Windsor Man Keeps Those Chains Moving

  • Bill Cole, who is part of the chain gang at high school football games. Valley News - Tris Wykes
  • Bill Cole, who is part of the chain gang at high school football games. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Windsor — It’s a volunteer job that’s utterly necessary, but goes without notice and is only appreciated by a precious few.

Those few can see Bill Cole every Saturday — without fail — whenever Windsor High has a home football game. Cole will be the tall white-bearded gentleman holding the down marker as a member of the Windsor chain gang. It’s a task Cole takes seriously.

“I get there about an hour before the game and check on all the equipment,” said Cole, who teams up with Jamie Boudro, Jeff Page and Tom Bertrand to form the Yellowjackets’ chain gang.

The 68-year-old Cole will plan his whole day around the game.

“I won’t go on vacation,” said Cole. “I even missed a neighbor’s wedding. I’m dedicated.”

No one knows it better than his wife, Cathy.

“Once he makes a commitment, he sticks to it,” she said. “That was one of the first things I liked about him when we started dating.

“He has a strong feeling for community.”

Cole, a 1963 Windsor graduate, wanted to be a member of the chain gang long before that Saturday 20 years ago when the gang came up a man short. Tom Connolly, then running the chain gang, asked Cole if he would help out.

“I jumped at the chance,” Cole said. “That was a long time ago, and I haven’t missed a game since.”

Cole has seen athletes and coaches come and go, pointing to a few incidents that stand out in his mind.

In September 2011, Windsor was playing a game at Hanover while Windsor’s home field was being restored after Tropical Storm Irene.

“They said it was a 100 degrees on the field that day,” said Cole. “The first play went 80 yards, and I had to run the 80 yards.”

That day, Windsor was playing Mill River, and the heat reflecting off the Hanover’s artificial surface forced the officials to stop the game several times so the players could get re-hydrated.

“We ran out of water and other drinks by the half,” Cole said. “If it wasn’t for Cathy Page (Jeff’s wife), I don’t know what we would have done.

“She showed up with water and Gatorade. I drank one bottle of Gatorade right away and poured a bottle of water over my head. It was like an oven down there.”

Then there was the 2009 Vermont Division III championship game between Windsor and Springfield, which was played in Brattleboro in subpar weather.

“It was cold, rainy and muddy and just a nasty day,” Cole said. “I think those were the worst conditions we ever had to work a game. Hey, we won (19-8), so it was worth it.”

The current quartet of volunteers has been together for a number of years, something Cole believed to be necessary.

“There just came a time that I knew we needed a reliable crew,” said Cole.

Added Bob Hingston, Windsor’s athletic director: “Now there’s a list of guys who want to be on the chain gang.”

Cole and his crew have worked the past two Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl games — including the last Shrine game that Windsor hosted three years ago.

You would think that over the years, Cole would have been hit by a player along the sideline, but it has never happened.

“There have been some close calls,” he admitted. “But I’ve never gotten taken out.”

Cole never participated in high school sports, citing physical ailments. According to his wife, however, he not only works the football games, but attends baseball, basketball and other sporting events at the high school. Does she mind?

“Not a bit. It gives me time to do other things,” she said.

Cole is also one of the founders of the Pee Wee program that began in the town nearly 25 years ago and still functions every Sunday during the fall.

“You know, when that first group of Pee Wee players got to high school, they won a state championship,” Cole said. “Kind of makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it?”