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Obituaries

• Eleanor Kingsley Bemis, 93, of Athens. Died Nov. 11, 2020. Eleanor was born on Jan. 5, 1927 in Hartland, Vt., to Cordelia Bayliss and Frank Kingsley. She was one of 12 children. In 1957, she married Robert Bemis of Athens, where she became a lifelong resident. She was a hard worker and took pride in her job at American Optical, where she was employed for more than 30 years. In addition, she spent numerous years serving her community as an active member of the school board, a justice of the peace, and in several other positions. Eleanor was known for her kind spirit and generosity in helping others. She enjoyed spending time with her friends at the Charlestown and Bellows Falls senior centers; especially during band concerts, holiday bazaars, and seasonal turkey suppers. Her passion was baking which earned her the title of “The Cookie Lady.” Eleanor was predeceased by her husband, parents, and 10 brothers and sisters. She is survived by her son, David Bemis, of Athens; two granddaughters, Casey Martin and her husband, Evan, of Wesminster and Sarah Bemis and her fiancé, Douglas Somers, of Newfane. She also leaves one great-grandchild, Oakley Martin, her sister Katherine Morse, and many extended family members, friends, and neighbors. Memorial information: Services are at the convenience of the family. Donations to Grace Cottage Hospital.

• Martha H. Hemingway, 101, of West Brattleboro. Died peacefully Nov. 8, 2020 in the comfort of her home with her son and daughter-in-law at her side. She was 101 years old. Mrs. Hemingway was born in St. Albans on Nov. 23, 1918, the daughter of Earl and Georgiana (Brouillard) Hall. She was raised and educated in St. Albans and was a graduate of Bellows Free Academy. In 1947, she married Raymond A. Hemingway, who predeceased her in 2011. She had been employed at the Holstein-Friesian Association, from which she retired following many years of faithful service. At the time of her death, she was the Holstein’s oldest retiree. For 20 years, with her husband, she also assisted with the day to day operation at E&S Cake and Candy, then located on Elliot Street. Mrs. Hemingway was a longtime member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Weldon Chapter #79 in St. Albans. With her husband, she was a communicant of Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church in Brattleboro. She enjoyed gardening, Sunday rides, dining out with her husband at their favorite restaurants, and time shared with her family. Survivors include her son, Earl Hemingway and his wife, Patty, of West Brattleboro; a granddaughter, Jennifer Haskins-Norcia and husband, Adam, of Brattleboro, and a great-granddaughter, Emma. Besides her husband, she was predeceased by a sister, Katherine Hall of St. Albans. Memorial information: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, services will be private. She will be laid to rest in the Hall family lot in Greenwood Cemetery in St Albans. Donations to either the Windham County Humane Society, P.O. Box 397, Brattleboro, VT 05302, or to Rescue Inc., P.O. Box 593, Brattleboro, VT 05302. To share a memory or send messages of condolence, visit www.atamaniuk.com.

• Diane Pearce Laflam, 75, of Guilford. Died at home on Nov. 8, 2020, after a brave five-year battle with stomach cancer. A 1963 graduate of St. Johnsbury Academy, Diane was a waitress in the area for nearly 40 years and made close friends with hundreds of people. She had an inordinate love of all animals, but especially her beloved small poodles. She was known by many as the go-to person if you found an injured animal or bird. She also loved her beautiful flower and vegetable gardens. Few things made her happier than just sitting on her little stool with her hands in the dirt, weeding and nurturing her plants. Diane is survived by her family, whom she fiercely loved, including her lifelong soulmate, twin brother Richard “Dick” Pearce, who was totally devoted to her care during her illness; her son Bruce Labounty and wife, Melissa; grandsons Kyle and Ian, her son-in-law Etienne Debaudringhien and grandson Cassidy; her sister Sylvia Houghton and husband, Lee, of St. Johnsbury; their daughters Kristi Houghton and partner Todd Labounty and son Noah of St. Johnsbury; Nikki Arnold, husband Jason and their children Logan and Easton of Madisonville, Ky.; stepsons David and Tim Laflam; and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents Ellie Pearce Maley and Leighton Pearce; her husband, Eugene; and her daughter, Paula Jenny. Memorial information: Graveside services will be held at a later date to be determined.

• Joanne M. MacLean, 90, of Keene, N.H., formerly of Chesterfield, N.H. Died peacefully on Nov. 8, 2020 at her home in Keene, surrounded by the love of her family. She was born on Jan. 15, 1930 in a small parsonage in Meservey, Iowa to Andrew and Lydia Henning. She joined her three sisters, Julia, Bertha and Juanita in that small town as preacher’s kids. Their father’s pastorate took them to churches in Defiance and Ackley, Iowa. After high school, Joanne attended Westmar College in Le Mars, Iowa and the Iowa Methodist School of Nursing in Des Moines. In 1952, Joanne married Leslie A. “Mac” MacLean, while Leslie was attending Iowa State College. The couple later moved to Des Moines, where Leslie took a position with Insurance Company of North America, transferring to the Kansas City, Mo., and Milwaukee, Wisc., offices after that. It was here that they welcomed their sons, Michael and James, and daughter, Ann into the family. The family later moved to Cherry Hill, N.J., when Leslie took a position in the home offices of CIGNA in Philadelphia. Always wanting to be active in her community and to help others in need, Joanne worked as a registered nurse in various hospitals and doctors’ offices, but it was in Cherry Hill that she was asked to act as a music contributor in a preschool setting. She took on some early childhood courses at Rutgers University and continued in preschool teaching until Leslie’s retirement. It was at this time that the couple moved to Chesterfield to make their retirement home. Joanne found a place in the new Chesterfield Library, where she continued working with preschool children. She also spent many years as co-director of Joan’s Food Pantry; volunteering an hour of piano music each week at Cedarcrest Center for Children in Keene; and as a substitute pianist for the Sunday afternoon church services at Maplewood Nursing Home in Westmoreland, N.H. As a member of the Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro, Joanne held several positions at the church including as substitute organist; and she also served on the Board that founded the Brattleboro Centre for Children. Joanne was named the Mt. Pistareen Grange citizen of the year in 2006 and, in 2014, she was honored by the Chesterfield Lions Club with a Granite State Fellow for exceptional service to citizens. Joanne was also a finalist, twice, in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. She will be greatly missed by many in her community. She is survived by her three children, Michael A. MacLean of Paulsboro, N.J., James MacLean and his wife, Serena, of Walpole, N.H., Ann Senoyuit and her husband, Michael, of Lansdale, Pa.; her sister, Juanita Baker of Morton Grove, Ill.; 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews, and extended family members. Joanne was predeceased by her husband of 59 years, Leslie, in 2011; and two sisters, Julia Carlander and Bertha Giere. Memorial information: A memorial service at Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro, followed by a committal in the Friedsam Cemetery in Chesterfield, with her husband, Leslie, will be held in the spring at a date and time to be announced. Donations to Centre Congregational Church, in care of Rev. Dr. Scott E. Couper, Pastor, 193 Main St., Brattleboro, VT 05301.

• Dr. Margaret “Maggie” Newton, 92, formerly of Brattleboro. Died peacefully on Oct. 30, 2020, A pioneering physician, musician, mother, loyal friend, and stalwart Vermonter, she came into the world on July 3, 1928. The eldest child of David Newton and Margaret Young Newton, followed by siblings John, Mary, and Michael, Maggie was born in Windsor, Conn., where her father chaired the English Department at the Loomis-Chafee School. When she was 8, the family moved to Southern Vermont and founded the Newton School for boys on a rural property that encompassed Hamilton Falls in Jamaica. Maggie and her siblings studied, milked cows, tended chickens and pigs, rode horses, chopped wood, played in Cobb Brook, cross-country skied in winter and scampered shoeless on the dirt roads and through meadows and forests in summer. The Newtons were musical people. Maggie took up cello and loved to sing. She left home as an adolescent to live with friends in New York state, where she attended the Emma Willard School, graduating in 1945. Three years later, she graduated from Vassar College as an English major. She entered the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, where she was one of just three women in her cohort and graduated third in her class, in 1954. She co-authored numerous journal articles during her medical career, from “Social Considerations in Medical Education” to “Response of salt-loaded rats to abrupt withdrawal of salt.” Her brother Mike said “she was wonderfully intelligent and she used her good mind quite frequently, and sometimes the rest of us wondered what the hell she was talking about!” Meredith “Dithy” Mayer, who, along with her sister, Ann Loftis, was a lifelong friend, said Maggie “had so much curiosity, perspective, and humor” and “saw the funny part of almost any situation. And her love of music spilled over to those around her. She related to all sorts of things — odd plants, the lame dog down the street, and the exotic neighbor.” Maggie completed her medical residency, followed by a fellowship under the preeminent nephrologist Louis Welt, at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where she met and married David Mechanic, a young sociologist from New York City. They relocated to Madison, where Maggie taught at the University of Wisconsin medical school, practiced as a kidney specialist, and gave birth to two sons. The couple divorced eventually, and Maggie moved to Milwaukee. She later resettled in Brattleboro, where she rekindled her passion for the cello and became a member and supporter of the Windham Orchestra and the Brattleboro Music Center. She also joined the West Brattleboro Quaker Worship Group. Founding member and friend Douglas Cox remembers Maggie returning from a music camp with a gift: a t-shirt depicting a loon nesting in the bell of his instrument—a tuba. “It’s still one of my favorite shirts,” Cox says. “She’s left a lot of wonderful memories for a lot of people.” Fellow physician/musician friend Margery McCrum administers a charitable fund Maggie created to support the orchestra and music center. “She made sure there was a full scholarship each year, often for a student who played cello,” McCrum said. “She embraced the music community here and supported it wholeheartedly. She was passionate about everything she did and had a great way of getting us all excited about things.” When Maggie got a bee in her bonnet, there was no stopping her. As part of Vermont Citizen’s Campaign for Health and Physicians for a National Health Program, she pushed for universal health care long before President Obama, and backed Bernie Sanders before Bernie was cool. “She was very committed,” her brother Mike recalls. “And she had a delightful — usually — way of making decisions in circumstances in which other people might have done it differently.” Maggie spent her final years in Northern California to be closer to her son Michael and his family. She is survived by brother Mike; sons Robert (Karen) and Michael (Laura); grandchildren Nikko, Ruby, Madeline, and Lyla; and dozens of nieces, nephews, and cousins. Memorial information: Per her wishes, Maggie’s ashes will be returned to the forests where she once played. Memorial plans are not yet determined. (Friends may email michaelamechanic@gmail.com.) Donations to the Audubon Society, Brattleboro Music Center, or the Vermont Foodbank.

Services

A memorial service in celebration of the life of Jeannie Conroy will be conducted Saturday, Nov. 21, at 1 p.m., at the Windham Community Chapel with Pastor Gary DeHaas officiating. Her cremated remains will be buried in the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam, Mass., at a later date. Mrs. Conroy, of Hinsdale, N.H., died unexpectedly Oct. 31, 2020 at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #588 (Wednesday, November 18, 2020). This story appeared on page A4.

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