Linda Dierkes, remembered

A new bench celebrates a life of searching, sharing, and friendship

DUMMERSTON — Everything connected to Linda Dierkes' death was planned.

As the pain increased and became less and less bearable, she took advantage of Vermont's Death with Dignity Law after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

An incredibly brave thing to do. Linda called it her “liftoff.”

She chose the time: 11 a.m. on July 10, 2021. She was lying outside on a chaise lounge overlooking the hills of West Brattleboro, wearing a brightly flowered shirt that she bought for herself a few weeks earlier.

By her side, supporting her, were several of the many friends who accompanied and supported her through various parts of her life and through her last weeks and final days.

Some of us were there by Zoom. And others were lying in hammocks or other special places, knowing that this very sad - and yet, amazingly courageous and beautiful - event was taking place.

There was, at her request, a big bouquet of white flowers from her longtime friend and neighbor, flower farmer Jerry Smith, who lived on Hinesburg Road, just up from her home, for so many years.

In a final email, she included this quote from Basia: “Go and ask anybody/They will all say the same everyone/Love is contagious/We are part of a chain.”

Dennis, her brother, told me that the morning before she died, she answered 250 emails from friends and supporters all over the world. The previous day, she left a goodbye message on my phone. It is still there to be visited from time to time.

* * *

I first met Linda when she was about 10 years old. I was leading a 4-H Club at Academy School. As in all of her life, she was a spunky and outspoken kid.

From that time, she wove herself in and out of my life. Sometimes years would go by when I wouldn't see her or hear from her, and then at some moment, there she would be. I knew her parents, Ruth and Val Smith, and I would always check in on her with them.

Many of you may remember when Linda was the executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce. I didn't connect with her so much in those days. She was always busy and driven, and if we stopped to chat, I felt like I was interrupting something. I remember being a bit jealous that she looked so chic in her business suits.

Back when they created the triangular traffic pattern at the top of Main Street, Linda became concerned about a big space of blacktop in front of the library and across from Brattleboro Savings & Loan, just below Wells Fountain. No provision had been made to do anything with that space in the project funding.

Linda knocked on some doors and did some heavy-duty fundraising to get the money for the incredible beautiful green space we all enjoy there now. I had forgotten that at one time it did not exist.

* * *

Twenty years ago, Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer. I recall her bravery as she undertook horrific treatments and surgery - and she was successful.

After that time, there was a softness about Linda that I had not seen before. The cancer had created not only changes in her physical well-being, but in her psyche.

She began a search to understand and be with the spiritual side of herself. She reached out to great teachers all over the world to find her way. As she did, she began sharing with others, doing what she could to brighten their path, ease their journey.

She started writing, sharing her work on her own website, spinstrawtogoldnow.com. The website is still up.

In 2020, she wrote a book, Quiet Mind: Natural Freedom From Depression and Anxiety, and was a speaker on the Enlightened World Network. At his request, Linda wrote an article for prominent New Age author and alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra.

During this time, Linda took on several jobs that were less intensive than the one at the Chamber. She was the manager at the Brattleboro Farmers' Market for several years. Her loving and very supportive dad came there faithfully every week to empty the trash cans, one of the market manager's jobs, so Linda wouldn't have to.

Linda ran the successful campaign to raise the funds to purchase the “Creamery House” on a property adjacent to the market site for additional parking.

More recently, she spent her winters in Palm Springs so she could have more time with her parents. She bought herself a small place with a great porch where she could sit, visit with friends, and watch the desert wildlife.

After her parents died, she continued to take their (and her) friend Edna Fletcher to Palm Springs every winter so they could enjoy the sunny weather.

She left behind many wonderful friends, teachers, and health care providers in California as well as her vast network of supporters here on the East Coast and around the world.

* * *

Linda loved to hike. She often hiked with her dad, with her cousins in northern Vermont, and with other friends. She loved hiking in the White Mountains.

Not long before she died, she asked me to work with her brother, Dennis, to create a bench in her memory that could be placed along the West River Trail. I showed her a picture of another bench that was placed on Prospect Hill in Dummerston in memory of a local naturalist. She said that would be perfect.

She asked it to be engraved: “In Memory of Val Smith and his daughter Linda Dierkes who loved to hike.”

With the help of Linda's high school classmate Dan Snow, who donated the stone; Abbiati Monuments, whose people engraved the plaque; and Rich Gillis, the blacksmith who built a base, a marvelous bench has been installed on the West River about 200 yards from the Marina.

It is a great place to sit and watch the wildlife in the West River. I hope you all enjoy it very much.

* * *

A closing thought. Linda appreciated this quote from Meredith Young-Sowers.

“Life is not what it seems. It is so much better.”

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