Pumpkin Festival setting for proposal

Watching the Milford Pumpkin Festival’s Friday night opening ceremonies is a tradition in her fam­ily, so a bit of rain didn’t keep Jill Jowders away.

That’s a good thing, because after a firefighter climbed the ladder to light up Town Hall, a big banner with the words, "Will you marry me Jill?" displayed on it dropped from the ladder for every­one to see.

The Milford firefighter happened to be Jeff Brooks, the father of Jowders’ boyfriend, Pat­rick Brooks.

Many of the couple’s family and friends knew of the proposal plan and cheered the happy couple Friday night.

"They have been dating for quite a few years," said Erin Mello, Jowders’ cousin. "She was thrilled. It was a welcome sur­prise."

Jowders is a Wilton native who works at the Birth Place as a regis­tered nurse with South­ern New Hampshire Medical Center. Patrick Brooks, a Milford native, works at Smith & Heald Funeral Home in Milford with his aunt Deborah Quinlan and his mother, Gretchen Brooks.

Also on Friday night, the Milford Improvement Team and Milford Histor­ical Society named Rus­sell Dickerman Citizen of the Year in rec­ognition of the work he and his late wife, Geri, put into saving Milford’s Monson Center, one of the most significant ar­cheological sites in New England.

The pre-Revolutionary War village was original­ly part of Massachusetts and covered more than 17,000 acres, one of the earliest inland colonial settlements in New Hampshire.

Monson’s residents were never prosperous enough to build a meet­inghouse and they had to give up their charter after only 24 years. What remains of the village is in the southeast corner of Milford off Federal Hill Road.

That any of the village remains at all is mostly because of the Dicker­mans’ efforts.

In the late 1990s, "gath­ering grassroots support, Russell Dickerman and wife, Geri, donated their own land and raised a third of a million dollars to ward off a developer who was going to flat­ten the land and build 28 McMansions," David Palance, president of the Milford Historical Soci­ety, told the crowd during the festival’s opening ceremonies.

"This award is long past due, and Geri has now left us, but Russ con­tinues to dedicate himself to the Monson project," Palance said.

The ceremonies and wedding proposal got the annual festival off to a happy start.

Over the next two days, thousands of people wan­dered downtown Milford under sunny skies, from the pumpkin catapult at Railroad Pond, to the scarecrow-making and pumpkin painting on the Community House lawn, to the displays of giant pumpkins on the Oval park, to the food and craft vendors on Middle Street and in Town Hall and to the amusement rides at the Boys & Girls Club.