Obituary: Robert Sheil, 1948-2022 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Robert Sheil, 1948-2022

Vermont attorney honored by state legislature for exemplary public service

Published December 19, 2022 at 6:00 a.m.
Updated December 19, 2022 at 12:56 p.m.


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Robert Sheil - COURTESY
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  • Robert Sheil

Beloved family member, partner, friend, attorney and community member Robert Sheil, 74, passed away in Hyannis, Mass., on November 28, 2022 after succumbing to a valiant struggle with multiple myeloma, heart disease and COVID.

Born at West Point Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., Bob was the son of Eleanor and Nicholas Sheil Jr. He graduated from Middletown High School, Middletown, N.Y., in 1965; Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., in 1969; where he was a member of the swim team and Sigma Chi Fraternity; and Vermont Law School in 1978.

After college, Bob came to Vermont’s Mad River Valley to visit a friend for the weekend and stayed for life. He worked at a ski lodge, as a waiter and bartender, and enjoyed the busy social scene of the 1970s, making friends that lasted a lifetime. It was at the “White House” in Waitsfield, where he met many of those friends, including John Payne, Ilana Snyder and Scott and Connie Lisle.

Bob began his legal career as a Deputy State’s Attorney in Washington County, Vermont, and then spent six years in private practice, specializing in juvenile and criminal law. For the following 28 years, he was employed as the supervising attorney in the Office of the Juvenile Defender, which is part of Vermont’s public defender system. Bob served on the boards of several nonprofits, including the New England Juvenile Defender Center, Institute of Professional Practice, Policy Council for the local Head Start program, Washington County Youth Service Bureau, ASPIRE and Voices for Vermont’s Children, a statewide advocacy organization for Vermont youth and their families. He also served on several state and national committees and councils and was a member of the Children and Families Council for Prevention Programs, a governor-appointed council. He was the northeast regional chair of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, a national organization advocating on the federal level for juvenile justice issues. In December 1998, Bob published an article, “It’s About Time,” in the Vermont Bar Journal & Law Digest, and in 2016, Bob was honored by the Vermont Legislature for his exemplary public service.

Bob was well known for being a fabulous cook who welcomed guests into his home and delighted fellow staff and committee/board members with his delicious baked goods at their meetings. Bob was famous for making various kinds of cheesecake as a successful incentive to entice attendance to the monthly Family Rules committee.

In the early 1990s, Bob joined John Payne and Ilana Snyder and others in helping to build a cabin on Butler Island, which he treasured for many years. Bob loved the water and took countless dips on a hot day. Again, his famous desserts crowned the nightly sunset feast, cooked on a campfire by the edge of the cliff overlooking the lake. As he did everywhere, Bob endeared himself to many island neighbors.

When climbing the steep stairs up to the Butler Island camp became increasingly challenging for Bob, he and John enjoyed exploring other lakeside spots, accessible by car. They found a perfect small camp on Lake Memphremagog, which Bob loved. Again, he made friends with many neighbors, not only by sharing his famous brownies.

In addition to his passionate work for juvenile justice, Bob loved traveling with his best friend, John, and others. Almost every year, they visited their favorite sites on Cape Cod and along the Maine coast. They also traveled further afield and discovered so many awe-inspiring places all over this country. But Bob was also game for "on-a-shoestring" international trips that led him to Jamaica, Grenada, Panama, Mexico, France, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Corsica. Sadly, too many other destinations and dreams of adventures could not be checked off from his bucket list. He loved new sights, enjoyed learning about different cultures and savored new and exotic cuisines.

He was an inspiration to so many who knew him and genuinely one of the kindest people you ever met. He possessed a sharp mind, a wonderful sense of humor and an unfailing willingness to help and embrace those who had the honor to spend time with him.

Bob was predeceased by his mother and father; stepmother, Evelyn; Uncles James R. Sheil and Charles Blake; and Aunt Delores Sheil Petersen. He is survived by John Payne; sister and brother-in-law, Eileen and Bruz Brown, of Williamsburg, Va.; two nephews, Edmund Brown and Thomas Brown; one grandniece, Ansley Sheil Brown; several cousins; as well as godchildren Chris and Lauren Lisle.

A memorial service is not planned at this time but will hopefully occur in the summer of 2023. Contributions in Bob’s memory may be made to the Washington County Youth Service Bureau at P.O. Box 627, Montpelier, VT 05601, or Voices for Vermont’s Children at P.O Box 261, Montpelier, VT 05601.

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