• Charles Akley, 76, of Brattleboro. Died Nov. 24, 2020 at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. He was born on March 12, 1944 in Hartford, Conn., the son of Harold C. and Mary (Weldon) Akley, he attended schools in Vermont. After his schooling, he served in the Army. Following his service to his country, Charles worked in the area as a truck driver. Charles is predeceased by his parents, his wife, Judy, and his brother, James. Charles is survived by two daughters, Lynn and Lolly Ackley, and their mother, Chris Howe, and his sister, Donna Bell. Memorial information: Services will be held at the convenience of the family. Fenton & Hennessey Funeral Home of Bellows Falls is assisting with arrangements.
• Aurore L. Boyd, 89, formerly of Wilmington and Belleview, Fla. Died Nov. 24, 2020 at Alpine House in Keene, N.H. Aurore was born in Brattleboro on June 25, 1931, the daughter of the late Lawrence Deneault and Elianne LeBlond. She graduated second in her class at St. Michael's High School in Brattleboro and took some college courses. She married the love of her life, Alfred (Mike) Lewis Boyd. in 1950. Mr. Boyd died in 1997. Aurore worked as a secretary for Dr. Wolf and Dr. DuMont, and for Wilmington High School. She loved Bingo, cards, family picnics, the color blue, butterflies, and watching “The Opry” with her friend Kathy Welchel. She had a sharp wit, a tart tongue, and loved her family fiercely. Aurore is survived by her children: Catherine “Cat” Moony (Mike) of Keene, Christine “Tina” Pike (Tony) of East Dover and Belleview, Fla., Michael Boyd (Sandi) of York, Pa., and Peter Boyd (Katie) of Wilmington. She is also survived by 15 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, a great-great grandson, and her special niece Deb Boyd, who drove her from Florida to Vermont and back again for many years after Mike's death. Memorial information: Funeral services for Aurore will be held at Covey Allen & Shea Funeral Home in Wilmington at a later date, with interment in Riverview Cemetery in Wilmington. Donations to the Wilmington Food Pantry, in care of Covey Allen & Shea Funeral Home, P.O. Box 215 Wilmington, VT 05363.
• James O. Gray, 80, of Williamsville. Died peacefully on Nov. 21, 2020 at Thompson House nursing home in Brattleboro, following a long illness. James was born on Nov. 29, 1939, in Williamsville, the son of Frank and Helena (Crowninshield) Gray. James attended Timson Hill Elementary School in Williamsville and Brattleboro Union High School, Class of 1957. James proudly served our country in the Army, serving in the Vietnam War, and was in the National Guard for several years as well. He was a member of American Legion Post 5. He was Newfane's Road Foreman for more than 30 years and served on the Selectboard for more than 10 years. James was an active member of the South Newfane/Williamsville Volunteer Fire Department for more than 40 years, serving as an active firefighter and president of the organization. James was a true outdoorsman, working in his vegetable gardens, proudly sharing his crops with family, hunting, bird watching, and deep-sea fishing with his brothers. He was predeceased by his parents, his brother, Charles Gray, and his sister, Jean (Gray) Druke. He is survived by his brothers, David Gray of South Newfane and Edwin Gray and his wife, Christine, of Williamsville; his sister, Joan (Gray) Jones of South Newfane; and brother-in-law, Edward Druke of Newfane. Additionally, he is survived by many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews. Memorial information: James will be laid to rest in a private family ceremony in the cemetery on Beetlestone Hill in Williamsville at a later date. Donations to Grace Cottage Hospital, P.O. Box 216, Townshend, VT 35353 or NewBrook Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 77, Newfane, VT 05345. To share a memory or send messages of condolence, visit www.atamaniuk.com.
• Josephine F. “Jo” Keefe, 97, of Bellows Falls. Died Nov. 26, 2020 at the Vermont Veterans' Home in Bennington. She was born on Sept. 4, 1923, to Earl and Mary (Tollerton) Fuller in Walpole, N.H. She was a graduate of Walpole High School, Class of 1943. Josephine proudly served in the Navy during World War II, stationed in Washington, D.C., as a decoder. After the war ended, she married Daniel Keefe in 1946, a marriage lasting more than 73 years. Jo, as she liked to be called, worked at Immanuel Church in Bellows Falls before going to work for, and retiring from, H.A. Manning Co. Jo enjoyed Bingo, crossword puzzles, and family gatherings. She was known for her beautiful crocheting, knitting, and needle work. She was predeceased by her parents; and three sisters, Agnes Bates, Mary Beam, and Geraldine Claflin. Surviving are her three sons, Eric (Molly) of North Carolina, Terrence (Ruth) of Bellows Falls, and Kevin (Corrinne) of Bellows Falls. Also surviving are six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, all of whom she loved dearly. Memorial information: There will be a graveside service in the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery at a later date.
• Minnie A. Mason, 90, of Hinsdale, N.H. Died Nov. 30, 2020 at Thompson House nursing home in Brattleboro. Minnie was born in West Halifax on Oct. 14, 1930, the daughter of William E. and Helen M. (Pease) Akeley. She was raised and educated in Halifax and was a graduate of Wilmington High School, Class of 1949. She had been employed in the housekeeping department at Eden Park Nursing Home (now Pine Heights) which she retired from in 1996 following many years of faithful service. Previously, she worked at the former American Optical Company in Brattleboro. Strong in her walk of faith, Minnie was a member of West Brattleboro Baptist Church. In 1950, she was married to Stanley M. Mason, who predeceased her in 2004. Survivors include one sister, Edith King of Hinsdale, and many nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephews. She was predeceased by one son, Stanley Mason, Jr., and four brothers, Robert, Kenneth, Lawrence, and Raymond Akeley. Memorial information: Graveside committal services were conducted Dec. 5 in Pine Grove Cemetery in Hinsdale. Donations to West Brattleboro Baptist Church, 979 Western Ave., Brattleboro, VT 05301. To share a memory or send messages of condolence, visit www.atamaniuk.com.
• Robert T. “Bob” Phillips, 74, of Putney. Died Nov. 29, 2020, with his family at his side, at the Vermont Veterans' Home in Bennington following a period of declining health. Bob was born in Milford, Mass., on Oct. 15, 1946, the son of Raymond and Bessie (McKinney) Phillips. He was raised and educated in the Richford/Enosburg area of Vermont, attending public schools and was a graduate of Richford High School. He went on to proudly serve his country in the Army in the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the Vietnam War. He saw combat in Vietnam, was wounded in action, and received the Purple Heart. Bob worked for many years as a route driver for Leader Beverage Company in Brattleboro. Previously, he had worked as a machinist for Bridgeport Metal Goods in Hinsdale, N.H., and, for several years, he was a full-time firefighter for the Ascutney Fire Department. He was an active member and past commander of Townshend VFW Post 2428 and held membership American Legion Post 5 in Brattleboro. A man of faith, he had attended the Calvary Chapel in West Townshend for several years. He enjoyed woodworking, working on classic and vintage cars, and time shared with his family, especially his grandchildren. He was first married to Mary Elizabeth Wyman. He later married Brenda Jane Swift in 1995 in Brookline. His wife predeceased him in 2018. Survivors include four sons, Robert Phillips II and his wife, Lisa, of South Newfane, Justin Smith and his wife, Kathy, of Brattleboro, Parry Smith-Phillips and his wife, Melissa, of Putney; and Jonathan Smith-Phillips and his fiancée, Samantha, of Hinsdale. He is also survived by 15 grandchildren and one great-grandson; one brother, Michael Wetherby of Burlington; a sister, Jackie Meunier of Richford; and many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. Bob was predeceased by six brothers: Bruce, Richard, Butch, Donald, Irving and David; and a sister, Janice. Memorial information: Graveside committal services with full military honors will be conducted in the Vermont Veterans' Memorial Cemetery in Randolph Center later in the spring of 2021 at a day and time to be announced. Donations to Disabled American Veterans, 215 North Main St., White River Junction, VT 05001. To share a memory or send messages of condolence, visit www.atamaniuk.com.
• Mark Pascal Schlefer, 98, of Putney. Died peacefully at home on Nov. 2, 2020, surrounded by family and friends. Mark was born on May 9, 1922 in New York City to Sara (Nacht) and John Jacob Schlefer. Of his early life in New York City, he spoke enthusiastically about the Ethical Culture schools he attended, particularly the Fieldston School, where he began to develop his lifelong devotion to literature, history and argument. Much of what he read in high school he could still quote in the last years of his long life. The theory and practice of education were of particular interest and importance to him. He served on the boards of trustees of the Putney School, the Potomac School in McLean, Va., and on the Putney Town School Board, where he strongly advocated for a literature-based ethics class in each grade of school, beginning in kindergarten and running through high school. Mark attended Harvard College, where he met Marion King, the love of his life and wife of over 70 years. He recalled that the first time he saw her walking toward him across the lawn, he fell in love. They married shortly after he graduated in 1943. He loved his college years, particularly his studies of American literature, as well as his work on the Harvard Crimson where he found lifelong friendships. After college, Mark served as a navigator-bombardier in the Army Air Force in the European Theater of Operations, flying 36 combat missions over Germany between 1943 and 1945. He received seven Air Medals and four Presidential Citations for his service. Like many veterans of World War II, he rarely spoke about his experiences in the war until in his 90s, when he wrote a memoir that included moving, harrowing, and sometimes humorous stories of those times. After he was discharged, he and Marion moved to Putney for a year while he taught American history at the Putney School, from which Marion had graduated in 1939. They lived on a farm and had many stories of raising chickens - Mark bought one and, city boy that he was, got so excited when it laid an egg that he went out and bought 50 chicks. Mark then returned to school, graduating from Harvard Law School in 1949. Mark and Marion moved to Washington in 1951 where he joined the law firm of Radner, Zito, Kominers & Fort, which later became Fort & Schlefer. The firm represented shipping companies and industrial corporations in their maritime and ship financing matters and others in proceedings before independent regulatory agencies and the federal courts. In his law practice, Mark frequently practiced before the Federal Maritime Administration on behalf of his shipping clients. After being denied access to certain documents held by the agency, Mark became determined to make sure that this kind of secret law be stopped. He joined two other lawyers in drafting the original Freedom of Information Act and had a major place in obtaining its enactment. Mark's love of the law and its application to wide ranges of problems, including some of the most intractable of our time, such as nuclear disarmament, led him in many directions. He founded, together with Lydia Katzenbach, the Negro (now Black) Student Fund. To quote from its website: “Established to racially desegregate the independent schools of the National Capital area, the Fund serves as an advocate for all black children and strives to assure that black students and their families have equal access to every educational opportunity.” Mark once said that this was the achievement that he was most proud of. During the years from 1994 to 2004, Mark was a member and later Chair of the Board of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The Lawyers Alliance was particularly active in promoting the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty and the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In 2005 Marion and Mark moved to Putney full time to be nearer to their children. Both were active in the Putney community and made many friends. They lived in the farmhouse that Marion's mother had bought in 1941. Mark shopped at the Putney Co-op most days and was well known for his ever-present bowties, brightly colored Irish tweed cap and his gregarious chiding people about their grammar. Mark served on the Boards of the Windham World Affairs Council and the Putney Affordable Housing Committee. He also pulled together a group of friends to form the “Gaggle,” a monthly gathering to dine and participate in discussions ranging from networking systems to epigenetics to Hawthorne and Dante. This became the center of his intellectual life in Putney. He also was devoted to the Supreme Fitness gym where he lifted weights and worked out, well into his nineties. He made friends with almost everyone he encountered including on the supermarket line. He was also known for his classes in “How to make the Perfect Martini.” He is survived by his three children, Jonathan King Schlefer, of Jamaica Plain, Mass., and partner, Jane Baird, of London, England; Katharine Schlefer Dodge and her husband, Charles Dodge, of Putney, and Ellen Schlefer and husband, Michael Bicks of Durham, N.H, as well as three grandchildren, Maggie Dodge and Lucy and Molly Bicks, two step-grandchildren, Samantha Dodge and Baird Dodge and two step-great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Marion King Schlefer and his brother, William Schlefer. Memorial information: A memorial celebration will be held in the spring. Donations to the Black Student Fund, 3636 16th St., NW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20010.
• Willard “Bill” Louis Steele, 71, of Wilmington. Died at home, surrounded by his family, on Dec. 1, 2020, after an 11-year battle with multiple myeloma. Bill was born in Copiague, N.Y., on Aug. 12, 1949. His childhood included many dogs as his parents, Ivan “Jack” Glouster Wadsworth Steele and Mary Anne Steele, raised and showed Dachshunds and Great Danes. In many ways, Bill was like a great cup of coffee. Coffee has long symbolized intellect, creativity, and a touch of revolution. His confident stance, the way he never backed down, and his sheer authority will not be forgotten. Bill worked hard as a master electrician for 47 years. He takes with him an undefinable amount of knowledge and a work ethic that can't be quantified. His work boots, strong hands, and mind literally lit up the Deerfield Valley - a place he called home for 33 years and the world headquarters of Steele Electric. He remembered every one of the jobs he completed in Wilmington and surrounding areas. Bill would want you to know the numbers that were important to him, starting with his six children: Patrick, Andrea, John, Elizabeth, Laura and Christine. His children loved being seen by his bright blue eyes, which shone when he talked about each of his children's accomplishments with their careers and families. He'd also want you to know with pleasure that he was a grandfather to nine grandchildren: Magnus, Teagan, Lars, Erik, Aiden, Victoria, George, William and Olea. He'd want you to know of his one great love, Deb, whom he married on Sept. 26, 2020 after 16 adventurous years of partnership. He couldn't have done any of it without her. Her care for him was a love song which they will continue to dance to beneath shining stars. Bill never collected objects, instead he collected memories with his family and friends both near and far. Like coffee, Bill's sense of humor was comforting, bold, and could warm you up from the inside out. He was always telling stories that began with, “Well you know...” Countless memories have been recalled of the way he would tell you something just believable enough that you'd go with it, only to hear his whistling laugh when you later figured out he was messing with you. He was the person his most recent dogs, Smokey and Ozzy, thought he was: sensitive, playful, caring, observant, and really great at littering the yard with treats to hunt down. Memorial information: No services are planned. He never liked expiration dates, and so he went long before his time. To honor his life, sit and savor a cup of coffee (he took his with a splash of low-fat milk) and have a long conversation with all of those who mean the most to you. Donations to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (themmrf.org). To send condolences to the family, or for more information, visit www.csnh.com.
• Donald L. Thomas Sr., 69, of Jamaica. Died Nov. 22, 2020 at Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend, following a long illness. Born Oct. 8, 1951 in Townshend, he was the son of Richard and June (Smith) Thomas. He was raised and educated in Vernon and attended Brattleboro Union High School. For many years, Donald was a heavy equipment operator, employed by Larry Brown Construction in Londonderry. Donald's whole world was family and friends. He had a big heart and was always willing to help anyone if he could. Known for his sense of humor, he could always make people laugh, even in the roughest times. Donald is survived by his wife, Sandra (Adams) Thomas; his three sons, Donald Thomas, Jr. and his wife, Jessie, Adam Thomas and fiancée, Ivory King, and Mark Archer, Jr.; his two brothers, Richard Thomas Sr. and Mitchell Thomas; two sisters, Barbara Cutler and Sandra Atherton; five grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his daughter, Christie, and sister, Phyliss Holloway. Memorial information: A Celebration of Life service, with burial in Oakwood Cemetery in Townshend, will be held in the spring or summer, at a time to be announced. Donations to Jamaica Fire & Rescue, P.O. Box 285, Jamaica, VT 05343, or Rescue, Inc., West Townshend Station, 6911 VT Route 30, West Townshend, VT 05359. To share a memory of Donald or send messages of condolence, visit www.atamaniuk.com.
• Grace Merren (Morton) Wahlberg, 91, of Brattleboro. Died peacefully on Dec. 2, 2020, with family at her side, in Brattleboro, where she had lived for her final two and a half years. Born in North Hollywood, Calif., to Hettie Good Morton and Carroll Tracy Morton on Jan. 24, 1929, she lived most of her life in the San Francisco Bay Area. She attended San Mateo High School, Pomona College, and Willamette University, where she met Orville James (O.J.) Sparrow, whom she married in 1948. She graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1950, with a degree in English Literature. For the rest of her life, she was an inveterate reader of The New Yorker, fiction, mysteries, and, of course, the San Francisco Chronicle in its entirety every day. O.J. was a civil engineer so they moved frequently, finally settling in Kensington, Calif., in 1958 to raise their five children. Grace was a tender mother who loved to laugh and managed the family chores with her characteristic wit and good spirits, coming up with funny quips and quotes and family nicknames. Berkeley's All Souls Episcopal Church was at the center of her social and church-going life for 60 years. She served for over 50 years on the Altar Guild and sang in the choir. She also belonged to Berkeley's Town and Gown Club for 40 years, participating in plays, events and the book readings. She dearly loved her countless close friends and was a staunch support for them in times of trouble. With a beautiful alto voice, she was a regular member of the Faculty Wives Chorus at UC-Berkeley. She devotedly attended the San Francisco Symphony and various choral concerts and appreciated all kinds of music. She also loved travel and was inspired to take up photography, ultimately becoming an excellent photographer, developing commissioned black and white portraits in the dark room until digital photography became her new passion. She and O.J. divorced in 1982 and, in 1989, she married Sven Walhberg, a prominent Swedish environmentalist. With him, she travelled to Lapland, Bolivia, and China on environmental protection projects, always returning with unique photos of people, especially children. Holidays with Sven inevitably included a lavish Swedish Smorgasbord, and a lively party. She remained friends with Sven's children, Gustav and Agneta, until the end. Grace was predeceased by both her husbands, her two brothers, Robert and Tracy, and by two of her sons, Timothy and Andrew. She is survived by two daughters, Lise and Kristen, and one son, Paul, as well as by nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She was, until the very end, filled with grace and good humor. Memorial information: Funeral arrangements will be announced at a future date. She will be interred at a later date with her parents in Oakland, Calif. To share a memory or condolence, visit www.atamaniuk.com.
• Daniel Wirta, 67, of Bellows Falls. Died on Nov. 10, 2020 at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. He was born on Oct. 31, 1953, the son of Eino and Gertrude (Harrison) Wirta. He attended Newport (N.H.) High School and went on to become an auto mechanic. He was known as being a “jack of all trades” and could fix anything. He worked for Robertson Paper and Kelley Chrysler. He married Suzanne Denno in 1979. He leaves behind three sons, Eric and his wife, Jennifer, and Daniel and Dylan, all of Bellows Falls; his two sisters, Marilyn Gobin of Newbury, N.H., and Charlene Worrad of Newport, N.H.; his mother-in-law, Shirley Denno; and two grandchildren, Corey Wirta and Edward McCormack. Memorial information: Services will be private at the convenience of the family.
• The Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department would like to announce that Morningside Cemetery is now closed for the winter. The cemetery will re-open in the spring of 2021 as weather permits. For more information, call 802-254-5808.