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Life and Work

Saying ‘thanks’ with music

Wardsboro man starts charity to bring concerts to veterans

WARDSBORO—“I felt they had an earnest need for music, a way to have their spirits lifted.”

That’s what musician, farm manager, butcher, husband and father Brian Bousquet said is the inspiration behind his newly formed charity “Music For Our Vets.”

The group will hold a fundraising concert — “Free Music for Veterans!” — with the help of Wardsboro Congregational Yoked Parish, its pastor, Peter Carlson, and parishioners at Wardsboro Town Hall on Sunday, Nov. 14, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Donation receptacles will be in abundance.

(“Yoked,” by the way, according to Carlson, is an old American church designation to describe the joining of several declining congregations — in the this case Baptist, Congregational and Methodist, under the yoke of one minister. In the case of Wardsboro, Carlson serves the Baptists and Congregationalists four months at a time and the Methodists for six.)

Parishioners will supply refreshments, said Carlson, for this post-Veterans Day gala “to honor our vets. We’ve talked about it in church, we’ve hung posters and we’re hoping to spread the word to raise money for vets and for Brian’s charity.”

Carlson noted past fundraisers that swell the church coffers, including the eternally popular Wardsboro Fourth of July celebration.

Musicians on the bill include the locally familiar Alan Bills and the pastor himself, who plays bass guitar and the piano (including for services). Guitar men Bousquet and his brother Paul are also well-known locally.

“It’s kind of a show-up deal,” Bousquet says, and is glad for the company. Country, folk and oldies dominate the programs, he said.

Carlson said he’s definitely asked “Dut” Harris, venerable harmonica player, known around these parts for nearly 90 years, to be part of the show.

Since this is the charity’s first event, Bousquet has no idea what to expect in the way of turnout or money, but he knows what he’d like to do and why.

“About a year and a half ago, I was looking for more places to play music,” Bousquet said, “and one day I called up [the Veterans Administration medical center in White River Junction] and asked if I could come up and play some music for the vets, and they said, ‘Sure.’”

And that was it.

“The more I went, the more vets I met who really enjoyed it.  They deserve it. I play mostly in the cafeteria, but I also go to their homes and to senior centers and other places where they are. I’ve met those with severe disabilities — from World War II to the present.”

Farmer by trade

A native Vermonter, Bousquet grew up on a farm in West Townshend. His father died when Brian was 19, leaving his mother, three sisters and one brother to run the farm. There Brian became accustomed to driving tractors and skidders and helping to run the family sawmill, as well as to the country music passions of his brother.

Bousquet met his wife, Diane, at the Dam Diner in West Townsend. They each eventually earned degrees at the University of New Hampshire — hers in occupational therapy and his an associate’s degree in animal science. He used his education handily as farm manager for Kindle Farm School in Saxtons River until that campus closed.

They have two children, a daughter at the University of Vermont and a son at Leland & Gray Union High School in Townshend.

Bousquet says he’s especially grateful to a few of the vets he’s met for helping him build the charity, gaining the ubiquitous and required 501(c)3 Internal Revenue Service status for nonprofits and other details. He’s not ashamed to say if there’s someone out there willing to jazz up his website, he’d be thrilled.

Meanwhile, and his major, big-time dream is to raise $10,000 to buy a 1964 Army ambulance from  a collector (also a retired Army sergeant in Keene, N.H.) to transport musicians and equipment for home visits and to shows.

Shows that, he says, he intends to keep on bringing free to veterans.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #75 (Wednesday, November 10, 2010).

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