SPENCER – “I hate winter,” was the first thing state Rep. Donald R. Berthiaume Jr. said when he finished scraping the windows of his truck after a quick stop for coffee Thursday.
What he meant was he hates being cold.
So with the defroster blasting, a heated leather seat under him and a coffee in hand, he drove off to the home of Robert and Carol McPherson and dropped his plow.
“Sometimes they leave me cookies,” he said of the couple, both senior citizens who couldn’t clear the snow themselves. “I don’t take any money.”
He said he saw their daughter, Beth, clearing snow from the ramp in her wheelchair and thought she shouldn’t have to do that, even if she wanted to, so he grabbed a shovel and cleared a path.
He said the McPhersons have given a lot to the town. Mr. McPherson served as moderator for years, and his wife and daughter have volunteered for committees and helped out in many ways.
“I plow ’em out,” he said. “Because they’re good people.”
Mr. Berthiaume also plows out a neighbor’s driveway.
“He’s a widower, a really nice guy,” he said. “We have him over for dinner sometimes. He has a tractor but it’s hard for him to do all that himself.”
For a legislator a snow day might mean staying home, watching a movie with the kids or catching up on paperwork, but even before he held the seat in the House of Representatives, the Spencer Republican was plowing driveways, making repairs to homes where veterans or senior citizens live or laboring on a project for the town.
“I just like to help people,” he said. “I usually can’t say no.”
Headed south on Route 31 a car was stopped in the street as a small group tried to clear a mound of snow that was blocking a driveway.
Without a thought, Mr. Berthiaume swung across the street and pushed back the snow with a few swipes of the plow blade. He waved and drove off as the shovelers waved back with confused looks and smiles on their faces.
Mr. Berthiaume plowed out another driveway where a woman lives alone after losing her daughter.
“She’d take you in off the street,” he said, maneuvering the truck to push the snow back far enough to leave room for the next storm’s accumulation.
People have tried to pay him. The McPhersons mailed checks.
“I wish he would cash them,” Mr. McPherson said. “We send them, and they never get cashed.”
For Wendy Berthiaume, being married to a state representative brings a barrage of fundraisers, chicken barbecues and other functions. Snowstorms, though, bring a special sort of nostalgic date night.
As he plowed away the snow from Thursday’s storm, a text message from his bride appeared on his phone. She asked about his mood, which sometimes turns bad when he’s plowing.
“He gets ‘plow crabby,’” she said.
But his mood was great, and she said she’d dress up to join him after supper.
“When we started dating it was winter and he’d take me plowing, so it brings back memories,” she said. “We have a lot of fun. He’s not your typical plow guy.”