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Caring for All Kinds of Communities

  • Dot Wathley climbs over a rail after herding cows into the milking barn at the Pinello Family Farm in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. When Wathley sold the farm she ran with her late husband and sister from 1965 to 1998, she intigrated the herd into the Pinello Farm's herd and began helping with milking as well as managing the breeding program. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Dot Wathley climbs over a rail after herding cows into the milking barn at the Pinello Family Farm in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. When Wathley sold the farm she ran with her late husband and sister from 1965 to 1998, she intigrated the herd into the Pinello Farm's herd and began helping with milking as well as managing the breeding program.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • From left, Sue Schoolcraft, Carolyn Lumbra, Dot Wathley, Mim Herwig, and Alice Lake catch up during their monthly lunch at the cafeteria in the Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    From left, Sue Schoolcraft, Carolyn Lumbra, Dot Wathley, Mim Herwig, and Alice Lake catch up during their monthly lunch at the cafeteria in the Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Dot Wathley puts slippers on Gerald Burnham before making him breakfast at his apartment in Randolph, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. Burnham used to work for Wathley on her farm, and when he suffere a stroke, Wathley began taking care of him every day. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Dot Wathley puts slippers on Gerald Burnham before making him breakfast at his apartment in Randolph, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. Burnham used to work for Wathley on her farm, and when he suffere a stroke, Wathley began taking care of him every day.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Dot Wathley reaches to release a cow after helping to trim the animal's hooves at Pinello Family Farm in Randolph, Vt., on Feb. 20, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Dot Wathley reaches to release a cow after helping to trim the animal's hooves at Pinello Family Farm in Randolph, Vt., on Feb. 20, 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • While her sister, Alice Lake, right, watches, Dot Wathley works on a scarf for a friend at their home in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 26, 2014. Even during her "down time" Wathley is still usually working on crocheting one project or another. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    While her sister, Alice Lake, right, watches, Dot Wathley works on a scarf for a friend at their home in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 26, 2014. Even during her "down time" Wathley is still usually working on crocheting one project or another.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

  • Dot Wathley guides a herd of dairy cows from one barn to the next at Pinello Dairy Farm in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. Wathley, who lives on the same road as the farm, gets to the farm around 5, 2-3 times a week to help with milking, and is at the farm almost every day to work or run errands. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Dot Wathley guides a herd of dairy cows from one barn to the next at Pinello Dairy Farm in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. Wathley, who lives on the same road as the farm, gets to the farm around 5, 2-3 times a week to help with milking, and is at the farm almost every day to work or run errands.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Dot Wathley writes down a name of a cow ready to be bred while milking at the Pinello Family Farm in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. Wathley manages both the breeding program at the farm and keeps track of cows that need their hooves trimmed. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Dot Wathley writes down a name of a cow ready to be bred while milking at the Pinello Family Farm in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. Wathley manages both the breeding program at the farm and keeps track of cows that need their hooves trimmed.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Dot Wathley climbs over a rail after herding cows into the milking barn at the Pinello Family Farm in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. When Wathley sold the farm she ran with her late husband and sister from 1965 to 1998, she intigrated the herd into the Pinello Farm's herd and began helping with milking as well as managing the breeding program. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • From left, Sue Schoolcraft, Carolyn Lumbra, Dot Wathley, Mim Herwig, and Alice Lake catch up during their monthly lunch at the cafeteria in the Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Dot Wathley puts slippers on Gerald Burnham before making him breakfast at his apartment in Randolph, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. Burnham used to work for Wathley on her farm, and when he suffere a stroke, Wathley began taking care of him every day. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Dot Wathley reaches to release a cow after helping to trim the animal's hooves at Pinello Family Farm in Randolph, Vt., on Feb. 20, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • While her sister, Alice Lake, right, watches, Dot Wathley works on a scarf for a friend at their home in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 26, 2014. Even during her "down time" Wathley is still usually working on crocheting one project or another. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Dot Wathley guides a herd of dairy cows from one barn to the next at Pinello Dairy Farm in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. Wathley, who lives on the same road as the farm, gets to the farm around 5, 2-3 times a week to help with milking, and is at the farm almost every day to work or run errands. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Dot Wathley writes down a name of a cow ready to be bred while milking at the Pinello Family Farm in Randolph Center, Vt., on Feb. 19, 2014. Wathley manages both the breeding program at the farm and keeps track of cows that need their hooves trimmed. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Randolph Center — From people to farm animals to pets, it seems Dorothy “Dot” Wathley is always looking after someone or something. Wathley, 73, divides her days between Pinello Family Farm and caring for elderly neighbors.

She’s not sure why, but helping people makes her “very happy.” And the dedication runs both ways.

“If I need help, I know they are there, too,” she said.

Wathley, who was named Vermont’s Farm Woman of the year in 2007, has a long history with both farming and caregiving.

“She does a tremendous amount with community service,” said Frank Pinello, who owns the Randolph Center farm with his brother David Pinello and their families. “She’s like the real old-fashioned agricultural-type person who puts the community before the individual farm.”

Originally from Brewster, N.Y., Wathley moved with her brother, brother-in-law and sister, in 1965 to Randolph Center, where they purchased a dairy farm near Vermont Technical College. The following year, her brother, an Air Force veteran, was injured in a farming accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down and led to the amputation of his left arm. After leaving the hospital, Norman “Buster” Wathley returned to the farm, where his family took care of him for almost four decades.

His room was “like a regular hospital room,” Wathley said. “Thank goodness for the VA. They set his room up, and any time I needed help, all I had to do was call.”

She and her brother, two years her junior, “always ran things by each other before we did something,” she said. And, like many people, she was inspired by him.

“He never complained about anything. That was the strange part,” she said. “He always had a smile. I learned that from him.”

Wathley, her sister Alice Lake and Lake’s husband, Guy, ran the farm together until Guy’s death in 1995. Her mother, Ethel Wathley, died in 2000, followed by her brother in 2006.

“Now, it’s just my sister,” Wathley said.

She and Lake, 85, share a trailer on the land they kept after selling the farm and most of the property in 1998. At that time, Wathley and her sister were caring for their mother and brother.

“It was too much taking care of them and running the farm,” Wathley said. But it wasn’t long before she was back in the dairy business.

She started as a milker on the Pinello farm and later became a calf feeder. Nearly 14 years later, “she’s like the mother of the farm,” Pinello said.

Her current duties include overseeing the breeding program and hoof trimming. On milk testing days, she “makes sure everyone knows what they’re doing,” he said. “Organization is a big part of Dot’s job.”

She arrives early, often by 5 a.m., and sometimes returns later in the day with some needed item, which could be anything from auto parts to paper towels. When someone can’t make it to work, the employees cover for each other, she said. “Everybody is family. It makes it nice.”

She spends the rest of the morning with Gerald Burnham, of Randolph, doing household chores and errands. Once a week, she shops for a 90-year-old neighbor.

With her medical skills and sensitive personality, Wathley “gets calls constantly” from people asking her to take care of elderly residents, Pinello said. “People trust her.”

She’s also a go-to person for pet-sitting. “I don’t set a price,” she said. “They just pay what they want.”

On a given day, she might visit dogs or cats, a rooster or a horse, and that’s how she likes it.

“There’s a variety,” Wathley said. “They all have their own personalities.”

An animal lover herself, her menagerie includes three cats, nine chickens and two roosters. She also has a total of 30 cows and heifers at the Pinello farm.

In addition to growing all of her vegetables and mowing her lawn, she tends the patch of land that hosts the welcome sign in Randolph Center. Evenings find her crocheting afghans or baby blankets; currently, she’s making an orchid-colored scarf for a friend. Her favorite moment of the day?

“Each one’s a little special, I think,” Wathley said.

With all of her responsibilities, she’s hardly ever at the trailer. That will soon change, however.

“I’m going to start staying home more in the afternoon,” she said. “My sister’s getting so she doesn’t like to cook anymore.”

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.