(Host) All this week, VPR has been looking back at 2004, with its ups and downs. Today, as we enter the new year, we say goodbye to some familiar faces. In the conclusion to our “Year in Review” series, VPR’s Steve Delaney reflects on some of those who made their mark on this state and who are now gone.
(Delaney) There are more people alive now in Vermont than there have ever been, about 615,000 of us.
Once in a while, as when soldiers die in distant wars, a life ends with its potential unrealized. But most of the 5,000 Vermonters who pass away annually do so in the fullness of their years, at rest from the labors of their lives.
It was that way this year… (sound of “Captain Kangaroo” theme music.) You might have heard that on Vermont’s Channel 3 a long time ago. Bob Keeshan retired to Vermont after 35 years on TV as the grandfatherly Captain Kangaroo, who captivated generations of children with the help of Mister Greenjeans and Bunny Rabbit. Keeshan talked on VPR’s Switchboard about igniting the imagination of a young child.
(Keeshan) “We all call upon this imagination every day, in getting through every day. We call upon our imagination to make life a little easier. Imagination must be cultivated early on. Please, please, as a parent cultivate that imagination in very young children.”
(Delaney) Captain Kangaroo, Bob Keeshan, lived in Quechee. He was 76 years old when he died in his sleep in January.
Fifty years ago Laurance Rockefeller and his wife Mary bought the Marsh-Billings property in Woodstock that had once belonged to her grandfather. The billionaire grandson of John D. Rockefeller restored the mansion and the farm that are now Vermont’s only National Park. Laurance Rockefeller is also credited with revitalizing the central village area of the community of Woodstock. He was 94.
For 30 years educator Noel Perrin wrote essays that crystallized the experience of living in a changing rural Vermont. In the week before Thanksgiving he died in Thetford Center.
At about the same time, just across the river in Lyme, New Hampshire, noted book illustrator Trina Schart-Hyman passed away. She’d won the coveted Caldicott Prize for illustration three times.
Just before Christmas, in Woodstock, the literary world lost author and editor Peter Jennison, whose writing helped us and people from away alike, to define just what it is to be a Vermonter.
Ray Phillips was a founder of Vermont Public Radio, and served as VPR’s Board chairman for twenty years, retiring a decade ago. Phillips was also instrumental in the establishment of Vermont Public television. He lived to be 90.
Joan Smith died of cancer in September. She had been the University of Vermont’s Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for eight years. Her husband Peter Welch is president pro tempore of the Vermont State Senate.
At the end of May, Alzheimer’s disease claimed David Dellinger in a Montpelier nursing home. He was one of the Chicago Seven, protestors arrested during the turbulent 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago.
Christopher Reeve was not a Vermonter, but he had connections to Middlebury College, where his wife Dana was a member of the Class of 1984. Together, they delivered the college’s commencement address last May. Just before that, he spoke with VPR’s Neal Charnoff from his home in Pound Ridge, New York, and previewed his theme.
(Reeve) “What I’m focusing on is that to a large extent paralysis is a choice. I’m literally paralyzed, but to my amazement I’ve learned to find new freedoms.”
(Delaney) Christopher Reeve was 52. He was a leading advocate for stem cell research, which he thought could lead to a break-through for patients with damaged spinal cords.
For every 5,000 deaths in Vermont there are about 6,400 births. Some of those new Vermonters will also leave indelible marks on the state. It will just take a few decades to figure out which ones they’ll be.
For VPR News, I’m Steve Delaney.
“2004, the Year in Review” was produced by Steve Delaney. The production engineer for this week’s series was Chris Albertine.