College news

The following local students were honored for academic achievement during the summer 2023 semester at Community College of Vermont. Named to the Student Honors List were Marguerite Janiszyn-Lisai and John McCann of Bellows Falls; Tessa Clayton, Jessica Farquhar, Candace Kendrick, Daelyn Lynn, Emily Pinz, Alexandria Tupper, Sierra Ward, and Lindsey Wright of Brattleboro; Lucinda Weed of Jacksonville; Ryan Gardner and Shane Martin of Putney; Jessica Burbridge and April Worden of South Newfane; Kailuna Holmes of Townshend; Alexander Kemp and Nadine Kissell of Vernon; and Shannon Moore of Whitingham. Named to the President's List was Noah Morgan of Brattleboro.


• Dr. Richard Thomas "Dick" Burtis, 89, of Brattleboro. Died peacefully on Oct. 18, 2023 at Bradley House. He was a devoted husband, loving parent, loyal friend, and a great teller of bad jokes. He practiced as a physician in Brattleboro for five decades and was widely respected for his medical acumen, good cheer, humility, and kindness. He will be remembered as a true force for good in his community and will be missed by the many people he touched in his nearly 60 years in the Brattleboro area. Dick was born on Feb. 9, 1934 in Baldwin, New York, the son of Theodore Alfred Burtis and Florence Angela Burtis (née Whalen). The youngest by 10 years of three children, Dick liked to joke that his arrival was a "Depression surprise." Dick grew up on Long Island and Mount Lebanon and Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. An exceptional student and athlete, Dick attended Swarthmore College, where he studied zoology and played varsity football and lacrosse. After graduating in 1955, Burtis and his college roommate Michael Dukakis hitchhiked to Mexico City, enjoying many adventures along the way. That fall, as one of two inaugural Keasbey Fellows, Dick matriculated at New College, Oxford University, where he studied anatomy and played on the lacrosse and rugby teams. In the summer between his years at Oxford, Dick studied in post-war Vienna, which left him with a lasting fondness for Austrians, the German language, the Alps, and, rather uniquely, liverwurst. After Oxford, Dick attended Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1960. During his residency in Cleveland, Dick met a young nurse, Irene Miriam Macur. The couple married in November 1963. Declining offers from big-city hospitals, they instead chose the rural life and moved to the Brattleboro area in 1965 with one-year-old daughter Jenny. They settled on Hale Road in Guilford, where they raised three children, several dogs and cats, and numerous farm animals. The Burtises moved into Brattleboro permanently in 2008. Dick was drawn to Vermont for its peaceful mountains and wild beauty, and remained an avid skier, cyclist, and bird watcher into his 80s. Dr. Burtis operated a private practice in Brattleboro for nearly 50 years, and was closely affiliated with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. He served as president of the Vermont Medical Society in 1986. Near the end of his career, he was attending physician at the School for International Training and volunteered periodically on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He is survived by Irene, his wife of nearly 60 years; his children Jenny, Krista, and Patrick; and one grandchild. Memorial information: A service will be held at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Brattleboro on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m., followed immediately by a reception at the Brattleboro Country Club, 58 Senator Gannett Drive, where the family anticipates many stories about "Doctor B" will be shared; as Dick would say, "Some of them might even be true!" Donations to St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 16 Bradley Ave., Brattleboro, VT 05301; Bradley House, 65 Harris Ave., Brattleboro, VT 05301; and the Bayada Hospice Fund, 1222 Putney Rd., Suite 107, Brattleboro, VT 05301. To share a memory or offer condolences to the family, visit

• Robert J. "Bob" Esden, 83, of Dover. Died on Oct. 17, 2023 at Spring Village at Dover while under the care of Hospice of Dover. Robert was born in Brattleboro on Jan. 15, 1940, the son o the late Robert R. and Miriam (Trumble) Esden. He attended Brattleboro Union High School, graduating in 1958. Following graduation, Robert joined the Air Force and served his country proudly until 1962 when he was honorably discharged. Bob loved sports; he was a proud member of the BUHS 1957 state championship football team, played for the All-Air Force softball team, and was a scratch golfer for the majority of his life. He was happily married, on May 4, 1963, to Janet Cowling. They celebrated their 60th anniversary this year. Robert was an industry-recognized expert in industrial coatings, working as a chemistry lab leader in Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Ohio, before retiring in 2009. Bob loved people, enjoying time as a Little League baseball coach, softball umpire, and working out at the YMCA. He also volunteered as a lay minister for the Grace United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio, and was a longstanding member of the Masonic Lodge #102 in Brattleboro. He had many nicknames throughout his life - Casey, Bionic Chemist, Old Goat - but the names he liked to be called the most was Hop on Pop and Grandpa Duck. Robert is survived by his wife, Janet; sons Paul Esden (Michelle) and Stephen Esden (Jose); grandchildren Brody, Nicholas, Paul Esden Jr., HeatherAnn, Kali, and Haley; and great-grandchildren Sophia, David, Zariah-Luna, Huyam, and Yousf. He was predeceased by his siblings Richard and Heather. Memorial information: A graveside service was held at West Brattleboro Cemetery on Oct. 20. Donations to the Alzheimer's Association ( To offer condolences, visit

• David Burke Fontaine, 89, died peacefully at home with family on Oct. 1, 2023. He was born on Nov. 14, 1933 to Nelson and Marion Fontaine and raised in Townshend. He served in the Army from 1951 to 1954 during the Korean War, and married his high school sweetheart, Jean E. Roche, in 1954 at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Together, they had five children: Alice Thomas (Tim) of Phelen, California, David B. Fontaine Jr. (Carol) of Lititz, Pennsylvania, Daniel Fontaine (Margaret) of Townshend, and Donald (Nancy) of Tavarse, Florida. He was predeceased by his wife, Jean, in 2020 and their son Douglas in 1975. David owned and operated his own construction company and enjoyed making furniture and kitchen cabinets. He had many hobbies, including camping, fishing, hunting, square dancing, beekeeping, and snowmobiling. He enjoyed country music and played the fiddle in his younger years. Memorial information: A memorial service will be held at a later date.

• Sandra E. "Sandy" (LaValley) Rouleau, 69, of Brattleboro. Died on Sept. 14, 2023 at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, after an extended illness. Born to Albert and Victoria LaValley on Nov. 3, 1954, she spent her life in Brattleboro and attended grade school and graduated from Brattleboro Union High School. Over the years, Sandy worked at Holton Home, Thompson House and the Maytag laundromat, all in Brattleboro. She married Henry Rouleau on Oct. 10, 1998 on the Brattleboro Common with family and friends gathered around. Sandy enjoyed crocheting and knitting things for her extended family members. She also liked doing search-a-word puzzles, going to flea markets, and attending family get-togethers when she could. She was predeceased by her parents, her sisters Theresa Bolster (Cleon) and Linda Weaver and brother-in-law David Weaver, sister-in-law Hazel LaValley (James), and her in-laws George and Edith Rouleau. She is survived by her husband, her sisters Leatrice Perkins (Mike) and Barbara Winslow (Scott), her brother James LaValley, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Memorial information: As per her wishes, there will be no services.

• Sonya Diane Shippee, 82, of Vernon. Died peacefully at home, surrounded by family, on Oct. 13, 2023. She was born in Brattleboro on July 26, 1941, daughter of the late Lester and Myra (Brown) Howard. She grew up in Dover and attended local schools. Sonya was known for having a brilliant mind and valiantly fought dementia for the last few years until her death. Sonya married Lawrence Shippee on Dec. 30, 1957. They initially resided at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and, after Lawrence's Army service ended, they moved back to Vermont finally settling and raising their family in Vernon. She was the bookkeeper and driving force behind their family automotive business in Vernon for more than 30 years. Sonya also was a bookkeeper at Vermont Yankee during the final few years of construction. She was a dedicated Christian and valued her family first and foremost. She had plenty of love to give to her husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Sonya had the most beautiful handwriting and loved gardening. She was always known for her huge garden and trying to give everyone she met her overabundance of zucchini every August. Sonya was an amazing cook and every Thanksgiving and Christmas her home was full with her ever growing family. Her potato salad, meatballs, and macaroni and cheese recipes will live on through her children. Sonya was an extremely humble person and few know that she was instrumental in starting the winter ski program at Vernon Elementary School in the 1970s while she was the PTA President. She spent many winters gathering up all the ski equipment with her truck and delivering them to and from Maple Valley Ski Area so that the kids could ski. This later turned into the winter sports program. She rarely spoke of her many accomplishments, which included: earning her pilot's license, winning trophies drag racing in the 1960s, winning trophies circle track racing in the 1970s, bowling across the country, and being awarded the employee of the year in 1999 by the Windham County Sheriff's Department. The town of Vernon was very important to Sonya. She spent many years trying to have a positive influence on the town. She took on many roles including Selectboard member, Windham Regional Commission member, low-level radioactive waste advisory committee chair, and delinquent tax collector. After her children were grown, she started working at the Vernon Police Department and quickly became well respected in law enforcement due to her unwavering honesty and work ethic. She later joined the Sheriff's Department, where she was the office manager until her retirement. As office manager, she was a jack-of-all-trades and was often seen dispatching or serving court papers. She was also the work "mom" to all the younger deputies who may or may not have been scolded a time or two about time sheets or paperwork. She leaves her loving husband, Lawrence Shippee Sr.; sons Lawrence Shippee Jr. and wife Jean of Vernon, Shane Shippee and wife Linda of Vernon, Shawn Shippee and wife Alison of Westmoreland, New Hampshire, and Sheldon Shippee of Martinez, Georgia; grandchildren Jennifer Calantropio and husband Garrett, Jessica Shippee and fiancé Dan Spooner, Lawrence Shippee III and wife Allison Cram, Vickie Rea and husband Robert, Seth Shippee and wife Elizabeth Parolski, Alex Shippee, Brendon Shippee and wife Alyssa, and Reagan Shippee; and great-grandchildren Tenley and Mason Rea, and Paxton Shippee. Sonya was predeceased by her sister Constance O'Masta and a grandson, Derrick Shippee. Memorial information: A memorial service was held on Oct. 21 at West Brattleboro Baptist Church. A burial service will be held at the North Cemetery on Fort Bridgman Road in Vernon on Oct. 25. Donations to the West Brattleboro Baptist Church. To view an online tribute, leave a message of condolence or for more information, visit

This Milestones item was submitted to The Commons.

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