Obituary: George Larrabee, 1934-2023 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: George Larrabee, 1934-2023

Revered Abenaki elder authored historical novel highlighting Abenaki language and culture

Published May 2, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.

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George Larrabee - COURTESY
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  • George Larrabee
The world lost a creative artist, writer, treasured teacher, revered Abenaki elder, activist, family member and friend when Earl George Larrabee (Peskunck) died of cancer at Central Vermont Medical Center. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.

Born to Betty and Earl Larrabee in 1934, George was one of four siblings and was raised in a three-generation household in Westfield, Mass. He remembered the home front of WWII with rationing, blackouts, and collecting paper and scraps of metal for the war drive. He had many adventures with his friend, Tom Azarian.

In 1951, during the Korean War, George enlisted in the U.S. Army, had basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., joined the 82nd Airborne Division, trained at
Fort Benning, Ga., was promoted to Private First Class and was a three-year army recruit. Later, when his mother was abandoned with two preteen boys, George was granted a family hardship release and remained in the Army Inactive Reserves. He was given employment in the Westfield Paper Mill to support his family.

After his mother remarried, and, lacking a high school diploma, George enrolled in the Training Institute of the Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) AFL-CIO, where he received his diploma and worked as their union organizer. He studied in New York City art schools while working in the graphic arts field.

In New England, in 1955, George became interested in the American history-oriented black powder, muzzle-loading, rifle field. He worked during the day, while also submitting art and writing to the historical New England Homestead Magazine and Muzzle Blasts, the monthly magazine of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association, and other periodicals. He joined reenactment groups and incorporated survival skills in his writing.

George was hired in 1976 by the newly established Consolidated Railroad Corporation (Conrail) and began a career in railroad maintenance (hard physical labor!). He was off work during winters, enabling his illustration/writing to continue.

George was briefly married to Carol Schnitzer in New York City. George met Carol’s friend, Phyllis Rachel Litman. George and Phyllis saw each other years later at Quarry Hill Commune in Rochester, Vt., and at Bread and Puppet. They started a relationship in 1984 and admired each others’ creativity (Phyllis was a gifted poet.). They married in 1989 in Plainfield, Vt. Phyllis had two sons from a prior marriage, Emile and Malcolm Sawyer, who became George’s stepsons. Emile fondly remembers George's excited storytelling about Vermont heroes, Ethan Allen et al. and the capturing of Fort Ticonderoga — while dressed in 18th-century clothing, shouldering his musket — as well as George’s explanation of how he helped build a birch bark canoe. George protested, with Emile, against the Vermont contract with the Hydro-Quebec mega projects which were harming the Cree and Innu tribes in Canada.

George and Phyllis had a long marriage, sharing interests, while surrounded by woodlands and Greenwood Lake in Woodbury, Vt. Towards the end of her life,
Phyllis decided to live life on her own.

George learned that he was descended from Europeans and a Native American great-grandmother from Canada, where the Abenaki tribe lives. He joined the Abenaki group, Clan of the Hawk, Brownington, Vt. George (Peskunck) made it his life mission to learn and teach the Western Abenaki language (very endangered) and culture — of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and adjacent Canada — and attended many Native American events. Phyllis also shared his interest. George completed a full-length historical novel, A Visit With Chief Grey Lock Book 1, with his illustrations and photographs highlighting the Western Abenaki language and culture. A Visit With Chief Grey Lock Book 2 is being readied for publication.

George was always proud of being a member of the 82nd Airborne. He parachute-jumped 15 times in his life. His last jump was in tandem with an instructor, in October 2022, when he was 88 years old!

George was predeceased by his brother Daniel, and his former wife, Phyllis. He is survived by his sister Irene and his brother Bob; his niece, Judy, her husband, John, and their daughter, Jade; his nephew, Gary, and his wife, Sheila, and Gary’s daughters, Siobhan and Caitlyn; his nephew Mark; his stepson Emile and his wife, Esther, and Emile’s son Jaden and daughter Tacincala; his stepson Malcolm and his son, Joey. He is also survived by his friend of over 70 years, Tom Azarian, and his cherished friend, Dee Bright Star, to whom George said he was very truly hers.

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