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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 8, 2010


For Voorheesville
Be mindful of parachutes when ready to take flight

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Clayton A. Bouton’s valedictorian asked her 90 classmates to remember who packed their parachutes.

She told the story of Charles Plumb, a pilot in the Vietnam War.  Shot down over enemy territory, Plumb ejected himself from his earth-bound plane, falling in a wisp to the ground under a plume of silk. 

Having landed, Plumb was captured.  He spent 2,103 days as a prisoner of war.

After he was returned to the States, Plumb was eating in a restaurant when a man he didn’t know recognized him.

“You flew jet fighters in Vietnam,” the man said.  “You were on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down. You parachuted into enemy hands and spent six years as a prisoner of war.”

Surprised, Plumb asked how he knew.

“Because, I packed your parachute,” he answered.

Being a pilot, Plumb had paid no mind the sailors who maintained the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and readied the fighter pilots for flight.

“We don’t ask ourselves, ‘Who is packing our parachutes?’” Karen Dawson said.

She wanted to remind her graduating classmates that they didn’t get to commencement without the help and support of parents, teachers, and friends.

“Support is the act of holding something in position so as to keep it from falling,” she told her class.  “Just as iron beams can keep a building from collapsing, people can support others to ensure success.  Just as important as giving support to others, it is necessary that you can recognize the support that others give you.”

It was hard to choose a theme for her speech, but she decided that it was important to remind the graduating class that everyone needs help to succeed.

She had heard Plumb’s story from Dan Davis, a motivational speaker, she said, explaining, “The story meant a lot to me.”

Final farewell

“I hope you don’t mind that I’ve hitched a ride,” Mark Diefendorf said at the start of his address.  The high-school social-studies teacher who later became principal is retiring this year, with the class of 2010.

Voorheesville is a good place to get an education, he said, because “You are insulated, isolated, and taken care of.”  The bad news, he added, is that “You are insulated, isolated, and taken care of.”  He paused for laughter and was answered with applause.

Sarah Bjork and Tucker Bourque, the two graduates who introduced Diefendorf, noted that their principal would announce each day’s lunch menu on the morning announcements and, whether the meal was to be chicken nuggets or breakfast for lunch, he’d declare it his favorite.

“He’s our favorite,” they said.

Lyndi Cummings, Alexa Dillenbeck, Chad Hoffart, and Patrick Soloviev, who opened the ceremonies, spoke fondly of Voorheesville and recounted their senior prank, which involved removing desks from classrooms and placing them on the school’s roof.

“That took some teamwork,” Diefendorf said, concluding that the prank was evidence of a successful curriculum featuring “Twenty-first-Century skills.”

He went on to encourage the school’s 91 graduates to pursue careers that will lower their carbon footprints or help the public good — a track which doesn’t necessarily mean they will have to give up wealth.


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