By STEPHANIE MURRAY
NORTHAMPTON — When James A. LaRose saw the Valley was covered in a blanket of snow about half a foot high Saturday morning, he cancelled his holiday party plans.
But LaRose did not skip the party to avoid traveling in the snow. In fact, the 70-year-old Whately resident was knee-deep in the white stuff on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m supposed to be at a Christmas party with my honey,” LaRose said. “But it’s the name of the game. I’ve missed New Year’s, Christmases, Thanksgiving … I’m 70 years old and I’m out here with the shovel and the blower.”
LaRose has been in the snow-clearing business for 55 years. On Saturday afternoon, he tirelessly shoveled Main Street sidewalks as shoppers shuffled by in the slush.
“It’s in your blood,” he said with a shrug. “It ruins your life.”
Northampton received around 6 inches of snow throughout the day Saturday. According to Lenore Correia, spokeswoman for the National Weather Service Office in Taunton, the storm began around 3 a.m. Saturday. The storm lasted until noon, and gave way to about an hour of rain and sleet before skies cleared Saturday afternoon.
LaRose went out to shovel at 6 a.m., and said he planned to remain outdoors shoveling Main Street and 16 driveways until Saturday evening.
“This storm was a late starter,” LaRose said. “We’ll be out here until seven, eight or nine, and then we’ll be back out at four.”
LaRose is a 55-year veteran of the snow-clearing business. He was the head of grounds management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst until he retired in 2003. After that, he started working for a de-icing company.
“You think I’d be smart enough to take a rest,” LaRose said with a chuckle.
There is plenty of snow to shovel outside. Correia said the National Weather Service Office received reports of 7 inches of snow in Westhampton and Pelham, 6.3 inches of snow in Holyoke, 5.9 inches of snow in Chesterfield and even 7.8 inches of snow in Conway.
The winter weather will not last throughout the weekend. According to Correia, temperatures are forecast to hover around 50 degrees Sunday and the Valley will see passing showers from noon to 3 p.m.
Liz Denny and her dog Atticus are hoping the snow sticks around. The Florence resident bundled up and walked her 100-pound Great Pyrenees mix down Main Street on Saturday afternoon.
With a thick, fluffy white coat and a gentle white and brown face, Atticus is well-suited to the snow. Denny adopted the 100-pound dog, who had been abandoned in Texas, from a shelter some two years ago.
Denny, 56, said Atticus loves to play and “dance” in the snow. Atticus even chases after the snow blower.
“He likes everything about it,” Denny said. “Eating it, running around in it, rolling in it.”
Denny said she, too, enjoyed Saturday’s snowstorm. She added she would like to see more snow before Christmas. “I love it. I’m so glad we finally got some,” Denny said. “I’d like it to snow Thursday, another six inches, to make it look beautiful.”
But LaRose, the longtime snow-shoveler, did not agree. He has spent more than half a century clearing snow from the Valley’s parking lots, sidewalks and driveways, and simply can’t stand it.
“I hate the cold, I hate the snow, but somebody’s gotta do it,” LaRose said.
Stephanie Murray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org