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At Oxbow, Future Marine Gets a Sisterly Surprise

  • Oxbow High School Valedictorian Claire Cook rehearses her speech as freshman Kyle Emerson, second from right, stops in to see Jon Puffer, left, and Richard Rosten, right, before graduation on Friday, June 9, 2017, in Bradford, Vt. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Rosemary Fraser, 18, of Newbury, who will join the Marine Corps following graduation puts on her sash before commencement at Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., Friday, June 9, 2017. Fraser's older sister Angela Fraser is a Marine and surprised her by attending the ceremony. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2017 12:27:05 AM
Modified: 6/10/2017 12:27:15 AM

Bradford, Vt. — Waiting for the line of Oxbow High School seniors to move closer to the table full of diplomas Friday night, Rosemary Fraser adjusted the Marine Corps sash over her broad, white-gowned shoulders and stood at the edge of the dais in Mona Garone Gymnasium.

Looking past the two classmates ahead of her, Fraser spotted her Marine recruiter, Staff Sgt. Peter Cote, approaching from the left. Next thing she knew, a wiry Marine in full dress blues bearing the stripe of a private first class was stepping out from under the gym’s climbing wall to the right and around Oxbow Principal Jean Wheeler and school district Superintendent Beth Cobb, just as Fraser’s name was being called.

Finally Fraser blinked, confirming that her sister Angela had come from the Marines Corps’ New River Air Station in North Carolina. Somehow, Rosemary held onto the diploma while wrapping her arms around her smaller and only sibling.

“For months now, I thought she wasn’t going to come,” Rosemary Fraser said after graduating with more than 50 classmates. “As far as I knew, she wasn’t going to be able to get leave.”

Indeed, on May 22, Angela Fraser, who went straight to boot camp from Oxbow last year, had posted on her Facebook timeline that “All I want is to go home and see my family and say a huge good luck to my sister Rosie Fraser. I couldn’t be any more proud of you, sis. You’ve grown into an amazing woman and the fact that I inspired you to join the Marine Corps makes me cry with pride to say that we have started a small tradition based on only faith to succeed, and I can’t wait to say you are a Marine.”

Coaxing Rosemary to join the Marines came easier than arranging leave so that she could welcome her sooner than later.

“I didn’t need to do much convincing,” Angela Fraser recalled. “She did it mostly on her own.

As recently as a year ago, Rosemary said, “I was dead set on college, probably UVM to study business and finance. Then I went to Angela’s boot camp graduation in August. I saw how much like a family they are, and when I came home I said, ‘Looked like a good fit for me.’”

In their addresses to the class, President Cayleigh O’Connell and valedictorian Claire Cook recalled needing time and help to fit in at Oxbow.

“All my friends from Waits River Valley School ended up going to Thetford (Academy),” O’Connell said, adding that freshman year was a lonely trudge until Renee Jones and Richard Rosten showed her the ropes.

“You made it bearable,” O’Connell said, turning to Jones. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

For Cook, a home-schooler until eighth grade, the transition took longer still, between taking exams and using lockers for the first time in her life and learning how to co-exist with people other than her family and their dogs. Until Taylor Welch and Natalie Burton came along, Cook said, “I was like an animal in survival mode” who became known outside her small circle of friends mostly for her glares and her sarcasm.

Then in grade 9, she continued, a boy wearing a shirt with a collar of neon pink arrived from the Blue Mountain Union School in neighboring Wells River.

“Richard Rosen was in the house,” Cook said, and with him, came lessons in kindness and laughter and tolerance. And over the ensuing years, she added, Brandon Swett and Sarah Walker further integrated her into the community at which she once glared and snarled.

“To everyone else, I’d like to take this chance to say ‘I’m sorry,’” Cook concluded. “And now I’m sorry it’s over. … Thanks for dealing with me while I figured it out.”

With a rainbow cutting through the clouds over the Connecticut River after the ceremony, Rosemary Fraser was trying to figure out how her older sister managed to put one over on her.

Not that the next Marine in the family was complaining.

“What a present,” Angela Fraser’s little sister said. “This was better than the diploma.”

Oxbow Class of 2017

Natalie Isabelle Barton, Jacob Alan Beck, Maryjane Bourgeois, Cassandra L. Boyce, Shanon Lee Boyce, Britteny Catherine Brocar, Leanne Sterling Burgess, Penny Dumar Burke, Keanna Lynn Chalifoux, Melissa Ann Conlon, Claire Mabel Cook, Taylor Marjorie Ann Deuso-Lund, Dakota Scott Downing, Rosemary Jean Fraser, Fern Mercedes Fredella, Alexandria Marie Giesing, Tristan Joshua Gray, Nicole Hebb. Briggs Malachy Heffernan, Jennifer Marie Holt, Amber Lynn Hough, Kerry A. Ingram, Damian Hunter Jamieson, Noah Michael Johnson, Renée Natalie Jones, Tyler Jacob Longmoore, Trevor James MacAloney, Kendall McIntire, Alyssa Ann McLeod, Ashley Maye Morse, Cayleigh Rose O’Connell, Rebecca Anne Osmer, Kyle Reilly Pittman, Rhianne Gabrielle Poirier, Cassidy Noelle Pryer, Jonathan Matthew Puffer, Richard Mackenzie Rosten, Dakota Joseph Smith, Emalee Alice Sprague, Sarah Nicole Stevens, Jacob Joshua Stimson, Tucker James Sweet, Brandon Christopher Swett, Bayley Doris Thresher, Kobe Jozeff Thurston, Nicholas Adam Tillotson, Kayleigh Christine Trojanowski, Bailey Maxwell Trojanowski, Brianna LaDora-Peachlen Vance, Dylan Patrick Vaughan, Sara Jene Walker, Rebecca Jane Ward, Taylor Rose Welch, Micayla Lee Wheeler, Joseph Terrence Wood, Veronica May Yaeger.

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