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Written by Kellie Rowden-Racette, Contributing Writer   
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dennis Cudworth is due for a vacation. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to want to take one. It’s not that he has anything against getting away, you see, but he’s just so content sticking around the North Country that he doesn’t feel the pressure to leave.
“We bought a camp at Chateaugay Lake a few years ago because we thought it would force us to get away,” says Dennis. But since then he seems to have spent each summer helping friends and family member build houses and this summer he plans to start building a house for his 29-year-old daughter. Once again, it doesn’t look like a good year to go to camp. “Actually I called the realtor today about selling it. Last year we were only up there one weekend all summer.”
Dennis is a self-proclaimed “country boy” who has never lived anywhere but West Chazy. He has lived in five different houses in his life – all of which are in, you guessed it, West Chazy. In fact, the log cabin that he and his wife build seven years ago sits across the road from the house where he grew up.
“I could never live in the city – I’m a country boy. I travel a bit with my job, but I’m always ready to come back home,” says Cudworth, “My first trip out of the country was to Haiti, which is a third-world country. I got of the plane – one of my first plane trips ever – and it was, like 95 degrees and the breeze felt like a blow dryer just blowing on you. I thought, ‘what am I getting into?’”
And even though the quiet rural corner where the Cudworth cabin sits still could be described as serene, Dennis says that it actually seems much busier than it was when he was a kid.
“The O’Neil Road used to go up just a mile and then stop. There were times when this road used to be impassable in the winter,” recalls Dennis. “Now it goes through to the four corners of Beekmantown. There used to be a guy who lived up here when I was a kid who would come down to the grocery store in his jitterbug.”
Dennis grew up the youngest of five children and graduated from Beekmantown Central School in 1973. After high school he worked a few odd jobs in carpentry and contracting. He also worked at Montgomery Wards where he met his future wife, Donna, in 1977. They were married in 1978. But after almost 30 years of marriage, the details of how they met have become a little fuzzy. When asked what their first date was, both Donna and Dennis look at each other curiously and shrug.
“Maybe it was dinner at Lenzo’s?” guesses Donna. “That would make sense – it was right next to the store.”
As perhaps as unmemorable as their first date seemed to be, the couple’s first house is one they’ll not likely forget. It was an old Victorian house (in West Chazy, of course) that needed a lot of work. Luckily, that type of work was right up Dennis’s alley and they ended up “gutting and rebuilding the whole thing.”
“Yeah, it was a lot of work,” says Dennis. “But I like that kind of stuff.”
Indeed he does. Currently Dennis works as the production manager for Cedar Knoll Log Homes in Plattsburgh, NY. He oversees milling the logs, scheduling, shipping, and manufacturing. He enjoys what he does and has been in that position for the past 18 years. It all started when he was helping a friend build a log home and he met his future employer, Ron Marx.
“It’s a big job, but I enjoy it – I was always interested in woodworking. I just like creating different things with wood,” say Dennis. “As a kid I used to build tree forts and box cars and stuff. Kids don’t do that as much now.”
But work isn’t the only thing keeping Dennis and Donna Cudworth in the North Country. The Cudworths also are foster parents and, even though they have grown children (and grandchildren) of their own, last year they legally adopted two of their foster children, Victoria, 14, and Julian, 15. Additionally, they are legal custodians of their 13-year-old niece, Christina, who is blind. Today, all three kids are happy teenagers living in West Chazy, N.Y., and attending Beekmantown Central School just as Dennis once did.
“They lived with us in foster care for almost two years and last year they told us they were going to be put up for adoption and you get real attached to kids after a while,” explains Dennis. And even though adopting two teenagers may seem like a lot of work,
The Cudworths have a pretty solid handle on parenting. They have been foster parents since 2001 and it all began with Christina. She had been in foster care in Florida and they wanted to bring her up to New York to live with them. To move her out of state, they had to become state certified foster parents.
But two-thirds of the way through their training, Christina left foster care in Florida and returned to live with her parents.
“So we were ready to become certified foster parents just to get our niece and then she went back to her parents,” explains Dennis. “And just as we were deciding what to do, the foster parent training people said ‘Hey, guess what? We have these two kids who need a home. How about taking them?’ We weren’t really planning to be foster parents, but then we took our first two kids.”
Since becoming foster parents six years ago, Dennis and Donna Cudworth have had 20 foster children live in their home. As reluctant as they first were, the couple has since grown accustomed to sharing their home life and providing stability for kids in need. In the corner of their cozy living room is a three-panel wooden frame featuring the photographs of their biological children and grandchildren as well as the many foster children who have stayed with them over the years.
“It’s very hard for them to find foster families for teenagers,” says Dennis. “But with both of us working, having little kids would be harder for us. Teenagers are good for us.
Some might be here for only a weekend, some might be here for a year or more.”
And although this isn’t what they thought they were getting into when they first became foster parents, Dennis says he wouldn’t change a thing.
“It was surprising how attached you get to some kids. Once they are in your house for a year or so, you become so close,” says Dennis. “It seems to me that teenagers in foster care are more mature when they come to us than typical kids would be. A lot of them are more mature than their parents, which is why they’re in foster care in the first place.”
So after having raised their own kids and having an empty nest for several years, which Donna described as “boring,” The Cudworth household is, once again, full of school projects, family dinners, and the joys and tribulations of the teenage years. Not to mention family vacations.
“This year we’re planning on going somewhere with the kids,” says Dennis, sighing at the thought of leaving his beloved West Chazy stomping grounds. “My wife like amusement parks, so if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.”



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