Stories That Shaped Rutland: New Local-Access Program Hopes To Engage Community For 'Generations'

Mar 2, 2018

A new program produced by Rutland's local access PEG-TV is shining a light on the families that have helped shape the city and tell the very personal stories behind some very public people.

The first episode of the program "Generations," starts with a blackened screen and the familiar voice of Steve Costello, a Green Mountain Power executive and one of Rutland's biggest boosters.

"Seldom indeed has a community been so swept by grief and mournful sympathy as Rutland was swept yesterday, with the news of Bartley J. Costello's death became known…"

Costello is reading a Rutland Herald editorial from November 1928 memorializing his grandfather, a popular local merchant, who died unexpectedly at age 49.

"Most families have a defining moment ... which creates the foundation for the current generation." — Tom Cohen, PEG-TV Board of Directors

Over the next hour, family members share old photographs and memories that tell the story of a family that's left an impressive legacy in Rutland and beyond.

"Whether or not you know the Costello family doesn't really make a difference as far as the show,” says PEG-TV’s Amber Dumas. “Because their story is so incredible across the board. And I think that's what makes it so unique."

She says they wanted to create a program that would celebrate local families, like the Costellos, and the stories behind them.

What brought them to Rutland? What made them stay and what did they have to overcome to do it?

PEG-TV Board member Tom Cohen says most families have a defining moment in their family which creates the foundation for the current generation. Fathers or uncles who fought in war… grandparents who were writers, artists musicians, athletes or scholars.

"There were connections with famous people and some infamous and I think it's very interesting to hear those details in a person's family history so you can have a better understanding of who those people are today."

Bartley J. Costello was the son of Irish immigrants who settled in Rutland in the 1870s. He ran a successful clothing store in Rutland before he died suddenly at age 49 in 1928.
Credit provided

The Costellos came to Rutland as Irish Catholic immigrants in 1872.

The family believes their defining moment came in 1928 when Bartley Costello, died leaving his wife Evelyn to raise their nine children alone.

The couple's grandchildren, Bartley James III, Steve Costello and Michele Kaufman talk about it in the program. 

"So this is my grandmother at the beginning of the Depression with all this family. So how did they survive?” Bartley Costello asks, getting emotional.

“They survived because they hung together,” he says. “So people wanted to take ‘em and you know split em up and my grandmother said, 'no.'"

Michelle Kaufman picks up the story. explaining how Bartley’s oldest son stepped up after his father’s death. "My uncle Dick Costello, Richard, he just decided you know, with all this responsibility staring him in the face he decided not to go to college and stayed behind to raise all his brothers and sisters."

"Uncle Dick didn't go to college,” continues Steve Costello, “because he became essentially the man of the house after our grandfather died and he sacrificed his own opportunities to help the rest of the family."

Despite the hardships, the children went on to illustrious careers in medicine, business and law.

The Chittenden County Courthouse, for example, is named after Edward Costello, a WWII veteran who spent nearly 30 years as a Vermont judge. 

Tom Cohen says there are many fascinating families in Rutland and the TV station's goal is to create a template so that any family in the county that wants to can create its own "Generations" show for broadcast.