EAST SHELDON — George O. Stebbins Jr. died peacefully on Saturday, March 28, 2015 after a long illness. He was surrounded by his loving family at his home in Sheldon – the same home in which he was born on Aug. 6, 1928 to the late George O. Stebbins, Sr. and Stella (Chapman) Stebbins. Like many boys who share their father’s name, George was given a nickname as a child: ‘Sonny.’ Some say this was also because of the “sunny” shade of his white-blond hair, which, although it darkened in color, he never lost and wore in the same close-cropped style his entire life. An early photo of a towheaded boy in overalls kneeling beside a calf prefigures much of his life to come.
He attended both the one-room schoolhouse in East Sheldon and Sheldon High School and graduated from Enosburg Falls High School at the age of 16 as the valedictorian of his class. He was awarded a full scholarship to attend the University of Vermont and considered a career as a Navy pilot, but chose instead to continue his family’s tradition of dairy farming.
The third generation to run the Stebbins dairy farm, George was a progressive farmer and a “cow man” who loved his animals and focused on milk production. He was a member of the Vermont Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) and for several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s his herd had one of the top DHIA averages in Franklin County. He was an early adopter of artificial insemination and served as a delegate to Eastern Breeders, Inc. He also installed one of the first bulk milk tanks in the county.
In June of 1948, George met “the most completely wonderful person I have ever known,” Thelma Dorothy Hulbert, at the H.P. Hood picnic in the park at Highgate Falls. They were married on Jan. 14, 1949, in Bakersfield. Three pillars held up the foundation of their 58-year partnership: their faith, family, and work – both on the farm and in their community. They shared family gatherings and celebrations; love of family and country life; a fierce Scrabble rivalry; loving care in times of illness; and, above all, a wonderful friendship. Together George and Thelma raised eight children, working hard, having fun, and doing their best to follow Christ’s example, where love is the center of all things. They helped care for their siblings in sickness, and made monthly trips to Franklin County nursing homes, visiting family and friends, which George continued after Thelma died.
George was a bright man with many intellectual endeavors whose leadership interests and abilities were evident in his many roles in church, community, and civic organizations. George served as Sheldon Town Moderator for 28 years, as well as Town Agent, school board member, and member of the Sheldon Historical Society. George and Thelma were instrumental in organizing the celebration of Sheldon’s 200-year anniversary in 1991, which began a town tradition of Sheldon Home Days every five years that continues today. George and Thelma were honored to be named Grand Marshals of the 2006 Home Days Parade. George was an active member of the Sheldon United Methodist Church, serving in a variety of leadership capacities. He was a Mason for over 60 years and was a Past Master of Haswell Lodge No. 39 and Past District Deputy Grand Master of District 7. George was also an active member of the Franklin County Republican Party and in 1982 was elected to the Vermont State House of Representatives, where he served for two rewarding and enjoyable terms. He was a member of the Enosburg Lions Club and served on the Franklin County Home Health Board of Directors.
One could say George was a man of few words, but more accurately he was a man who chose his words carefully: the timing, the phrasing, the diction, the tone. With a dry and rich sense of humor, he loved jokes, aphorisms, stories, and “sayings,” stores of which he contained in his memory to be called upon at the right moment. He was a natural public speaker with a wonderful sense of occasion and the ability to speak both simply and eloquently. His children and grandchildren will treasure his many succinct pieces of advice and wisdom, which always contained a generous dose of good humor. He was an avid reader and loved music, politics, baseball, and life’s simple pleasures.
George valued his family over all things except the Lord, and we could not have asked for a better example in a father, brother, uncle, or grandfather. He is survived by his children and their spouses: Kathleen and G. John Gorton, II, of Fairfield; George O. Stebbins, III, and Debra of Sheldon; Gregory M. and Celeste Kane Stebbins of Sheldon; Timothy D. and Tammy Stebbins of Sheldon; daughter-in-law Teresa Stebbins of Georgia; Rebecca Stebbins of Enosburg; Linda and Leon Benoit of Sheldon; and Peter J. Stebbins of Washington, D.C. George loved and enjoyed his grandchildren: Iain and wife Necia, Daniel and wife, Amanda, Benjamin and wife, Sherry Larose, and Samuel Gorton; Morgan and husband, Seth Kittredge, Nathan and wife, Kristen, Landon and wife, Ellen, and Nicholas Stebbins; Emily and husband, Wilder Wheelock IV, Michael, Matthew and wife, Erin, and Sean and wife, Sarah Stebbins; Regan and husband, Paul Keelty, Ashlee and husband, Chris Schofield, and Casey Stebbins; Laura and fiancé, Ben Hardie, Eric and fiancé, Erin Osmanski, and Kristine Stebbins; Gregory and Zachary Tarte; and Jessica and husband, Andrew May, Dianna and fiancé, Seth Kittell, Andrew, Stuart and wife, Jocelyn Benoit, and Evelyn and husband, Torrence Reed. Further joy came upon the arrival of his 19 great-grandchildren. Also surviving are his sister, Janet Stebbins Lumbra and husband, Reuben Lumbra of Milo, Maine; his brother-in-law and his wife, Carl and Laura Hulbert of Salt Springs, Fla.; and many nieces and nephews. George was pre-deceased by his wife, Thelma; his son, David Merritt Stebbins; his granddaughter, Olivia Chapman Tarte; his parents, George O. Stebbins, Sr. and Stella Stebbins, his mother and father-in-law, Elmer and Gertrude Hulbert; and his sisters, Ryllis Severance and Lila Jones.
George’s family wishes to thank the staff at the Franklin County Home Health Agency and Norma Kimball, Carolyn Bronz and Gloria Sweet for the compassionate and professional care that allowed George to spend his final months at home.
Visiting hours will be held on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at the Spears Funeral Home, 96 Dickinson Avenue, Enosburg Falls, Vermont from 4 to 7 p.m. A memorial service and celebration of George’s life will be held Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 11 a.m. at the Sheldon United Methodist Church with Rev. Kerry Cameron officiating. Interment will follow in the Sheldon Village Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to Franklin County Home Health Agency, 3 Home Health Circle, St. Albans, VT 05478 or to the Vermont Cancer Center, The Courtyard at Given, 89 Beaumont Avenue, Burlington, VT 05405.
Condolences may be sent to the family online through www.spearsfuneralhome.com.