On a cold, Sunday afternoon in February of 2018, Rick posed a question to Tim, “If you could do anything you wanted to do for the rest of your working life, what would it be?” Without taking a breath, Tim replied, “I would own a small inn.” Rick took in a big breath. His world was about to change. Ten days later, Rick pulled out map and drew a circle of one-hour drive from the town of Stowe, where he served as the priest at St. John’s in the Mountains Episcopal Church. What lay before them was more than a simple circle. A new chapter was about to unfold.
Having been raised in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Tim’s family has called this region of the state home for seven generation. After spending six years in Central Pennsylvania as a teenager, he returned to the Northeast and worked in the IT field for 35 years. His passions, however, lay far beyond a computer screen. Hazel Heath, or Grammy as she was affectionately known, was always in the kitchen with food ready to go when wanted, needed, or simply requested throughout his childhood. She and Grampa Heath would take in some of St. Johnsbury’s overflow fall foliage visitors in the mid-twentieth century. She prepared a farm-fresh breakfast for the guests before they set off to explore Vermont’s countryside. The apple did not fall far from the grandparent tree.
At the Swanson Inn, Tim keeps his eye on our guests making sure tea, coffee, and cookies are always at hand. He is the cook – Rick stays out of his way! Getting up early to make fresh muffins, Tim prepares breakfast with eggs from a local farmer and everything is from scratch. In his spare time, Tim keeps the inn clean, takes reservations, and makes five to seven pies every weekend for our weekly Sunday Pie event between three and six in the afternoon.
A quote from A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle best sums up Tim’s dream that has become his reality. Speaking of a chef Mayle met in Provence, he writes, “he had taught himself to cook, but he had no desire to become the Bocuse of Buoux…The success of his restaurant was based on value for money and good, simple food rather than flights of gastronomic fancy.” (95)
Grammy Heath smiles on every meal he serves.
Rick was born and raised in the Twin Cities of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota by two public school teachers. He and his brother Dave grew up on Turtle Lake just outside St. Paul, swimming in its waters all summer and skating on the ice all winter. Having competed on the US Men’s Speedskating Team in his teens, he graduated from California State University – Northridge before attending seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He was ordained a priest in The Episcopal Church in 2001. Having served Episcopal churches in California, New Jersey, and Michigan, Rick moved to Stowe in 2010 to serve St. John’s in the Mountains Episcopal Church.
Having played winter sports his whole life, Stowe was a natural location for Rick to call his new home. He continues to play hockey at least two times a week, telemark skis when time allows, and drives the Zamboni at the Waterbury Ice Center. One month after he accepted his position at the church, he met Tim, and it was all over. They married on July 14, 2012 and in 2016 they walked the Vermont Long Trail end-to-end, the oldest walking path in the United States. It was a life-changing experience. Having grown up in a canoe, he never thought he would walk in the woods, but love changes things. At the inn, Rick takes care of property matters, from the gardens to the building. He also keeps the books in order and serves pie on Sunday afternoon. Tim puts him to work at other tasks from time to time.
While learning about his new home state, Rick was introduced to a New England writer, Willem Lange and possibly his most beloved story Favor Johnson. It is read by families, to school children, and on Vermont Public Radio every December. Lange writes of the main character Favor Johnson, who made fruitcake in tin cans and gave them to his neighbors as Christmas gifts. The story continues:
And as always some child would ask, “Why did Mr. Johnson bring us a fruit cake?”
“Well,” a mother or father would answer, “it’s just his way of saying ‘Merry Christmas.’”
“Does he do it every year?” “Yep.”
“Does he take one to everyone in the village?” “Yep.”
“Has he always done it?”
Well, no he hadn’t. And so the story of Favor Johnson and the flatlander doctor and the origin of the fruitcake would begin.
The flatlander priest found his Vermonter and the story of his life began.
Tim, Gracie the Bernese, Rick, Kirby the Corgi
To learn more about Tim and Rick, please see the following links.