His first year as a teacher found him teaching agriculture in what is now the Jacksonville Post Office. At that time, the Whitingham Municipal Center was Whitingham High School, which Stella attended. He taught agriculture across ninth- to 12th grades during the school year 1955-56. He would meet his future bride that year.
At the time, Stella was working at the Skyline Restaurant. Stella’s father, Myron “Mike” Allen, was an advisor to the agricultural program at the school, as well as the Future Farmers of America. According to Norm, Stella would hang around her brother David, a state FFA officer and new friend to Norm, and the three young people would go to the movies. Eventually, the three became two and when Norm was drafted into the Army in 1956, he knew Stella would be in his future.
When asked how long he served, Norm replied briskly, “Two years, seven days, and nine hours.” He hastened to note that his Army stint was far from boring. He served as a private at post headquarters, Fort Dix, NJ, where most communications from parents, politicians, and congressmen came across his desk.
When Norm returned from his military service, he and Stella were married on June 7, 1958 at the Jacksonville Community Church. Following their marriage, the Stevenses moved to Chelsea, where Norm taught agriculture, science, and biology for four years. Norm said that he enjoyed the school setting and enjoyed the children. Of his colleagues, he says, “I have friendships that remain to this day.”
Norm went on to teach science at Chester High School where he later became assistant principal and principal. He would spend a total of 19 years at the Chester and Green Mountain high schools in administrative positions. Norm said, “That is where I built my reputation. They always thought the best of me.” He added proudly that in this combined middle-high school, “There were some kids who didn’t care about education or much of anything and over six years became good students and good citizens.” He remembered one student sent to the office for missing school who told Norm he stayed home so his father wouldn’t hit his mother. That, he believes, is a symptom of what threatens education: the child’s home environment.
He and Stella hosted a social at their home after graduation and Norm still hears from Green Mountain friends through email. Norm spent his last 10 professional years as a housemaster at Mill River High School. He worked directly with students in both guidance and disciplinary functions. Norm is particularly proud of his induction into the Vermont Principals Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Montpelier before an audience of 270.
While Norm was making his mark in education, Stella was raising their four children. “We thought it was important that Stella was home during the formative years,” said Norm, “and all four of our children are responsible adults.” All the children and their families live within two hours of them and “have been the joy of our golden years,” said Norm. Michael lives in Jacksonville, Pam Grimard in Turners Falls, MA, Debra Avison in Bondville, and Cheryl Hammond in Ludlow. Among them, they have produced 10 grandchildren.
While Stella’s dad was living alone after the death of his wife Billie, Stella would come down during the week. Myron died in 1993. Soon after, Norm and Stella returned to Whitingham. They still live in Stella’s childhood home. Both being civic-minded, Norm served on the selectboard, while Stella stays busy as president of the Whitingham Historical Society, and a member of the Jacksonville-Whitingham Homemakers and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She also served as a library trustee.
Norm and Stella are very grateful, particularly to the church, for all the support they received during Norm’s illnesses. But if those illnesses have affected Norm, it hasn’t dented his sense of humor or his devotion to family. Of his 55 years with Stella, he said, “We have a good time together.”
Allen family notes
A genealogy gathered by members of the Allen family in the 1950s states that Revolutionary War veteran Elijah Allen came from Greenfield, MA, to Halifax in the latter part of the 18th century. A cobbler by trade, his tools are now on display at the museum in Whitingham village. In 1821, Elijah bought the Allen Homestead and later deeded it to his son Jonathan, an active farmer who increased the holdings of the property. While a schoolteacher in town, Jonathan’s son Elijah II took over management of the farm and later served in various civil capacities. He was also a charter member of the North River Creamery and instrumental in the building and organizing of the Jacksonville Community Church.
When Elijah died in 1916, his son Wallace inherited the property and a good measure of his father’s civic-mindedness. All of the Allens continue to be active members of the North River Grange.
The genealogy also credits Wallace witih being a founder of the decennial Old Home observances. Wallace passed on his love of land and community to his son Myron and the Allen family continues to be a strong and vital presence in Whitingham.