At 78, LaPlante Off to Ukraine for Peace Corps  
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ed Patenaude So I’ve Heard

Longtime friend John Guy LaPlante’s latest odyssey became official Dec. 19. After three months as a Peace Corps trainee in Ukraine, John Guy, 78 years young, took the oath to become a Peace Corps volunteer.

“Yes, I’ve made it,” he emphasized in an e-mail to this corner. There were 86 volunteers in Group 33, he said, adding, “Only eight seniors and I was the oldest by far.” He went to Ukraine to teach English, and training included heavy doses of Ukrainian and Russian, languages his prospective students might understand.

The three months of training proved to be a “culture shock and required a serious adjustment of attitudes,” he said. Mr. LaPlante is one of those people who never retire, working for years as a Telegram & Gazette reporter, supervisor and editor while a resident in Webster and Dudley, and later as owner of a public relations firm and information officer at Assumption College while living in Auburn and Worcester.

He’s authored columns, travel pieces and a couple of world travel books in recent years. Even some of us who cherish his friendship were surprised by his decision to join the Peace Corps. John Guy LaPlante will teach at a State Language School and at a major library in a city described as two hours from Kiev.

English teacher and Peace Corps Volunteer John Guy LaPlante will greet his first class after Christmas, or Jan. 7 when Santa visits in Ukraine.

Esther (Snyder) Stocklin developed a Depression-era census for Webster’s Upper and Lower Gore Roads last month, telling of the personalities she came to know after her family moved there in 1933.

The Marcus Wood profile was from my files because Esther’s parents, Frank and Anna Snyder, acquired Mr. Wood’s farmhouse through an estate and never really knew him. He was the Gore correspondent for the Webster Times and once reported he could live on about 7 cents a day. It must have been a slow news week.

“That’s all he probably had,” suggested Mrs. Stocklin, adding the Gore was far from a prestigious address when she first lived there. “I know some of the Gore inhabitants worked off their (real estate) taxes by working on the roads.”

The poorest of the Gore poor lived without electricity and other conveniences for decades. With Webster Lake and far-away hills affording some beautiful views, the section subsequently gained residential favor, starting just before World War II. One of the spots in its newest development, Blueberry Hills, comes with natural scenery suited to its name: Dream Street.

Maureen Bounds of West Dudley enjoyed the Gore article, saying, “I lived there briefly as a little girl.” Her family had “a grand old house (with) a beautiful wraparound veranda, a garage with chauffer quarters, and a barn.” It probably dates to a time when things were starting to look up.

Added Ms. Bounds, “I do remember the Snyder farm and the Ides (Esther’s friends).”

If the old rumor that movie star Julia Roberts was going to buy a house near Ramshorn Road in Dudley has any residuals, the Realtor now offering the property for sale might whisper a line or two to prospective buyers, something like, “Half the town once thought Julia would be sleeping here.”

There’s been a lot of political talk about downtown redevelopment in recent years, even as East Main Street supplants Main Street as Webster’s commercial center.

A simple sign in a window to The Party Planner seems as effective as anything officialdom has proposed. It says: “Friends/ Neighbors/ and Visitors/ THANK YOU / Without Your Support/ This Local Merchant Would Not Be Here.

“We are Your Downtown.”

Owner Dan Marcoux said the sign is a way to convey his sentiments. The Party Planner will celebrate its 20th anniversary as a Main Street store on March 1.

I rented a po
-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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