A Brave and Funny Woman

She left her small town of Saxtons River, Vermont a handful of times during her life, but managed to be extremely worldly.  She was just amazing.  Her name was Alice Austin Packard.  AKA:  Miss Penny Nickels.

Penny Nickels was her stage name, but she was known to us as Aunt Alice.  She’s the Aunt of some close family friends.

Aunt Alice began doing stand-up comedy in small Vermont towns when she was in her 50’s.  Her last performance on the “big” stage was when she was 86 years old at the Main Street Arts Center in Saxtons River.  We had front row seats.

Come see a few clips of that rare and special night:

Announcing:  Miss Penny Nickels

The Train Ride

Standing Ovation

Local entertainment at Granges, community centers, and special village gatherings were and probably still are, a natural form of entertainment for many small communities.  It gave Aunt Alice a stage for what she loved best…making people laugh.

She died at the age of 89 on May 20th, 2005.  It was her choice.  She deliberately stopped eating.   Said she didn’t want to live sickly or as a burden.  She controlled what she could of her life to the very end.

I inherited one of her antique record cabinets.  I have it stuffed with historical newspaper articles and publications that I’ve collected over the years.  On the first anniversary of her death, the cabinet door opened and wouldn’t shut.  I had to finally wedge the door closed with a folded piece of paper.  I’ll never know why that door opened, but I can tell you that it jolted me into thinking of her, how great she was, and how privileged I was to know her.

She’s been gone now for 8 years.  On May 21st – just 2 days ago – 8 years and one day after her death, that door opened again for no apparent reason.  Once again, I’ve collided with a flood of thoughts and remembrances of this special lady.  Try as I may, I can’t get that door to shut without wedging it together.


I’ve been told by some spiritual gurus that there are signs all around us.  Signs that relate to so many things, not just the departed.

I’d love to know if you’ve experienced signs that can only be explained by spiritual and intangible meanings.  Be Brave, like Aunt Alice was — share your story with us.


Miss Penny Nickles’ stage outfit at the Saxtons River Historical Society






This entry was posted in What Else: About Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to A Brave and Funny Woman

  1. mafarckle says:

    Diane, thank you for sharing that story.  I think of her and miss her a lot and talk to her.  She was truly my real mother and I learned lessons of love and laughter from her.  Soon after she died, I looked up in the sky and saw a huge, beautiful angel from a cloud formation.  It only lasted a few seconds, but I knew it was her saying hi and letting me know that she was watching over me.  Shortly after my father died, and again after Aunt Alice died, I heard what sounded like a monotone, electronic voice, saying, hi Patti.  I responded and tried to talk with them, but could hear no more.  Love, Patti


  2. Diane-So here’s my story. My maiden name was ‘Nichols’ and my grandparents on my Dad’s side wanted my sister or I to be named ‘Penny’! However, Mom had other ideas! Pretty amazing coincidence. Or maybe she was inspired by a distant relative from Braintree, VT of mine.

    I love this post and will have to forward it to my sister!

  3. Helen Tarof says:

    Dear Diane I Love your stories!, they remind me of  memories from my life time. I was talking to Evie last night and kind of remembering things that we did and pictures she found of her and  I when we were about 5 & 7 with my Dad  in my Uncle Frank Schmidt’s back yard in Lansingburgh. the next time you come down here we will have to go through some of the pictures, some of them  I have dates and who is in the pictures. Keep the memories coming, their GREAT! Love Helen


  4. Katie says:

    My mom sends *blue* birds not “just” bluebirds, but a variety of blue birds…thank you for making me think of her. She has been gone for 6.5 years now…i miss her often.

  5. Diane Fiore says:

    Katie, The “blue” birds…what a lovely gift and remembrance from your mother. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts. Diane

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s