VPR Header
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
VPR News

Antonio Pomerleau, Vermont Philanthropist, Dies At 100

Provided by Sen. Patrick Leahy
Antonio Pomerleau in an undated photo with Sen. Patrick Leahy.

One of Vermont's best-known entrepreneurs, Antonio Pomerleau, has died at the age of 100.

Pomerleau was born in Quebec but grew up in Newport and helped develop the state's first series of shopping centers.

Pomerleau built an extensive portfolio of properties around Vermont and put his wealth to work helping many individuals and organizations.

In a 2012 interview, he told VPR his charitable instincts stemmed from his own childhood in Newport, where people helped his family in times of need:

“A lot of people did small things that at the time I appreciated a lot," Pomerleau explained. "So, I’m just passing on what I inherited.”

Credit Provided by Sen. Patrick Leahy
Pomerleau and Leahy in 1982.

Speaking to VPR Friday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, who has known Pomerleau for over 50 years and is married to his neice, Marcelle, weighed in on the lasting legacy he leaves behind:

"As a French Canadian immigrant family — coming into Vermont — he became more of a Vermonter than most people born here," Leahy said, "And he did extremely well, raised a family ... He never forgot Vermont and as he became wealthy, I don't know anyone who has given back more to Vermont."

Pomerleau loomed large in Burlington business and politics for many years. A Republican by nature, he forged an unlikely alliance with Bernie Sanders, who was elected mayor in 1980.

“I was the first to go up to City Hall and shake hands with him," Pomerleau remember. "I said, ‘Bernie, you’re the mayor, but it’s still my town. I said, ‘you come up with some idea, I’ll back you up.’ He says’ ‘you will?’”

Pomerleau and Sanders worked together on several projects, including police department reforms.

In a 1981 interview, Sanders recalled how Pomerleau worked to establish better relations with the police union.

“He was willing to sit down and talk to the union in an open manner,” Sanders said. “And the truth of the matter is that today... you can confirm from both the union and Pomerleau that the relationship between the rank and file cop in the city of Burlington and management has been better than it’s been in God knows how many years.”

I thought of this picture I took on a foggy day in Burlington when we got the news that Marcelle's uncle Tony Pomerleau had left this life. But in the family his light will never go out. A post shared by Senator Patrick Leahy (@senatorleahy) on Feb 9, 2018 at 4:50am PST

Pomerleau also held annual annual Christmas parties for low-income Burlington children and helped mobile home owners recover from Tropical Storm Irene with a $1 million donation in 2011. St. Michael’s College named its alumni center for Pomerleau and his wife in 2010 after a $1 million donation.

Credit Provided by Sen. Patrick Leahy
Antonio Pomerleau and then-Gov. Peter Shumlin in March 2012, when Pomerleau donated $1 million after Tropical Storm Irene.

Funeral and memorial service information for Pomerleau has yet to be announced.

This story will be updated.