Earlene Shannon Blais BARRE — Earlene Shannon Blais, formerly of Barre, passed from this life on Jan. 5, 2021, in Austin, Texas, with her daughter, Lynn, by her side. Earlene was born to Arthur Earl Shannon and Alice Lawliss Shannon on May 7, 1932, in Barre Vermont. The oldest daughter in a household of seven children, Earlene was tasked with much of the work of running the house and raising the younger kids. Two of her brothers credit her with being their “second Mom.” She did the work of the house and garden, and also took over her brothers’ paper routes when they were too busy having fun to complete their daily runs. In addition, she babysat all over Merchant Street, half raising the children of her neighbors. Every evening after babysitting, she dutifully handed her earnings over to her mother to help pay the bills. Her family was of modest means and her childhood fell during challenging times: Earlene rose to the challenge. In spite of all that, or maybe because of all that, Earlene knew how to have fun! She had a twinkle in her eye from the moment she was born, and she knew how to find and make mischief and fun wherever she went. Her friends called her “Mickie” – a reflection of her Irish heritage and impish spirit. Stories of her antics from her teenage years abound. The essence of these stories can perhaps best be captured by noting that she was invited to withdraw from nursing school in Burlington during her first year for “insufficient attention to her studies.” In 1952, Earlene married Leo Joseph Blais and they built a life together. As a young Army wife, she was intrepid and adventurous, following Leo’s postings around the country and across the globe. Along the way, they added four children to the family, Mark, Sheila, Lynn and Shannon. At every posting, Earlene kept the family grounded and collected a wonderful group of friends. Twice, Leo’s tours of duty in Vietnam left her in Barre to run the house and raise their four children alone. And when Leo retired from the Army, he brought home with him the ghosts of war. But Earlene was undaunted, and she maintained a safe, loving and fun home for herself and her children. She worked outside the home to help provide for the family when this was not a common thing for women to do. She was rightly proud of her long career as a telephone operator for AT&T and she made lifelong friends among her operator colleagues, including Martha Mulcahy of Barre, Vermont. And she made time to give back to her community: for decades, you could find her volunteering in the kitchens of weekly bingo games at the American Legion and St. Monica’s School. Later, she volunteered in the State House gift shop. And yet, she seemed always to be home and available to her kids when they needed or wanted her. Moreover, her home was the place to gather for all the neighborhood children, and she treated all of them as if they were her own. Her children’s friends called her “Big Mama.” The antics and mischief and fun and laughter she created and fostered were endless, as are the memories in our hearts. But Earlene’s brightest and happiest days were her days as a grandmother – when she got her final and lasting nickname “Grummy.” She loved, loved, loved her grandchildren! The Duranleau girls (Rebecca, Hannah and Emily) came along when she was quite young for the role of grandmother, and she brought all her youthful energy and attention to bear to enrich their lives and help out Sheila and Carroll. She regularly took them on weekends so their parents could have a break, and she made those weekends magical. Later, she picked the girls up from school most days, fed them after-school snacks (sometimes healthy food but often her famous cakes and cookies), and then goofed around with them, leaving homework duty to their parents. As other grandchildren were added through the years, she adored them all with equal measure. She was delighted when Lynn married Guy and brought 9-year-old triplets (Russell, Margaret and Julia) into her family, and she welcomed them with open arms and a loving heart. Two other Herman children followed (Avery and Blais), and she just made more room in her heart and wrapped them in love also. The Herman children visited Grummy from Texas often, and they were enthralled with all the adventures she shared with them. When Mark and Cathy brought her precious Mary and Alice home from Russia, Grummy enveloped them with all her warmth, as if trying to make up for not having held them as newborns. And then Shannon and John brought her Maddie – her special granddaughter who needed her most special love. Grummy and Maddie became like one for many years, and their delight in each other and abiding love was a joy for all to see. Her Grummy years were also her sister years. Among the seven Shannon siblings, there was one other girl – Barbara Ellen, born seven years after Grummy. When Grummy moved back to Barre and was widowed, she and Barbara became inseparable. They were the consummate odd couple – Barb was a little quiet and less active, and Grummy was exuberant and could not sit still. And they gleefully spent every day together “running the roads,” goofing around, eating fast food and creamees, and stopping by to visit friends and family. We are grateful to have been able to keep Grummy and Barb together over the years, living in the same facility and spending their days making mischief together. Earlene was predeceased by her parents and her husband, as well as by her brothers, Richard Shannon, Donald Shannon and Michael Shannon; and her sisters-in-law, Pat Shannon and Kathy Shannon. She was also predeceased by son-in-law Wayne Oakes and daughter-in-law Dr. Cathy Conboy. Earlene is survived by her sister, Barbara Shannon; her brothers, Howard Shannon and John Shannon; and her sisters-in-law, Jean Shannon and Joyce Shannon. She is also survived by her children, grandchildren and one great-grandchild: Dr. Mark Blais and Mary and Alice Blais of Massachusetts; Sheila and Carroll Duranleau of Washington, Vermont, Rebecca Duranleau and Kevin Morse, Dr. Hannah Duranleau and Dzmitry Kauzou and Katerina Kauzou, Emily and David Rogers; Lynn Blais and Guy Herman of Austin, Texas, Russell Herman and Gabriela Vega, Margaret Herman and Jamie Chan, Julia Herman, Avery Herman and Blais Herman; Shannon Blais and John Mayfield and Madelyn Mayfield of Barre, Vermont. The family is grateful for the loving care and support provided to our Grummy by the amazing director and dedicated staff of The Lincoln House in Barre, Vermont; by Kalynn Roya of Washington, Vermont; and by the wonderful caregivers at the Harbor at Buckner Villas in Austin, Texas. Due to CoVid-19 precautions, the family will hold a service of celebration for Earlene online on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. EST. If you would like to receive a password to attend this celebration, please email Avery Herman at alynnherman@gmail.com.

(3) entries

Alesia Henderson (Drummer)

My thoughts and Prayers are with you and your family. You have your mother's caring and nurturing spirit. The care, concern and time spent with your mother is a testament to the time, care and concern she poured into you( and so many others).

RIH !!!

Alesia, Rodney and Keaton


Earlene was very much loved and cared about by myself. Her chocolate cakes with peanut butter frosting was a favorite of mine. My mother and father, Doug and Phyllis Bullard were good friends of both Leo and Earlene and I got to babysit the kids when they were young. I have missed Earlene being in my life over the years and have often questioned how she was doing. It is a deep sadness that she has passed and will be remembered fondly.


My thoughts with you all. While I was employed at the Lincoln House she always had that sparkle in her eye. She was a wonderful lady!

RIP my sweet lady!

Rose Ksepka

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