(Host) When Vermonters honor Dan Darrow this weekend, they’ll remember a dedicated public servant. They’ll also be honoring a family man, with deep roots in Vermont agriculture and the natural environment. Darrow, who died this week at the age of 75, was a former Democratic state representative from Newfane.
VPR’s Susan Keese has more.
(Keese) The Darrow’s farm, Ollalie Daylily Garden, is home to three generations of Darrows. It reflects an earlier generation as well. Darrow’s father, George, co-owned a berry business with former Vermont Governor George Aiken. George Darrow went to work for the Department of Agriculture in Washington and became a famous daylily breeder.
After his father’s death, Dan Darrow, his wife Ellen and their children brought the lilies back to their Vermont farm and built a business there.
The three-term legislator announced he wouldn’t run for re-election last fall after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and lymphoma.
Before he was a legislator, Darrow taught science and math in Townshend and Putney. Former Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin first knew him as his eighth grade homeroom teacher. He says Darrow was an innovative teacher who became a longtime friend.
(Shumlin) “He was someone who attracted people to him. He didn’t judge you. He was always willing to listen to your point of view. And in a gentle way, he always made very clear what his view was, and it was almost always right.”
(Keese) Shumlin says what made Darrow so effective as a legislator was that his only personal ambition was to do what he felt was best for Vermont. Kermit Spaulding, the sergeant at arms at the Vermont Statehouse and a former Republican legislator, admired Darrow’s bipartisan spirit.
(Spaulding) “I was very impressed with him because he had a very good knack of listening to both sides of the issue before he made up his mind, regardless of the political party.”
(Keese) Richard Marek succeeded Darrow in the House. He says Darrow had a deep sense of duty, stemming from a belief that what the Legislature did really mattered in people’s lives.
(Marek) “He was a significant actor in the civil unions bill, because I think he had a deep sense of family. And I think he felt that same sense of family ought to be available to other people. And he brought that sense of perspective to his private life as well as his public life.”
(Keese) Even after his diagnosis, Darrow kept his hand in public affairs, working on a plan to reduce drug costs at the local hospital.
Darrow’s son Chris runs the daylily operation with his wife Amelia. He says his father spent his last months enjoying friends, playing with his grandchildren and helping out around the farm.
(Chris) “He was happy just being here, having supper or working in his garden or any of those things.”
(Keese) State Representative Richard Marek visited a few weeks before his death and found him drying onions.
(Marek) “He gave everyone who visited I think this summer baskets of vegetables from his garden. And after his crops were in and the last leaves had fallen, he left us.”
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.