Obituary: Neil H. Shannon Jr., 1948-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Neil H. Shannon Jr., 1948-2020

A lifelong educator is fondly remembered for his "sardonic, Oscar Wilde-grade humor"

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Neil Shannon, Jr. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Neil Shannon, Jr.

Neil H. Shannon Jr., 72, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, from complications of Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

An only child, he was born on May 20, 1948, to Neil H. and Anna L. (Pierson) Shannon Sr. Neil spent his childhood in the South Barre family home, to which he returned as its owner in the last years of his life.

Neil was educated in the Barre schools and graduated from Spaulding High School in 1966. He obtained a bachelor of arts degree from Lyndon State College in 1971 and later obtained a certificate in mediation from Woodbury College. He was a lifelong educator and learner. He taught for many years at the Orange Central School before joining the Learning Support staff at Norwich University, where he spent the rest of his career. As a learning support specialist and later as a readmit coordinator, Neil helped hundreds of young people overcome their learning barriers and achieve success in their academic and work lives. The stubbornness which friends recall as both an endearing and exasperating trait no doubt helped him in his work, since he never would have given up on a struggling student.

Neil’s great joys in life, besides his friendships and a series of cats with whom he shared his life, included travel, music, gourmet cooking and theater. For many years, in cahoots with the likes of Russell Smith, Lois Jackson and Dick Shadroui, he was a leader of the Barre Players, where he usually played community theater’s most valuable role of stage manager. He also served as the Players’ president in 1973. With companions from that group, he was instrumental in the successful fight to save the Barre Opera House in 1982.

Known for his beautiful counter-tenor voice, Neil sang with Baroque Court and Simple Gifts for many years and with the Barre Choraleers. He was a member of the Christ Church choir under director Brian Webb, and he sang at Camp Ogontz in Lyman, N.H., with world-renowned conductor Sir David Willcocks. He was also a Phishhead, a devotee of Vermont’s own supergroup, who with friend Jon Noyes finagled their press credentials into a private concert: the group’s sound check and rehearsal for the “Lemonwheel” concert in Limestone, Maine, a peak life experience for both.

In his travels, he had a particular affinity for Britain and Europe, where he would meet up with friends from Vermont and explore stately homes and medieval castles. He filled his house with photo albums from those journeys and in later years enjoyed perusing them, along with his massive collection of books ranging from literary classics to gourmet magazines.

Neil’s cooking skills, which ran from spring rolls to fresh pea soup, among many other delights, and his quick wit and sardonic, Oscar Wilde-grade humor made him a welcome guest at potluck dinners with friends. At an annual Twelfth Night celebration dinner featuring medieval or Renaissance costumes, Neil dazzled his friends as Cardinal Wolsey or sometimes Henry VIII himself, whom he resembled, though happily not in personality.

He leaves a large group of loving friends, including the latest of his beloved Maine coon cats, Artemis; his godson Adam Schersten and Adam’s brothers Ben and Taylor; friends Susette Bollard and her husband, Jon Noyes; Marjorie Strong; Robbie Harold and Wayne Fawbush; and the Usual Suspects (who know who they are); as well as Norwich University friends and colleagues Paula Gills, Gina Logan and others.

Neil was predeceased by his father, Neil H. Shannon Sr., in December 1977 and by his mother, Anna Shannon, in November 2019.

Neil’s cremated remains will be laid to rest beside the graves of his parents in Hope Cemetery in Barre, at a date later in the fall.

Special thanks for their loving care of Neil to Chelsee Hallstrom and Martha Dezotell, and to the dedicated team of nurses and care providers at Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice.

Memorial contributions may be made to support the community performance group of your choice; or to Central Vermont Humane Society, P.O. Box 687, Montpelier, VT 05601; or to North Branch Nature Center, 713 Elm St., Montpelier, VT 05602; or to Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice, 600 Granger Rd., Barre, VT 05641.

Arrangements are by Hooker Whitcomb Funeral Home, 7 Academy St., Barre. For a memorial guestbook, visit hookerwhitcomb.com.

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