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Ray Irving Pestle Jr.

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BRATTLEBORO -- Ray Irving Pestle Jr., the longtime county agent for Windham County, died peacefully at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2006.

Ray was born June 22, 1921, in Ilion, N.Y., the son of Ray Irving Pestle Sr. and Cleora Rose McClurg. At the age of 8, the family moved to Waitsfield, where his father was the principal of the Waitsfield High School. Mr. Pestle graduated from that high school in 1939, received his bachelor of science degree in dairy husbandry from the University of Vermont cum laude in 1943, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and his master’s degree in animal nutrition in 1945 from Rutgers University in New Jersey. He later received advanced education at Cornell University, the University of Colorado, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Massachusetts, as well as the University of Vermont.

In May of 1945, Ray came to Brattleboro as the county agricultural extension agent (a part of the extension service of the UVM) for Windham County, and was married in June of that year to his wife, Annette Lilley, of Bakersfield. They lived in the same house on Southern Avenue from 1951 until recently.

Ray continued as county agent until 1976, and served as a small fruit specialist for many other counties. During his career, he saw major changes in agriculture in Windham County and surrounding areas, such as a decrease in the number of dairy farms in the county from more than 600 full-time farms to under 200, and the end of tobacco growing in the county. As county agent, he helped introduce grass silage, electronic farm accounting and artificial cattle breeding to the county and promoted direct sales by farmers to consumers. At the time of his retirement from the UVM Extension Service, he was the longest serving extension agent in Windham County and the second longest in Vermont, a little more than 31 years.

From 1976 until his death, he was an agricultural consultant working with farmers and fruit and vegetable growers in Vermont and New Hampshire. He also administered many estates, served as guardian for several individuals and prepared income tax returns for many people.

During his entire career, Ray was a strong believer in educating the public on agricultural matters. As a result, for many years, he was the farm correspondent for the Brattleboro Reformer. With other extension agents he had weekly radio programs on WTSA and later on WKVT in Brattleboro and arranged many publicity events, such as a milking contest between innings at a Brattleboro High School baseball game.

Ray’s community service include serving on the UVM Council, the Finance Committee and Agricultural Advisory Committee of the town of Brattleboro, president and later treasurer of the Southern Vermont Dairy Goat Association, president of the Woodland Owners Association, president of the New England Association of County Agricultural Agents, serving on both the Brattleboro and Windham County Historical Societies, and being a charter member of the Vermont Tax Practitioners Association. He helped form the Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District and the Windham Regional Commission.

He was a representative to Brattleboro’s representative town meeting from the inception of the representative form of town meeting until his death. He was a member of and active in Centre Congregational Church for 61 years, including serving as trustee, deacon, chairman of the Mission Committee and three separate terms as moderator. He was a member of the Brattleboro Ski Patrol for 25 years.

During his career, Mr. Pestle received many awards, including: Distinguished Service Awards from both the Vermont Bankers Association and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents; an award from WWLP-TV in Springfield, Massachusetts for Outstanding Service to the Public; the Windham County Pomona Grange’s Community Servant Award; the Windham County Farm Bureau Kid Gore Award for 31 years of dedicated service; a Public Service award from the state of Vermont for his many years of service to the state and the town of Brattleboro; and was honored at a recent Strolling of the Heifers in Brattleboro.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Annette Pestle, of Hilltop House in Brattleboro; his sisters, Ruth Pestle and Lois Richardson, of Waitsfield; a son and daughter-in-law, John Pestle and Penelope Pestle, of Grand Rapids, Mich.; a daughter and son-in-law, Carol Goodnow and Leonard Goodnow, of Spofford, N.H.; a grandson and his wife, William Pestle and Christina Menendez, of Chicago; a granddaughter, Sarah Pestle, of Honolulu, Hawaii; and two great-grandchildren, Christian Rodriguez and Sebastian Menendez Pestle, both of Chicago.

Funeral arrangements are by Atamaniuk Funeral Home, 40 Terrace St., Brattleboro, where there will be visiting hours with the family on Thursday, Sept. 7, from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

There will be a memorial service for Ray at Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro on Saturday, Sept. 9, at 1 p.m. Gifts in Ray’s memory should be sent to the Memorial Fund of Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main St., Brattleboro, VT 05301.
Published in Bennington Banner on Sept. 6, 2006
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