President Bill opened the meeting with 12 members and one guest in attendance.   Due to the absence of all of our usual “grace givers”, we dispensed with the pre-meal blessing.

Tony Campos got the ball rolling with a happy dollar for what would have been his mother’s 86th birthday.   This prompted Bertil to ask what Tony said, who he was talking about, why was it a happy dollar, and on and on.   President Bill noted that’s why the bell is rung, to call the room to order so those in attendance can listen to (and hear) what’s being said by he/she who has the floor.   Bertil said there was too much conversation going on to his right so he couldn't hear.   This prompted our guest (more on him later) to note that perhaps he had mistaken the Rotary Club for Rowan Court!

Sue P. proposed a fine of 1 ½ on George for being late, noting that he seems to be unable to arrive by 12:00 on a regular basis.   George acknowledged (while Sergeant-at-Arms Ted was slipping him his badge, thus avoiding another fine) that he’s habitually late, and likely was even during his year as District Governor, and he said he had no defense and paid what is an automatic (though not usually enforced lately…Four Way Test???) fine anyway.

Bertil reported on his recently completed trip to Honduras.  He said the group this year worked on supplying electricity to a vocational school built by Rotary, and also provided electricity to an elementary school.   He said there was a medical team on hand to provide services for those in need, and he said a group also spent a great deal of time repairing school desks, and did lots of painting.  Bertil noted next year’s project will be to build a neo-natal clinic and a Global Foundation grant of $150,000 is being applied for to help with the project.   He did note that he managed to get through airport security in Newark in less than 15 minutes prior to his departure, and while it’s not safe to drink the water in Honduras, he had no health issues until he got back to the States and spent a few days in Pennsylvania.   So he offered a happy dollar for the success of his visit and a sad dollar for his illness on U.S. soil.

Bob Pope inquired as to Roy’s progress and President Bill advised the club he had received an e-mail from Roy indicating he had hoped to attend today’s meeting but he was feeling very weak and tired and unable to get out for the meeting.   Roy is still receiving treatment and his spirits are high and he continues to look forward to the end of his treatment and a return to Rotary in the next few weeks.

Our guest, Barre native and attorney Rusty Valsangiacomo, gave an excellent presentation on his years as an attorney in Vermont.   He noted his father, Oreste Senior, had been a long-time member of the Barre Rotary, and Rusty remembered attending Rotary meetings at the old Hotel Barre as a Junior Rotarian.   He recalled Doc Parnigoni leading the singing, with long-time City Clerk Ralph Olliver playing the piano.

Rusty said he began the practice of law in 1973 after passing the bar exam in Vermont.   He started out clerking for Richard Davis, along with Leighton Detora and Gary McQuesten, who went on to become his partners in Valsangiacomo, Detora and McQuesten.   The firm now has six lawyers…the three founding partners along with Rusty’s son Jon, Brooke Dingledine, and Chris Pelkey.

Rusty gave several examples of how the practice of law has changed during his 40 years as an attorney.   There were no public defenders when he began, and attorneys would show up at the court house on Auditorium Hill and picked up cases while they were waiting.  He said in those days, while working for Dick Davis, they would all work from 7am to 11pm or later weekdays, and be in the office on Saturdays as well.

In May of 1977 Rusty and his current partners decided to start their own law firm.  He said they had no money, and he recalled meeting with George Milne (our George’s father) at the Granite Bank and having George tell him it was time to have a new law firm in Barre and whatever they needed to do to get it running they had his OK.   Rusty said no papers were signed, no business plan required, George just did it on faith.   In 1984 they moved the firm to the Miles Block, and then in 1991 they bought the Quinlan Block where their offices are now located.

Rusty said Dick Davis was the best lawyer he ever met, and he recalled Davis telling him that “you aren’t a lawyer just because you went to law school”, that one had to be trained and developed on the job as a trial lawyer.   He said Davis always advised his lawyers to take cases on every side of the law, and to this day the firm represents victims as well as those accused of crimes.

Rusty said clients come to his firm because of their judgment and experience.   He said they don’t spend as much time in court as they once did, and he said that makes it difficult to gain the kind of trial experience he and his partners have been able to attain.

Rusty went on to give talk about several high profile, and in some cases infamous, cases he’s been involved with, providing some fascinating insights into the inner-workings of our legal system.  All in all it was one of our more interesting presentations in some time.

Rusty pulled the ticket and this week’s lucky winner was Jack Barnes, who I believe did NOT locate the white marble.

Check our Rotary web site for information on upcoming programs.