- Emily Higgings
Emily Hallett Higgins died on November 10, 2023, at her home in
Waterbury Center, Vt. She was 47.
It’s impossible to capture here the beauty and force of her spirit, the restless power of her creativity, her profound commitment to justice, and the joyous passion she had for family, friendship, exploration and reinvention.
The greatest love of her life was the love she had for her two boys, Cashel, 15, and Ryan, 11. They returned her love fiercely. We all did. We all do.
Emily died of a heart attack. There had been no warning, no signs. She was with us, smiling and laughing, and then she was gone. Her passing leaves us shocked and heartbroken and shattered. It doesn’t feel real. It never will.
But her life fills us with gratitude and wonder.
A graduate of St. Johnsbury Academy and Wellesley College, Emily went on to become a force in the affordable housing community, earning the respect and admiration of colleagues and partners in Vermont and across the country. She started her career at AIDS Housing of Washington in Seattle in 2001. After moving to Vermont in 2003, she spent 12 years at Champlain Housing Trust, where she directed its homeownership programs and helped countless people find a safe, caring place for them and their families to call home. Emily then moved to the Vermont Department for Children and Families and took on a position overseeing all state and federal housing grants for people without shelter. She worked most recently at the Vermont Department of Corrections, where she was responsible for managing the grants that provide housing for people returning from incarceration.
Emily loved to travel on her own or with friends and family to new places, new countries, learning and experiencing as much as she could along the way. She had a knack for languages and could be found chatting to cab drivers the world over while on her way to another adventure.
Over the years, she spent more and more time making art, whether it was drawing, painting or creating metal sculptures. Any trip with Emily through the hills of her beloved home state of Vermont was bound to include pulling over and loading some frighteningly jagged and rusted piece of scrap metal into her car that she’d later turn into something unexpected and gorgeous.
Emily was born in St. Johnsbury, Vt., in 1975. She grew up on a Christmas tree farm in East St. Johnsbury with her father, Scudder Parker, and mother, Pam Parker. She spent her childhood exploring the woods with her sister, Katie Parker, swimming in their pond, and learning how to shear balsams and spruces to get that perfect Christmas tree shape. (It’s not as easy as it sounds!) She felt a deep connection to that land and returned to it as often as she could throughout her life.
After graduating from Wellesley, Emily met Darren Higgins when they moved into the same four-bedroom apartment in Somerville, Mass., in 1997. Meeting up often to commiserate over their comically incompatible roommates, they fell in love and took off across the U.S. with no definite destination in mind, ultimately settling in Seattle.
They took a leap back in the other direction five years later, getting married in Waitsfield, Vt., buying a house in Waterbury Center and starting a family. Cashel Higgins was born in 2008, followed by Ryan in 2012.
Emily and Darren divorced in 2018 but remained devoted friends and co-parents to their wonderful boys. They lived just a few minutes apart and created a new family structure across two welcoming homes, redefining for many what a loving partnership looks and feels like. They continued to travel with their boys and celebrate all occasions together with their extended families.
It was clear from her earliest days that Emily had been born with a strong sense of self. She forged her own way. She was not interested in the limiting expectations of society or culture or other people — she was committed to finding out who she was and what she wanted, and she did so generously and joyously. Her passion for life was infectious. She knew deep in her core that it makes no sense — and, in fact, cheats us all — to allow ourselves to be divided by gender, race, appearance, culture or religion. She confronted injustice. She gave back to her community. She was kind. She was generous. She was an amazing listener. Her hugs were warm and good and made you feel safe. She was an inspiration to her family and to all who knew her.
Emily is survived by her sons, Cashel and Ryan Higgins; their father, Darren Higgins; her three cats, Una, Thea and Dalia; her mother, Pam Parker; her father, Scudder Parker, her stepmother, Susan Sussman; her sister, Katie Parker; her brother-in-law, Waldo Aguirre; her nephews, Gabriel and Sebastian Aguirre-Parker; her many loving aunts, uncles and cousins in the Lovell and Parker families; her former father- and mother-in-law, Brian and Diane Higgins; her former sister-in-law, Lorrin Tuxbury; her former brother-in-law, Jim Tuxbury; her nieces, Charlotte, Emma, Maddie and Caroline; all her adoring friends; and her coworkers, neighbors and members of the communities she called home.
Emily’s light cannot be dimmed. It will forever shine within the hearts of all who loved her.
A service of celebration of Emily’s life will be held at the Waterbury (Vermont) Congregational Church on Saturday, December 9, 1 p.m. We suggest that those wishing to honor Emily’s memory donate to Good Samaritan Haven in Barre and MakerSphere in Waterbury, in place of sending flowers.