Last Mile 2023 dedicated to Chip Milnor (Aug. 18, 1954 – May 10, 2023)
By Maryellen Apelquist
RANDOLPH, VT—Some people knew Chip Milnor nearly all their lives. Others, less lucky, from brief encounters around town, as devoted customers of his garage, or as they lined up their motorcycles at Gifford for the annual Last Mile Ride. The very lucky among us occasionally shared a drink with Chip, at his garage or on his porch, after a long day’s work.
However we knew him, and for however long, our memories of Chip ring true and consistent. No matter whom you ask, they’ll tell you:
He would do anything for anyone.
He was kind.
He was good.
Marie, his wife, remembers the first time she saw Chip. She was in grade school, and he, a little older, lived across the street. It would be many years before they connected romantically, but this October they would have celebrated their 40th anniversary. Marie, inarguably, knew Chip best.
“I always kind of picked on him,” she said during our conversation for this story. “You’ve got to learn to say no, I’d say. But it wasn’t in his vocabulary. If someone needed something, he did it.”
Not one to go small, Chip gave with all he had, and pushed others to pitch in if they could. Last Mile is a prime example. Since joining the fundraising effort in 2011, Chip raised nearly $90,000 in support of Gifford and its end-of-life care program.
“He didn’t really know what Last Mile did until his friend’s wife was in the Garden Room,” said Marie, referring to the suites at Gifford where patients at the end of life and their grieving families receive special services and support. “When he saw what Last Mile did, he said he wanted to be a part of it and make people aware of how much they do for people.”
Paul Rea, 54, knew Chip for over 40 years, since Rea was a teenager.
“He took it really personally, and seriously, to raise money for Last Mile Ride,” said Rea, who owns Rural Vermont Real Estate. “Even though he was running a business, he would always take the time, chase people down, ask them for money for the cause. Chip had a way of doing it. Everyone knew him, and he was so helpful to so many people.”
“Everything Chip did was for the community,” said Rea. “If you needed something, he was always there for anybody.”
If Chip could have fun while working hard and helping others, all the better.
“I will never forget Chip’s laugh and the way he could light up a room,” said Ashley Lincoln, Gifford’s VP of Development and Public Relations, who leads the Last Mile team.
Early on in the pandemic, when Last Mile went virtual in response to COVID, Chip took Lincoln on a ride, her first on a motorcycle, through her hometown of Chelsea and up to Barre, to see the team at Wilkins Harley-Davidson, longtime supporters of Last Mile.
“I knew I was safe, and it was even more special because it was with Chip,” said Lincoln. “I will never forget that afternoon traveling through central Vermont—traveling these roads I have been on a thousand times. But this time, with my friend Chip on his motorcycle, it all looked different.”
His most frequent riding companion, Marie, confirms Chip’s zeal for living. They made many trips, and traveled to places like Nova Scotia and Tennessee and Florida.
“He enjoyed life,” she said. “He did everything he wanted to do in life.”
Here at home, doing Last Mile, Chip not only was impressed with the event’s mission, but also its punctuality.
“We’ve done a lot of bike things,” Marie said. “And of all the things we’ve done, the Last Mile Ride was always on time and ran smoothly. If it says it’s leaving at 10, it leaves at 10.”
The couple’s favorite part of Last Mile is what it does for people, said Marie, and doing for people is what Chip did best.
“I have before never met a man of such integrity in all my life,” said Larry Hart Sr. of East Topsham, who formerly owned the NAPA store here in Randolph. “I like to think I am, too, but he was a notch above me.”
Hart and Chip sometimes tag-teamed good works, like the time Hart provided free parts and Chip free labor, in between work for paying customers, to repair an old Cadillac for a man nearing the end of life. Before he died, Hart remembers, the man’s son took his dad for a ride in the newly fixed-up Caddy.
Hart’s favorite times with Chip were simple.
“At the end of the day, I’d sometimes go down and we’d have a cocktail,” Hart said. “We’d talk about his day, my day—just casual, friendly conversation. That was the most important thing to me.”
This summer for Last Mile, our first since Chip’s death earlier this year, Hart plans to ride a few hundred miles in his friend’s honor. He has a photograph of Chip taped on his helmet.
And Rea, who had the honor of calling Chip friend nearly his whole life, participated in the bicycle ride. As we talked in the days leading up to Last Mile, Rea, a longtime supporter, said he hopes people continue to give and “think of all the things Chip has done for the community. We’re stronger because of him.”
“He was our guardian angel,” said Rea. “He was the rock that kept us going.”
This weekend, let’s keep going for our guardian angel. For our friend whose smile lit up the Gifford Green. For our neighbor whose big and generous heart helped so many of us.
Cheers, Chip. Rest easy.
Join Gifford Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18 and 19, for the 18th annual Last Mile fundraising events to support end-of-life care for patients and their families. The fun started Aug. 12 with a bicycle ride and continues this weekend with a 5K run and 1- and 2-mile walks on Friday, and on Saturday a motorcycle ride through central Vermont, the signature event that started it all.
Last year, 560 Last Mile participants and 50 business sponsors raised $187,000 to support end-of-life care for central Vermonters, bringing the grand total to more than $1,378,000 since the inaugural Last Mile in 2006. Funds raised help ease the end-of-life experience, support grieving families, and honor loved ones.
Register and learn more at giffordhealthcare.org/lastmile.