Betsy EckfeldtAugust 29,2013
ROXBURY — Betsy Eckfeldt, who always sought to celebrate the beauty in life and generously shared her vibrant but gentle spirit, died peacefully in her home in Roxbury, Vt., on Aug. 13, 2013. She was 63 years old and had cancer.
Betsy is survived by her husband, Norm Vandal; her mother, Phyllis; her daughter, Emily; her son, Nathaniel; her son-in-law, Zubin; her daughter-in-law, Lindsey; her grandson, Cyrus; and her brother, Grant, and his family. Her sister, Cindy, and father, Grant, are deceased. Betsy shared a home with Norm that they began building 40 years ago, surrounded by their flower and vegetable gardens, and trails through the woods where they walked, skied and snowshoed.
Betsy loved colorful clothes and jewelry, making fruit pies and jams, which she mostly gave away, and visiting her mom’s home in Maine, where she swam and voraciously picked blueberries. Her life was enriched by the countless number of children she taught, read to and inspired; her devoted and varied community of friends; and by her three tabby cats, which she nurtured.
Born and raised in Fitchburg, Mass., Betsy traveled to Stowe, Vt., every weekend to ski with her family, attended Applewild School and St. Mary’s in the Mountains, then Middlebury College, majoring in elementary education and French. After graduating in 1971, she lived briefly in England, before returning to Vermont.
While working at a small ski lodge in Warren, she met Norm, a fellow “back-to-the-lander.” Soon afterward, they began building a life together in Roxbury, growing their own food and raising two children, while Norm made period furniture and Betsy dried flowers to sell on a cart she parked at farmers markets and craft shows.
Betsy’s teaching career was dedicated to her lifelong passion for early childhood education and literacy. She taught preschool at Waitsfield Elementary School for 24 years and briefly at both Warren and Moretown elementary schools. She ran Spring Hill School summer camps. She inspired many and was excited in her incessant pursuit of inclusive, enriching, discovery-based classrooms. She traveled to Reggio Emilia, Italy, to study their city’s creative methods of teaching children.
For years she was a library trustee and grant writer, and in 1993, she began co-creating literacy programs for the Vermont Humanities Council to introduce new parents to the importance of reading to young children. She liked to say: “Babies need books!”
One of Betsy’s greatest pleasures was teaching yoga and mindfulness meditation to youngsters, and she attended a Kripalu yoga teacher training in the fall of 2011, after retiring from Waitsfield Elementary School. She called it “yoga boot camp” and emailed family daily with her reflections starting at 6 a.m. She was also a certified YogaKids instructor. In her career as a teacher, she learned how helpful yoga postures and mindfulness can be to children, particularly those with special needs, and she planned to consult part time in schools and to teach privately as part of what she fondly called the “Vermont Mindfulness Movement,” a curriculum she was developing when she found out she had cancer in spring 2012.
Betsy’s warmth, creativity, generosity and open heart were attributes she shared wherever she went. She was a friend to many, with a rare vibrancy for life and relationships. She was beautiful and she was kind. She taught us about living and dying gracefully. Her twinkling eyes, enormous smile, red hair and boundless energy will be remembered by many.
A ceremony and potluck celebration to honor Betsy’s life will be held at Knoll Farm/Center for Whole Communities, in Waitsfield, Vt., on Sunday, Sept. 8, at 3 p.m., rain or shine. Please bring flowers (no stems) for a community ritual art mandala and a potluck hors d’oeuvre to share. Please carpool and consider dressing to honor Betsy.
In lieu of flowers to the family, you may make contributions in Betsy’s memory to: Hope Lodge, Burlington, Vt., or Vermont Humanities Council: “NTE” program.
Betsy’s family expresses deep gratitude to the Hope Lodge, Central Vermont Hospice Services, music therapist Islene Runningdeer, and the network of friends and family who have offered support during this time.
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