caledonian Record. He traveled to Europe – and seemed to delight in anyone willing to start or share a conversation on anything.

I loved George for his sense of humor. Once his ready laugh got up on its feet, it was ticklish and highly contagious. Whenever I prepared to tour my Howard Mosher films to Vermont’s town halls, I wished I could take George Kempton with me on the road. So, I’d breathe a sigh of relief when he showed up at a screening because George came to have a good time. And whenever his laugh spilled out into the room, others soon joined in the fun, chuckling at Mosher’s clever and ironic twists.

There was something remarkable about George Kempton. He was rooted in generations of Vermont farming tradition – and, yet, totally up to date. He knew his own mind and could be fierce if you got him into an argument – but he was always open to the arts and interested in new ideas. He was a modern man in the very best sense of the word.

Jay Craven is a filmmaker who teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and directs Kingdom County Productions
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