The Worthington 250 Interviews, Part Five: Why Carol Labonte Likes Living in Worthington

Why I Like Living In Worthington

by Carol Labonte

Before we moved to Worthington 41 years ago, we lived in Easthampton. We had homes on both sides, across the street, and behind us. People were always concerned with who was doing what.

As a child, I used to go through Worthington with my four siblings and my parents as we went to a cottage every weekend that my uncle owned on Ashmere Lake in Hinsdale. I was always an outdoor person that enjoyed hiking, walking in the woods, etc. I saw what the hilltowns looked like compared to Easthampton.

When a friend of my brother’s had some land for sale here in Worthington, we bought it. We cleared the land and had a house built and my husband and I and our two children moved out of Easthampton. I really enjoy the wildlife, the peace and quiet and the friendly people. People wave and talk to each other even if they don’t really know who you are. It’s a more relaxing life – no hustle and bustle like in the cities. It has also been a safe place to live in with this Covid-19. Our two dogs love it here. We bring them out and they have plenty of room to run around.

Worthington is a beautiful town with beautiful people.

Carol Labonte with her toy poodles, Misty and Sassy, in 2020. Photo by Evan Spring.

Note: The following transcript is from a series of interviews conducted by Harold Anderson of Valley Eye Radio during Worthington’s 250th anniversary celebrations, which took place from June 29 to July 3, 2018. Valley Eye Radio, based in the Pioneer Valley, provides local news, interviews and other content to those with vision loss or other disabilities.

Harold Anderson: Carol, are you a lifelong resident or did you move to Worthington?

Carol Labonte: We moved to Worthington 39 years ago. We were living in Easthampton and I just wanted to get out of Easthampton, and my husband did. We had two small kids. We just wanted someplace peaceful, quiet. We bought four acres of land, we had a house built, and here we are.

HA: So how old were you when you moved to Worthington?

CL: Let’s see, 39 years ago, and I’m 71 – that’s about 32.

HA: So what was it like for you moving to Worthington?

CL: It was actually hard because when we bought the land, we’re on a dirt road, and we were the very first house. We were a mile in, and nobody told us it was not a gravel road. Our house was supposed to be finished in December, but it didn’t get finished until April. Up here we have six weeks of mud season, and we were trying to move in during mud season. We had four-wheel drive stuck on the road trying to get our furniture in. We almost lost a lot of friends. But we did it.

We could only get within about, say, three-quarters of a mile away from the house. We had to park, so all the groceries had to come down either by toboggan, if there was still snow on top of the mud, or wagon. I had a big van, and I’d have all the groceries in the van. If it was warm I’d bring all the cold things down, and if it was cold I didn’t want things freezing, so I’d bring the canned goods down. And when my husband and two kids got home, I’d say, “Okay, the food is up the road, let’s go.” We did that for about six years before they finally graveled the road.

HA: So at what point did you settle in and decide, “Yeah, I’m going to make a life of it here”?

CL: We were only living here maybe a year, and we just knew that this was the place to be.

HA: And what brought that to your mind?

CL: Quiet, peaceful. We’d get deer in our yard. We’d get all kinds of wildlife. We’ve got woods all around us. Cooler in the summer. When you come down Route 66 and you take a right on 112, or you come up 143, it’s like a curtain. All of a sudden it’s just cooler, and it’s just so quiet and peaceful, and that basically is what we want.

HA: So what do you like to do in Worthington when you have some free time?

CL: Gardening, walking in the woods, things like that.

HA: You get together with your neighbors and friends?

CL: Yeah. We go out to dinner once in a while, or just hang out at each other’s house, play cards, whatever.

Carol at home with Misty and Sassy. Photo by Evan Spring.

HA: So when you have friends or family who have never been to Worthington and they come here to visit, what’s their reaction like?

CL: “What are you, crazy? You like living here?” They like the city life, they like being not out in the wilderness with bears and everything else around.

HA: So what would you say is Worthington’s best feature?

CL: I’m going to say the peace and quiet, and the people up here are very friendly. You go up to the store or the post office, and everybody’s saying “Hi.” You’d be out in your car driving along, people wave and it’s a very, very friendly town – a lot of nice people.

HA: Do you have a lot of people moving in, if you will, for the summertime?

CL: Yeah, there are a lot of summer residents up here. They live in Boston, New York, in different places, and they come here for the summer. I have a cleaning business, so I end up getting them all set to get into their homes for the summer.

HA: So I see that you were involved in this Worthington 250th celebration.

CL: I got involved back in probably the end of January, beginning of February. There were these sheets around the store that said, “What would you like to see happen?” So I made out a list of different things, and one of them was an auction. And I said, “I’d like to volunteer to help.” And next, from Evan Johnson, I got an email saying, “Our next meeting is such-and-such a date. See you there.” So I showed up, and he said, “You wanna do an auction?” And I said, “Yeah.” He says, “You’re in charge.” I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’ve never done this.” But it worked out really good. It made about $3,200.

HA: Did you have to go out and solicit?

CL: Yeah, I hit all the towns around Huntington and Williamsburg and Chesterfield, all over, getting donations. I called a lot of people in Worthington – potters and artists and things. And gift certificates from businesses. It really worked out well – a lot better than I thought.

HA: Anything else you’d like to talk about, any of your memories here?

CL: Well, one of the things is a man that I met, Guy Thrasher, when we first moved into Worthington. With a new house, you need to plant things. We kept driving by this little stand down on 112, and there would be this elderly man. He’d sometimes be standing out there, sometimes sitting. And he had all these flowers. So one day I had our kids with us, and I said, “We need to buy some flowers. Let’s stop in and see what he has.”

Guy Thrasher at this store.

So we met Guy Thrasher. He right away starts talking, and he said to me, “Are you summer people or are you permanent people?” And I said, “We’re permanent. We just had a house built on Scott Road.” So I picked out different plants and flowers that I wanted to buy, and I was paying for them, and he says to me, “I have something for your new home.” And he handed me a pot with a little plant that wasn’t more than about eight inches high. And he said, “I dug this up in the woods. It’s a wild azalea. Plant it at your home.” Then he gave each of our kids a little flower that they could bring home and plant. And now I look out my window, and at the corner of the garage, where I can see through my living room window, is the wild azalea that Guy Thrasher gave me. It’s now about ten feet tall.

HA: Wow.

CL: It’s the most beautiful bush. Every time we went there, Guy Thrasher always gave us something free. He gave the kids more flowers, and by the end of the summer they had their own little flower gardens. He was one of the nicest men I ever knew. He’d really made an impression. And that kind of taught me what Worthington people are like. They’re all friendly and they just want to be nice to everybody, and it’s a great way to be.

The azalea bush given as a gift from Guy Thrasher to Carol Labonte and family.

Posted September 9, 2020. The interview transcription was funded by a grant from the Worthington Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

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