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In obituary for 'Pete' Adams of Wilmington, Vt., family asked people to mask-up, get vaccinated

If you've been to Mount Snow, in West Dover, Vermont, odds are pretty good you noticed the Sundance Base Lodge. That's the huge structure with all the glass. The man who led the building of the lodge was a lifelong resident of nearby Wilmington, Bertram Adams.

“He was [known as] Pete since before he was born," said his son, Les Adams. "His dad was joking about 'Pete and Repeat,' and the oncoming baby was going to be Repeat, and he was just known as Pete. Forever.”

Pete Adams' obituary reads, in part, that he "succumbed to COVID-19" last fall. It was written by Les Adams' older sister, Brenda. It asked people to get vaccinated if they are able, and to wear masks in public, "in his honor."

Bertram "Pete" Adams, enjoying family time, seated and smiling at a picnic table.
Submitted photo
Bertram "Pete" Adams, enjoying family time, seated and smiling at a picnic table.

“All three of us kids and our mom knew that that dad would have wanted it to be mentioned," Les Adams said. "None of us had any doubt he would have chosen to have it mentioned."

Early on during the pandemic, before vaccines were available, Wilmington lost brothers Leon and Cleon Boyd to COVID-19. Les Adams had known them since first grade.

"They were the salt of the earth, really," Les Adams said, choking up. "Just the greatest guys. Everybody loved them. Good old Vermont farmers who'd do anything for anybody."

The Boyd twins died six days apart, at the age of 64, with many in their extended family getting sick, too. The Wilmington community realized COVID was serious.

"My dad and my mom had no hesitation about getting vaccinated once it was available," Les Adams said, "and they tried to encourage others to be smart and do the same thing."

Pete Adams was born in 1928 in Northampton, Massachusetts. He grew up on the family farm in Wilmington, graduated from college and served in the Army. He returned to Wilmington to start a life with his wife Betty. They had three children.

“I remember we had picnic tables and a few other things that were built out of this incredible 4-inch-thick, clear cedar lumber," he said. "Just straight grained, beautiful, rare lumber.”

His dad always said the tables were built out of leftovers from the Sundance Base Lodge, from Mount Snow. For years, the kids didn’t believe him, until Les Adams started working at the ski area.

“And one day I was riding the lift with Walt Schoenknecht, the founder of Mount Snow, and he saw my employee name tag," Les Adams recalled. "And he said, 'Oh, your dad is Pete Adams! He built the Sundance base lodge for me.' And that's when I realized my dad really did build it. He was the head carpenter for it."

A photo from 1967 inside a ski lodge at Mount Snow, in West Dover, Vermont.
Courtesy
/
Brattleboro Historical Society
A photo from 1967 inside a ski lodge at Mount Snow, in West Dover, Vermont.

Les Adams explained that work was "a testament" to his dad's independence, that he could grow up on a Vermont farm and become head carpenter on a "massive, essentially a three-story story building, that was all one huge open room that had no internal support."

"It was an incredible building, and he built that with low tech and no advanced engineering or anything like that," Les Adams said. "He and his crew built it and still standing and still solid.”

But Pete Adams' main business wasn’t woodworking — it was a plumbing and heating business. On the side, he found time for some woodworking projects, like rebuilding canoes. Les Adams said he thinks his dad's love for rebuilding canoes began on a plumbing job.

"And he noticed this old beat-up, partly rotten wooden canoe on the on the property and was talking with a guy about it," Les Adams said. "And he ended up bartering for it in good New England fashion, and then he rebuilt the canoe. And all through my teenage years, that's the canoe I used. It was a hand-built wooden canoe from the 1800s or very early 1900s, and he rebuilt it.”

The canoe that Bertram "Pete" Adams started to build in his early 80s, from scratch. The canoe wasn't finished when Adams had a stroke a few years before his death. Unable to complete it, his middle child, Les Adams, took over the project for his dad.
Submitted photo
The canoe that Bertram "Pete" Adams started to build in his early 80s, from scratch. The canoe wasn't finished when Adams had a stroke a few years before his death. Unable to complete it, his middle child, Les Adams, took over the project for his dad.

In his retirement, Pete Adams kept at it. "Many a happy hour was spent chatting with visitors in his roadside workshop behind the purple doors," read his obituary.

“People who knew him would stop by to chat and exchange resources, you know, help each other on different projects," Les Adams said.

The trademark purple door, he said, was because his mom "had a thing" for the color.

"And she forced my poor dad to paint all the outside doors on their house purple," Les Adams said. "Not a a terribly bright vibrant purple, but it was very purple against this light yellow house siding, and the house was known as the house with the purple doors."

Bertram Justin Adams, better known as Pete, contracted COVID-19 in September 2021, and died a few days later. A family gathering planned for last fall was postponed due to the rise of the omicron variant. The family plans to gather this year, on the family farm in Wilmington, to remember Pete.

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