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Peterborough

Farmer takes trip down memory lane

Peterborough: Hospice patient gets a chance to visit with farm animals once again, during an event his caregivers organized

  • Paul Chabot is a retired dairy farmer who had one last opportunity to hang out with some cows Wednesday at the Pheasant Wood Center.
  • Paul Chabot is a retired dairy farmer who had one last opportunity to hang out with some cows Wednesday at the Pheasant Wood Center.
  • Paul Chabot is a retired dairy farmer who had one last opportunity to hang out with some cows Wednesday at the Pheasant Wood Center.
  • Paul Chabot is a retired dairy farmer who had one last opportunity to hang out with some cows Wednesday at the Pheasant Wood Center.
  • Paul Chabot is a retired dairy farmer who had one last opportunity to hang out with some cows Wednesday at the Pheasant Wood Center.

Paul Chabot sat in his wheelchair as his hospice nurse rolled it through the Pheasant Wood Center parking lot Wednesday morning, taking in a little sunshine as they headed for the grassy area at the edge of the lot. The nurse wheeled him to a stop, and Chabot gazed up at the massive dairy cow in front of him. He surveyed the animal, taking it all in — breed, size, and so forth. Chabot reached out toward the beast’s face, petted it and remarked, “Nice horns.”

Chabot, a Life Choice Hospice patient, was a longtime dairy farmer, working on farms in Manchester, Wilton and Peterborough before his retirement. He’s been at Pheasant Wood for the past five years, but it was just a month ago when he expressed a wish to revisit one of the activities he’d done so many times in his life: milking a cow.

“When I do get [Paul] to talk, he talks about his life on the farm,” said Dawn DeCosta-Gallo, Chabot’s hospice nurse. Decosta-Gallo said the recent conversation prompted her to find Chabot a cow to milk.

“I started making some calls, eventually reaching out to Sunnyfield Farm, and they were excited about it,” said DeCosta-Gallo on Tuesday.

DeCosta-Gallo’s idea came to fruition Wednesday with the help of Sunnyfield Farm and Jennifer and Luke Winslow of Weare, who all brought farm animals to the Pheasant Wood Center.

“We do ‘Inspiring Life Events’ for the patients in our service. We try to do special things for them that remind them of their past. This gives our patients that sense of self-worth,” said Rita Stanton, volunteer coordinator at Life Choice Hospice.

Chabot, born April 22, 1917, in Manchester, got his first job on a farm there, on land that is now home to St. Anselm College, according to his son, Pierre Chabot of Hancock. “Then [Paul] went to work for Whitingsberry Dairy Farm in Wilton and worked there until 1954. Then I was born,” chuckled Pierre during an interview Tuesday.

After moving to Wilton, Paul took a job at Abbot Mills in Milford, and he later served as caretaker for Upland Farm in Peterborough.

“Paul worked for Upland Farm from the ’70s until he retired,” recalled Pierre, who is one of 10 children born to Paul and his wife, Rose. Before Rose died two years ago, the couple lived together at the Pheasant Wood Center.

“My father loves farming. I can remember him asking me to go back into farming with him when I was a teen. He also loved to garden. He would gather nuts for his wife to use in breads and pastries,” recalled Pierre.

The Inspiring Life event for Paul was open to all residents of the Pheasant Wood Center. Sunnyfield Farm and the Winslows brought milking and beef cows, a piglet, chickens, turkeys and a cattle dog, creating a farm setting for residents.

Pheasant Wood staff wheeled out each resident to the animals, which were stationed in a shady area adjacent to the facility’s parking lot. The residents then shared laughs and smiles, while enjoying the entertainment the farm animals provided.

“We wanted to make it a fair-event atmosphere. We wanted Paul to feel like he’s back home. He can feel like he’s still a dairy farmer for a day,” said Stanton, who was all smiles during the event.

“We want to focus on living. Paul was living life to the fullest. That’s what we want to honor,” Stanton said.

Although Chabot’s wish was to milk the Sunnyfield Farm animal, he didn’t attempt it. Struck by the cow’s size from the different vantage point of a wheelchair, Chabot quipped, “I had Holstein cows on my farm, but I can’t fit this one in my hip pocket.”

DeCosta-Gallo smiled. Handing him a small stuffed cow, she leaned over and said, “We did all this for you, Paul.”

Dylan Fisher can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235, or dfisher@ledgertranscript.com.

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