Jane Rosser came to Brattleboro in the 1970s as the means to a beginning rather than an end. The School for International Training provided her with a master’s degree and the opportunity to work abroad; initially in Kenya, then other countries and continents. She met Ken Vitale in between assignments during the early 1980s when both were at a craft school in North Carolina. Once they married, it was inevitable that with their love of travel they would return overseas. The couple embarked on a lifestyle that had them living part of the year abroad and the other part in the United States.
Even before the decade ended, however, Ken and Jane began planning for a future that had a fixed address. The Chicago neighborhood in which they resided at the time did not meet their criteria for making a home. But as they knew, Brattleboro was suitable on many levels. It was a small town in a rural setting, plus they still had many friends in the community. It even had a hospital, which they said stood out when they compared Brattleboro with other towns of similar size.
They found a house in town that was ideal. Neighbors sat on their porches and watched kids play, including their own daughter, Francesca. A round-robin of potluck “soup nights” brought everyone on the block even closer together. When the call eventually came once again to move overseas, this time to India, they began renting the house to another family. But there was no longer any question as to where they belonged.
“During the years we were away, we would still come here for check-ups and all that because we wanted to know where home was. We wanted our daughter to know where home was and keep in touch with people,” says Ken.
With Francesca now a graduate student in Boston and their itinerant years behind them, Jane and Ken realize the benefits of their foresight for buying a house in Brattleboro. “A lot of our friends who live out in more rural areas are moving into town because it’s five minutes from the hospital,” explains Jane. “At our age, that’s a big deal. I can actually walk to the hospital in 20 minutes from here.”
Both Jane and Ken have had surgeries in the recent past. For Jane, there was no question she would be treated at BMH. “When I had a second opinion in Boston, there were people coming here to have things done because it was so comfortable and personable,” she says. “Why go anywhere else? The Richards Building is fabulous and we have so many good specialists.”
Ken recalls what a strong support system they have had from everyone at the hospital. After having knee replacement surgery with Elizabeth McLarney, MD, he discovered how other hospital departments delivered the same level of attention, from his ability to get good vegetarian food to the friendliness of the staff in the post-surgical unit. “You’re in this hospital for a number of days and you can start a conversation with anybody,” Ken says. “It’s as if everyone feels like they’re part of the team taking care of you.”
Jane adds that the level of familiarity was an additional comfort during her stays following surgeries, which were performed by Joe Rosen, MD and Cheri A. Brodhurst, MD. “You hear the names over the loudspeaker and you think, oh I know that person. It’s a very personable atmosphere. The nurses, even at 2 o’clock in the morning when they’re checking on stuff, and I had a great conversation about the Sufi religion. Only in Brattleboro,” she laughs. “We feel very lucky to be in a community this size with that kind of hospital.”