Donors rock the Heath Gordon Scholarship fundraiser


By Cynthia Prairie

Sam Gordon, in a yellow and very well preserved Pioneer House T-shirt, greets guests at Friday's fund-raiser. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Sam Gordon, in a yellow and very well preserved Pioneer House T-shirt, greets guests at Friday’s fund-raiser. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.
Click photo to launch gallery.

Sam Gordon is a happy man. On Friday evening,  as the Chester American Legion began buzzing with activity, Gordon said he hoped the Heath Gordon Scholarship Fundraiser that was just kicking off would raise $2,000 to add to the college fund that he and a group of friends set up to honor his late brother Heath, an artist and musician who died three years ago.

By Monday morning, Gordon said “those expectations were low.” The number hit $4,000, collected from the $10 admission, the 50/50 raffle and the auctions, bringing the scholarship fund is $6,000. “We were thrilled. We had the weather, and the Brian Waldo event the week before, when people were just so generous,” he said, adding that Chester is a very giving community.

Doll artisan Bonnie Watters, a longtime family friend, created this doll in Heath Gordon's likeness.

Doll artisan Bonnie Watters, a longtime family friend, created this doll in Heath Gordon’s likeness.

On Friday, between 160 and 180 people filled the legion hall, many of them longtime family friends and former patrons of the now-closed but fondly remembered Pioneer House. That restaurant and bar was owned by the Gordon family for 30 or so years and was known as a working man’s place, a very friendly hangout. Heath Gordon worked at the Pioneer House from 1990 to 2004. “It’s easy to meet a lot of people when you’re behind the bar,” laughed Sam, adding that he and his sister also worked at the restaurant. It’s also where they celebrated “all our family holidays … since it was large enough for all of the family to show.”

Friday was also March 28, and would have also been Heath Gordon’s 45th birthday, his brother said. The event “just came together … it wasn’t planned that way,” says Sam.  Appropriately, the emcee lead the gathered in a rousing round of “Happy Birthday.”

As the Gordons’ mother, Susan, collected admission fees at the door, Sam, who now lives in Florida, greeted longtime friends.

Entertaining the guests were three bands, Cheshire Turnpike, The Stage Potatoes and a trio of Heath Gordon’s bandmates, Scott ‘Beam’ Bemis, John ‘Slick’ Yake and ‘Fenner’ Ball.

The auction items did very well, Sam Gordon said. He himself purchased a Heath Gordon doll created by doll-master Bonnie Watters to give to his mother. The doll bears Heath’s long locks, a guitar print shirt and painters’ palettes for eyes.  The event finally wound down around 12:30 a.m., by which time “we were running on adrenaline,” Sam Gordon said.

Cheshire Turnpike rocks the crowd.

Cheshire Turnpike rocks the crowd.

To donate and to apply

Donations can be made to fund the scholarship. You can make checks payable to the Heath Gordon Scholarship Fund and drop them off at TD Bank at 48 Main Street in Chester . You can also click on the PayPal button at the top of the Heath Gordon Scholarship Fund Facebook page. The organization is in the process of obtaining its tax exempt 501(c)(3) status.

Also, if you’d like to donate an item for auction at next year’s fund-raiser, contact Sarah Yake at Salon 2000, 802-875-3900. Fittingly, Sarah Yake is the wife of musician John Yake, and  the Salon 2000  building used to be the home of the Pioneer House.

Scholarship awards will be based on need and talent, Sam Gordon said. At this point, “we’re playing it by ear on how much to give and to how many students.”  To apply, contact the Leslie Reed at the Guidance Office at Green Mountain Union High School. The number is 802-875-2146, ext. 274. Her email address is

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeFeaturedIn the Community

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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