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North Bennington Celebrates Dr. Frost

August 8, 2010

NORTH BENNINGTON - "The Living History Celebration," said Tim Smith, "is the chance for a different resident to be recognized each year for their achievements and contributions in shaping the local community."

"Inevitably," Smith said, "there's an individual who jumps off the page, and we say, 'That's it, that's what we're going to do.'"

Smith said this year the name that jumped out to the committee was that of Dr. Oakley M. Frost, a general and vascular surgeon at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center for 40 years, from 1965 to 2005. But his career in medicine, many said, was only one side of an "extremely productive and prolific man."

As if to prove it, Frost first played tuba with the Dixieland Band before the fifth annual North Bennington Living History Celebration could get underway Sunday in front of Powers Market.

"As I grew up, I watched my father not only grow a massive surgical practice," said Scott Frost, the oldest of 10 children, "but also feed us from a massive garden, teach us music, coach our sports teams, serve on the school board, help create the Mount Anthony Youth Athletic Association, and never miss a Rotary meeting."

"The man has more energy and gave more than anyone I have ever met," said Scott Frost, who began practicing medicine with his father at SVMC in 1990. Scott Frost described his father's humor on the job, describing certain patients as "salt eaters"

and comparing varicose vein surgery to "nightcrawler hunting." Deborah Blanchard, who worked in Frost's office beginning in 1978, wrote in a letter that she was "immediately impressed with [his] deep concern for patients and deep insight to treat the whole person and not just the surgical site."

"I must admit," Blanchard continued, "it took me a little bit of time to understand [his] dry sense of humor," such as when he told her to book amputations on Wednesdays because it was double stamp day. Blanchard described Frost as having a "twinkle in the eye and many more little Vermontisms."

David Monks, a North Bennington trustee, was tasked by the Village Board to proclaim August 8, 2010 Dr. Oakley M. Frost day. Before he did, Monks shared the experience of living in North Bennington and having the Frost house a perpetual hangout for children, since, he said, there'd always be a Frost child the same age as other children in the neighborhood.

"Almost any organization that we had going on locally," Monks said, "we'd see Oakley there chipping in and finding some time somehow to make it all work. And if that wasn't enough, when we'd go to some of the Sage City Symphony concerts, there would be Oakley up front, on the righthand side with his cello, playing first cello for all the concerts."

Frost's musical career was highlighted at the event, with mentions of his involvement in a variety of musical groups playing cello and tuba, or singing with the Frosty Four Barbershop Quartet. A dozen members of the Frost clan took the stage midway through to showcase the family musical stylings fostered by Frost. The previous year's Living History honoree, Dick Pembroke, wrote in a letter thanking Frost for his contribution to last year's event, with the Frosty Four quartet delivering in the entertainment department.

"But, I would be remiss if I did not point out what is the most important thing," Monks said, "which is his medical practice." Monks recounted an emergency room visit in 1983 after a serious car accident. Monks described an out of body experience he had on a gurney in which a nurse discovered no pulse and raised the alarm.

"And in comes Oakley," Monks said, "and I remember feeling such a sense of relief. Here was my friend, a person I trusted so much who was going to take care of me. And he did."

Smith, acknowledging Frost's green thumb, said that "he's known for his amazing dahlias. And anyone who drives on Route 67 knows his backside, while attending his gardens."

Author: Zeke Wright
Compliments of: The Bennington Banner

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