• Isabelle Gander, 94, of Brattleboro. Died peacefully in her sleep on Dec. 10, 2023 at Vernon Homes. Born Mary Isabelle Salamone in Westfield, New York, on July 6, 1929, she was salutatorian of her high school and throughout her long life carried an abiding belief in the power of education. One of the first members of her family to graduate from college, Isabelle received her B.A. from Skidmore College in 1951. She went on to receive her M.S. in education from Fredonia State College in 1955. Early in her career as an educator, Isabelle decided to move to New York City, and there, through a tight circle of friends, Isabelle met her future husband, Roderick Gander. They were married in December 1955, and settled in New York City where they raised their three children. She was an elementary school teacher and later for many years, the director of the Collegiate Nursery School. In 1980, Isabelle and Rod moved first to Marlboro, Vermont, and later to Brattleboro. A strong believer in social services, Isabelle worked over the years at Youth Services, Vocational Rehabilitation and, later, as an employment representative at the Vermont Association of Business Industry and Rehabilitation. In later years, she spoke often and proudly of her contributions during that time in helping found and establish the Gathering Place in Brattleboro. In 2002, during her husband Rod's successful run for the Vermont State Senate, Isabelle was right by his side helping with his campaign. That support continued in later years throughout his long battle with cancer, which he lost in 2007; they had been blessed with 52 years of marriage. Isabelle continued to stretch herself with new experiences and an ever-expanding circle of friends. In her retirement years, Isabelle started a small business, buying and selling antiques. Even more rewarding was her volunteer work at Brigid's Kitchen and she continued to help there right up until the time of the Covid shutdown. Being an avid reader, she also took great pleasure in her book club. All who knew Isabelle were aware of her kindness and consideration for others, as well as her toughness and fierce independence. She imparted these qualities to her children, along with a love of literature and a passion for social justice. Isabelle is survived by her three children, Mac Gander, Jim Gander (Justyne Ogdahl), and Liz Gander (Mike Conley); granddaughters Bridget Shea-Gander (Landon Elliott-Knaggs), Michaela Shea-Gander, Nellie Pierce, and Ella Gander; her great-grandson Noah Shea-Elliott, and several nieces and nephews. Isabelle was predeceased by her husband Rod Gander, her two brothers Charles Salamone and Leonard Salamone, and her grandson Philip Pierce. Memorial information: A remembrance celebration will be held at a later date. Donations to St. Brigid's Kitchen, 38 Walnut St., Brattleboro, VT 05301. To share a memory or offer condolences to the family, visit www.atamaniuk.com.
• Dante John Papale, 94, of Townshend. Died on Dec. 3, 2023 at Vernon Hall. He is survived by four daughters, Deborah (James) Walsh of Keene, New Hampshire, Laurie (Joseph) Rinfret of Vernon, Jane (Greg) Moore of Derry, New Hampshire, and Susan (David) Morse of Westminster; his son, Gus Papale of Brattleboro; and 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. John's wife, Doris Kramer Papale, predeceased him in 1987. He was born at home on August 17, 1929 in Derby, Connecticut, the youngest of four children of Agostino Papale and Marie Rose Capuano Papale. John grew up in an Italian family and did not speak English until he entered school. He graduated from West Haven High School in 1947. His senior yearbook said this about him: "born in the country, bred on the farm; a little more studying wouldn't do any harm" He would have agreed with that. He started a small printing business, Sunnyside Press, while still in high school and then started D.J. Papale Press. This eventually became Venture Magazine, where he was publisher and editor. John's father was a brick mason and taught him the trade. Throughout his life, he took pride in the masonry and stone work he did, building many beautiful fireplaces and stone walls. He married Doris Kramer on Aug. 26, 1950. John built his first house in West Haven, Connecticut when he was 20 years old. John worked construction his entire life, starting as a laborer then eventually moving up to project manager. During this time, he moved to Chesterfield, New Hampshire, built a house for his family, and started his own business, the Spofford Inland Corporation. He eventually became project manager for a private construction company in Burlington where he worked on hospitals, treatment plants, and schools. John spent his retirement in Townshend. He had many interests, and at times sold real estate, ran a successful antique business, and ran a bed-and-breakfast. He loved dabbling in day trading in the stock market and did that until his death. He leaves behind children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who will miss him very much. Memorial information: A private funeral was held on Dec. 9. John was interred in the family plot in Oakwood Cemetery in Townshend. Funeral arrangements were under the direction of Atamaniuk Funeral Home of Brattleboro. To share a memory or offer condolences to the family, visit www.atamaniuk.com.
• Deborah Swisher, 73, of Rockingham. Died on Nov. 24, 2023, at home in Rockingham. Deborah was born Jan. 8, 1950, in Springfield, Vermont to Charles and Flora (Parkhurst) Anderson. Debbie worked at Vermont T's for more than 15 years and later at NewsBank, both in Chester. Debbie loved making crafts and crocheting, and gifted most of her handmade treasures to children, family, friends, and several care facilities. She had an annual fun-loving holiday tradition of making Christmas cookies with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Debbie was a member of the Bartonsville Grange for 20 years, where she held multiple offices including Master for four years and was a member of the Executive Committee. Most of all, Debbie loved spending time with her family. Debbie is survived by her children, Gloria (Paul) Thomas of Walpole, New Hampshire and Patrick (Fawna) Start of Johnson; sisters Judy Chernouski, Nancy Rodgers, Charlyn Start, and Sandy Kiablick; grandchildren Kristina Thomas, Selina Meisenhelder, Holly Strait, Taylor Palmer, and Natalie Start, and eight great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her parents and Gary Swisher, her husband of 25 years. Memorial information: A graveside service will be held in the spring in Houghtonville Cemetery. Donations to the Bartonsville Grange, in care of Nancy Rogers, 243 Lower Bartonsville Rd., Chester, VT 05143.
• Julia Rebecca (Wilkins) Wheeler, 93, of Brattleboro. Died on Dec. 1, 2023 at Pine Heights Nursing Home in Brattleboro. Julia was born on Nov. 6, 1930 in Londonderry to the late Elmer Paul Wilkins and Lizzie Lorena (Payne) Wilkins. She was the wife of the late Graydon H. Wheeler. Julia grew up in Londonderry and attended school in a one-room schoolhouse. She developed rheumatic fever in her senior year, while she did not graduate with her class, she did receive her diploma in the mail. She met her husband, Graydon, while working at the Rollins Inn in Windham. He also delivered grain and hay to her family farm. They were married on Dec. 29, 1951. They eventually moved to Hadley, Massachusetts and, while she lived there, she had several jobs. She was a cook for Keto's restaurant, the Florence Inn, Zeta Nu fraternity at UMass, and the VA hospital in Northampton. She then moved her family to Belchertown, Massachusetts, where she worked as an aide at the former Belchertown State School until she retired. After several years in Belchertown, Julia and her husband moved back to Vermont to the Brattleboro area. They resided in Mountain Home trailer park until her husband's death in 2011. Shortly after, Julia moved into Pine Heights nursing home. In her younger days, Julia enjoyed horseback riding, camping, going on her son Robert's boat, and traveling to see her daughter Liz and her son Graydon. She loved spending time with her family, especially on holidays. She always hosted dinners and barbecues throughout the years, and enjoyed cooking, baking, knitting, and cross-stitch. Upon moving into Pine Heights, she enjoyed arts and crafts but, most of all, her Bingo days. She always seemed to come out the biggest winner at Bingo. Julia is survived by her children, sons Robert R. Wheeler and his wife, Carol, and Graydon L. Wheeler and his wife Irene, and daughter Lorena L. Hubler and her husband Darren. Julia is also survived by her grandchildren: Sara McKelvey, BJ Kelley, Erik Wheeler, Graydon H. Wheeler II, and Chrystal Lizotte and her husband Kevin; and great-grandchildren Mateo, Chloe, Macie, Mckenzie, Jeremiah, and Phineas. Julia recently attended a gender reveal for her granddaughter, Rebecca, and learned she would be having a great-granddaughter due April 2024. Julia is also survived by her former daughter-in-law Katherine Wheeler of Belchertown, withwhom she remained close. Memorial information: Burial will take place in the spring at Glebe View Cemetery in Londonderry. Ker Phaneuf Funeral Home in Brattleboro has been entrusted with arrangements. For more information, visit www.phaneuf.net.
This Milestones item was submitted to The Commons.