by Gary Hass
“Of course I will,” says almost 77-year-old Rick Dente, the unofficial mayor of Barre’s North End. “Not sure when, but just as soon as we can get all the mud out and everything cleaned up. It’s a real challenge even at my age but we will make it!”
Not that Rick is superstitious or anything but he knows that this was the 7th flood his family has endured since its beginning 116 years ago and it happened in the 7th month of the year, and he will turn 77 in November.
“Is it the last of my nine lives I don’t know but maybe I have something else left to do,” Rick muses.
One thing all of those affected by the flood agree on is that it was worse than even Irene or any other of the floods before.
It was not a named storm, just a warning that ended up dumping eight inches of rain on saturated ground in a 12-hour span. There was not much time to prepare although Rick did sandbag his exterior perimeter.
In the early evening Dente realized water was coming in his store which did not have a basement but did have apartments above.
As fast as he could raise items up from the floor more water came in. To make an absolutely horrifying situation worse Rick found himself with water up to his chest by 10 p.m. and was basically locked in the store by a rear door deadbolt that he could not turn because of the water pressure pushing so hard against it.
Rick could see his freezer with 300 pounds of chicken floating around the store and coolers up-ended along with cases all floating in his storefront.
Worried by Rick’s absence his wife called the tenants upstairs to see if his car was still there and they reported yes!
The three tenants, with ropes tied around their waist, went downstairs and heard Rick’s weakening voice inside and tried to open the door with no luck at first. Then the door handle broke off. As hard as they all tried they could not budge. An idea floated to put nails in the door and secure a rope to pull on it.
Inside, Rick’s strength, especially his legs, were weakening and the water was chin-high at that time. His phone slipped out of his grip and he was now in total darkness and no way to communicate.
Then when all seemed lost, the never ending tenacity of those tenants pulled on the door they were then able to tie a rope around Rick and get him outside and on to higher ground.The Stowe Mountain Rescue Team came in with their boat and got Rick to safety with a Barre Fire Department.
Rick has gotten help from his family and friends. Even the top officials of the Secretary of State’s office along with three members of the Agency of Transportation and members of the Church of Latter Days Saints “all worked their butts off for many hours one day getting mud and water out of the store and helping clean it up.”
“You’ve got to think positive and look forward. That’s my motto,” says Rick, adding, “That’s really all you can do. I could walk away from all of this but I still would have to clean it up anyway.”
Watch for the reopening of Dente’s Market in the weeks ahead. Rick Dente has resilience. You can count on that.
The author is the publisher of the World, a weekly newspaper for Central Vermont, with offices in Berlin. https://www.vt-world.com/