Paul Shield scans a print-out of an email listing his fellow committee members who helped plan the first Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Clambake and Auction back in 1986.
It was Susan Fenn who came up with the idea of a clambake, he recalls. She had just been hired as the hospital’s Foundation director. He continues down the list, recalling the role of each member in garnering support for the event.
“We didn’t have a goal. We just hoped it would be a success,” Paul admits. Of course, it became such a success that they have replicated it every year since. (This year’s will be the 25th and final.) “We were lucky that all the local merchants wanted to donate items to the auction. It really came to be the social event of the year.”
Shield was well-known by the local merchants and community, having been a partner with Dick Fleming in the operation of Fleming Oil. Paul and Dick had been very close friends since attending high school at St. Michael’s. After earning a degree from Boston College and a stint in the army, Paul eventually found his way back to Brattleboro and married Dick’s sister, Elaine, with whom he has a daughter and five sons. They now also have 12 grandchildren, ranging from infants to age 26, whose pictures occupy an entire section of the family room wall in their Brattleboro home.
Paul and Elaine spend winters on the east coast of Florida, which Paul says is quiet and beautiful like Vermont. They have no intention of leaving Vermont altogether however, even with their sons and daughter spread out across the U.S.
“I like what you see out that window,” Paul says, gesturing to the line of windows looking out over an icy pond and a snow covered field in front a distant backdrop of mountains. “I like that you can see the turkeys running around here and the deer, the tree frogs in the spring.”
A heart attack prompted Paul’s retirement from business in 1993. After that episode, Paul says he “saw the light” and took his cardiac rehabilitation seriously, including paying attention to diet and exercise. Now at age 79, Paul has other health concerns, including an auto-immune disease that has him taking steroids as part of his treatment, though “not Manny Ramirez steroids” he notes with a wink.
“If BMH wasn’t there I wouldn’t be here,” he says simply about his dedication to improving health care in the community. He has served on BMH’s Foundation board of directors and was a hospital corporator as well as an individual donor. He looks forward to seeing what activity will replace the clambake after this year.
“When we started, we did a guesstimate and said if we get ten years out of it that will be good, because people get sick of the same old, same old,” says Paul. “Then ten years has gone to twenty-five so I guess it was successful.”