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From the Publisher: Seeking Words of Wisdom

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Published January 25, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.


Beth Danon - COURTESY OF LIBBY DYSART
  • Courtesy of Libby Dysart
  • Beth Danon

When someone dies and their loved ones want to announce it in Seven Days, we receive an email. The obituary form arrives in my inbox and those of a few other colleagues. We contact the sender and respectfully edit the narrative. I'm proud of the way we help tell the stories of the people who have shaped this state.

Increasingly, though, these notifications fill me with trepidation. I open each one knowing it could reveal sad news about someone I loved or admired — something that, now that I'm 62, is happening with greater regularity. Of the 17 people memorialized in the January 11 issue of Seven Days, I knew three.

The gentle bassist Mark Ransom, who kept the beat for so many Burlington bands, drove himself to the emergency room and died there at the age of 72. I had great respect for the late Ann Curran, even though she once turned me down for a job at Vermont ETV, the precursor to Vermont PBS and now Vermont Public; I didn't have a television at the time, so I failed the brilliant test she devised to determine if I actually watched the channel. Nonetheless, she stayed in touch and encouraged me throughout my career, even becoming a Seven Days Super Reader.

Thoughtfully, Mary Kehoe called to let me know that her sister, Beth Danon, had succumbed to cancer, before I read it on my computer screen. Good friends in the early days of the paper, Beth and I lost regular touch when she moved from Winooski to Hinesburg. She was a partner in a busy law practice there, representing people with disabilities and others who would not have been able to pay for proper legal representation; then as now, the paper afforded me very little time to maintain friendships.

As soon as I heard Mary's voice, my heart sank. I had no idea Beth was sick, so the news of her death, at 68, was a shock. The grief was compounded by the selfish regret that I didn't spend more time with her, that I took her for granted. I thought she would be here forever.

Listening to her friends and family remember Beth at the memorial service on Saturday at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, I ached for the collective loss. Their stories synced up beautifully, describing a woman of political action who listened deeply, laughed loudly and gave much more than she received.

Among the speakers was her stepfather, U.S. Sen. Peter Welch, who married Beth's mom, the late Joan Smith, in 1976, when she was a single parent of five kids.

Those siblings, along with Beth's beloved nieces and nephews, gave her a moving send-off, complete with renditions of "Lean on Me" and "Let It Be."

I'd like to believe the Beatles, but will there be an answer? Fortunately, I'd already planned a winter vacation; for the next two weeks, I'll be getting out to see some people I love while I can still hear their stories, in their own words. No time to wait.

Routly will be away until February 8; her next column will appear in the February 15 issue.