Obituary: Deborah Susan Beckett, 1957-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Deborah Susan Beckett, 1957-2020

Former Williston town clerk and Army National Guard member served her community and country

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Deborah Beckett - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Deborah Beckett

Deborah Susan Beckett (née Leete) passed away in the late hours of August 21, 2020, surrounded by her loving wife, Toby Rockwood, and her children Sean and Ellie.

Born to James and Elizabeth Leete in 1957, Deb grew up in Ludlow, Mass., with her brother Rick and sisters Cheryl and Kirsty. She moved to Vermont in 1975 to attend Saint Michael’s College for business administration and journalism. In 1986 Deb married David Beckett, and in 1988 they welcomed their first child, Sean, to the world, followed by Elizabeth two years later. As her kids grew up, she never missed a single lacrosse game or school concert.

Never one to hold the spotlight, Deb had a generous and selfless nature best understood through her influence on our community. Deb cared deeply about civic engagement and giving back to Williston. She demonstrated this commitment daily, and it’s hard to find a position that she didn’t occupy at some point in her 30-year tenure with the town. Deb retired in March from a 21-year career as the town clerk and treasurer. In addition to her position as clerk, she served as lister, Zoning Board/Development Review Board member, cemetery commissioner, justice of the peace, town agent and town grand juror. She was passionate about democratic participation and voter engagement, leading Williston to be a national pioneer of drive-through voting in 2006. Deb cherished Williston’s Fourth of July festivities, from ice cream socials on the town green to the celebrations at the Old Brick Church.

Deb held many supervisory roles for other regional organizations, including the Williston Federated Church, Williston Community Food Shelf, Williston-Richmond Rotary Club, Habitat for Humanity, Vermont League of Cities & Towns, Vermont Municipal Clerks’ & Treasurers’ Association, and the New England Association of City & Town Clerks. Deb was an American Legion commander and board member for both the Williston and Bristol posts, as well as a VFW life member. Deb was a fixture of Williston Boy Scout Troop 692, helping more than a dozen young men (including her son) achieve their Eagle Scout rank through mentorship in citizenship and community service.

Deb’s devotion to her community continued beyond Vermont’s borders. Deb joined the Army National Guard in 1979 and served two tours in the Middle East in 2004 and 2010. She retired from the guard with the rank of staff sergeant after returning from her second tour.

While she survived the battlefield, it is no exaggeration to say that Deb gave her life for her country. In 2017, she developed cancer as a result of exposure to toxic burn pits during her service overseas. Complications from this disease ultimately took her life. Deb planned to use her time in retirement to help other veterans exposed to burn pits navigate the challenges of receiving government and VA recognition, care and benefits. To help Deb follow through with her ambitions, please consider contributing to Burn Pits 360, a nonprofit whose mission is to carry out that very goal (burnpits360.org).

The last 10 years of Deb’s life were truly her happiest. Not only did she find the love of her life, she also learned to take time for herself and value her own needs. Deb and Dave amicably divorced in 2010. In 2018, Deb and Toby married on their deck in a private ceremony, with only their dog Rudy and a sunset in attendance, and they later celebrated their union with friends and family. They chose Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” as their song — a message that Deb lived by and encouraged others to, as well.

Their home was always full of energy and laughter, with Toby’s daughters Jamie, Allie and Tashia, plus a revolving door of family and friends, constantly flowing in and out. Deb and Toby were partners in every sense, tackling the world together one challenge and celebration at a time. They loved spending time on the beach in Maine, recharging at the spa and enjoying summer evenings from their porch.

Ten days before Deb passed, she officiated Sean’s wedding to his partner, Allison. Through every surgery and setback Deb faced this year, one thing was certain: Come hell or high water, she was going to be at the wedding. Her presence that day was a highlight of our lives, giving us a measure of comfort in the midst of our grief.

Deb’s family will be forever grateful to her outstanding team of caregivers and doctors that devoted themselves to her over the past three years (and especially the past few months). We were fortunate that, through all the uncertainties, we were blessed with an unparalleled medical team in which we all had complete faith.

Giving Deb the send-off she deserves would be daunting even in the best of times. A service has been planned according to her wishes that will be recorded for those who cannot be physically present. Looking ahead, we invite everyone to join in celebrating her life and legacy in the community as part of Williston’s Fourth of July festivities next summer. In the meantime, we invite anyone who would like to share a story or their sentiments about Deb to send their message to Celebrate.Deborah.Beckett@gmail.com. We’ll collect and share those submissions far and wide. One last thing she would like you to do that would honor her again and again is to vote early and vote often.

Deb was strong and resilient, she commanded respect, and she led by example. She never sought attention or accolades for her work but instead was driven by a devotion to those around her. She found genuine joy in supporting her family, friends, community and country. Her spirit lives on in the countless people whose lives she has touched. It is with the heaviest of hearts that we say goodbye to our wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, soldier, mentor, leader and role model.

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