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A Life: Arthur Hyde, 1925-2013; ‘He Was Someone You Wanted to Have Around’

Arthur Hyde, a retired dairy farmer from Bradford, Vt.,  on June 3, 2011. (Valley News - Jason Johns)

Arthur Hyde, a retired dairy farmer from Bradford, Vt., on June 3, 2011. (Valley News - Jason Johns) Purchase photo reprints »

Bradford, Vt. — After owning small dairy farms south and west of the Upper Valley, Arthur Hyde finally settled on a plot in Bradford, Vt., in 1958 and appropriately named it “Dunlookin’ Farm.”

While Hyde may have been done looking for land, his tenure looking out for his industry and community was just beginning.

Hyde, who died on Aug. 28, 2013, at age 88, was a tireless worker and devoted townsman.

While tending about 250 active milkers, plus hundreds of calves and heifers on 550 acres, Hyde served in key roles on various boards and organizations at both the state and local levels.

In Bradford, Hyde served stints as a school district and public funds trustee as well as a selectman and lister. He was also involved in numerous industry organizations, including the state and county Farm Bureau, Soil and Water Conservation District, the Vermont Dairy Herd Improvement Association and Yankee Milk, Inc.

Hyde, who was born in the Northeast Kingdom and grew up in Brownsville, served 12 years on both the county Farm Credit Association, which had an office in Bradford, as well as the First District Farm Credit Board, helping dairy farmers like himself access the funds to start businesses.

Though he worked long days on the tractor and in his barns — adding an additional parcel to the Dunlookin’ network in 1968 — the generous and dependable Hyde was always a man of the community.

At Town Meeting each March, Hyde’s unabashed comments could turn a complacent room into one of classic debate.

“He always asked questions,” said Larry Coffin, a longtime friend and former longtime moderator in town. “He made Town Meeting operate like Town Meeting is supposed to operate. One of his sayings was ‘Let the people decide’ and when the annual town report was issued, he’d always check the numbers to make sure everything added up. I was always amazed at how active he was with all of the long days he put in on the farm.”

Hyde and his first wife, June, originally purchased 200 acres on Bradford’s Lower Plain with their three small children, Bruce, SallyAnn and Rebecca.

The family was shaken three years later when June died of pneumonia. In 1962, Hyde married family friend Frances Putnam and six years later they more than doubled the size of Dunlookin’ by purchasing 300 additional acres and moving into a brick house on Upper Plain, where they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year.

“He worked long days, but he had help from me and my sister, too,” said Hyde’s son, Bruce. “By the time we were 7 or 8 years old, we were helping (to) roll up bales of hay or lay out fertilizer. We’d wake up at 4 a.m. and sometimes be straight out through until 5 or 7 at night. A lot of times, we just headed right for bed and he would head out to a meeting.”

Hyde never hesitated to advocate on behalf of dairy farmers, often speaking before various state and county administrators to help his industry prosper — but not at the expense of the product.

“He believed in producing quality milk,” said friend and fellow Bradford dairy farmer Doug Miller. “You didn’t always agree with what he had to say, but you always respected it because he always had (what he felt were) the best interests of everyone in mind. So even if his ideas were different than yours, he was someone you wanted to have around.”

Miller recalled an instance where Hyde’s smarts helped save the most valuable part of a burning farm in North Haverhill — its milk parlor.

“Reed’s Farm in North Haverhill caught fire in 1967, and all the volunteer fire departments from around the area were trying to put it out,” Miller recalled. “Arthur showed up to see if anyone needed a hand and he saw everyone was trying to put out the barn on the south side of the farm. He looked over the structure and said it was the milk parlor that needed the most attention, because the barn was easier to replace. So everyone brought all their gear over to the north side, and they saved that milk parlor.”

Hyde took seriously his duties as a town lister, never looking forward to assessments that were disputed.

“He put a lot of pressure on himself, and I’m sure there were some nights that he didn’t sleep too well because he knew he had to go and make his case about the value of someone’s property,” Bruce Hyde said. “He always had facts to back it up, but confrontation wasn’t something he looked forward to.”

After selling his milkers in 1979, Hyde continued to raise calves and heifers as well as corn and other crops. Not milking allowed him to pursue other interests, including the preservation of Vermont’s cemeteries. He helped form the Bradford Cemetery Association, doing research, record keeping and maintenance of the town’s two plots off Route 5.

He went on to study cemeteries throughout the state through the Vermont Old Cemetery Association and produced two books on the subject, Burial Grounds of Vermont, published in 1991, and Bradford, Vt. Burials/1770-1997 six years later. Arthur and Frances displayed slideshow presentations at Bradford Academy upon each release.

Bradford Cemetery Association partner Martina Stever recalled Hyde’s dedication to preserving historic gravestones.

“Arthur was great at listing all of the plots and people buried, their family histories and things like that, but he also held great care for the monuments,” Stever said. “He had a deeper calling to restore and maintain them. There’s a chapel called Sawyer Chapel that was built in 1912. Whenever someone wanted to have a service there, Arthur would volunteer to go clean it up and make sure it was ready. He was a man who rolled up his sleeves and got to it whenever something had to be done.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.