- Courtesy Of Pamela Polston And Henni Cohen
- Left: Maggie Sherman holding a baby goat in Elmore. Right: Sherman as Honey the Professional Waitress
A bright light went out on Burlington's Lakeview Terrace last week when artist Maggie Sherman died in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. A longtime reader of Seven Days, she was my friend and neighbor for the past 13 years. We shared ingredients, accessories, painters, "Ted Lasso," sunset drinks, shoes, dinners, car rides to the pool. My partner, Tim, and I loved her like a big sister. Supportive and spontaneous, she was the youngest 71-year-old we knew.
A Nashville, Tenn., native, Maggie was a community artist, as her obituary explains. In 1981, she single-handedly dreamed up and pulled off an ambitious mask-making project in the rural Vermont town of Montgomery that required getting residents of all varieties to participate. Read: She could talk to anyone. She was loud and fun and flirtatious and, on occasion, outrageous.
She parlayed those skills into a side gig as an icebreaker for hire: Dressed in retro diner attire, Maggie's character creation, Honey the Professional Waitress, turned on a perfect Southern accent to chat up attendees at conferences and corporate events. All that performance art and community organizing came in handy for operating her business, One of a Kind Bed & Breakfast, right next door. She charmed her guests with gracious hospitality and a big, red-lipstick smile.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Maggie initiated the evening ritual of banging pans outside our houses in appreciation of health care workers — and kept it up long after most other residents of Lakeview Terrace had stopped. During the summer of 2020, she hired Vermont Shakespeare Festival actors to perform scenes up and down the street. Maggie would have been thrilled to see how many of those neighbors honored her as she lay dying, two Saturday nights ago, by placing lighted candles in their snowbanks, setting our shared street aglow.
She learned that she had a rare form of aggressive thyroid cancer at the end of last August, a week or so after she had organized a backyard "salon" of doctors and other health care experts on my behalf — Seven Days was pursuing a cover story on medical wait times. Targeted immunotherapy worked for a month or two, as Maggie happily swam and walked and cooked, "until it didn't," as she put it frankly. She was pissed off and scared about dying but also graceful and resigned.
It was agonizing to watch her slip away — too soon, too fast. The crush of visiting fans waned, per Maggie's instructions, and her son and sister cared for her at home until the end. Hours before, Seven Days cofounder Pamela Polston gathered a group of creative friends to transform her cardboard cremation box into a stylish "rocket ship" painted red and collaged with artwork, photographs, haiku and even red undies.
Along with creators like Burlington filmmaker-photographer John Douglas, who is also memorialized in this week's issue, Maggie belongs to a generation of Vermonters who have made this state more interesting, wild and wacky. She was the third close neighbor of mine to die in the past couple of years — too many losses to process.
Everything about Maggie was dramatic. Shortly after her death, as if on cue, that big Wednesday morning wind picked up and carried her off, leaving our Burlington neighborhood, and Vermont, a little less fabulous.