Joan Kistler Senecal MONTPELIER — Joan Kistler Senecal of Montpelier, Vermont, died after a battle with pancreatic cancer, at her home on Oct. 28, 2020, with her husband of 56 years by her side. The arduous treatments and vicious disease never dimmed her love of life or family, and it is with a heavy heart we said our final good-byes. She is survived by her husband, Ken; three daughters, Ellen and her husband, Scott, Lisa and her partner, Stuart, and Elizabeth “Liz” and her husband, Ralph. She left behind the shining lights of her life, her grandchildren, Rhiannon, Kelsey, Tierney, Cristian, Riley, Noah, Devon, Isabeau and Sadira. Joan was born July 27, 1945, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Dr. Edwin and Elsa (Woodbridge) Kistler, but her heart found its home in Vermont where she devoted her life to her family and the betterment of the lives of all Vermonters. At the tender age of 17, she met Ken Senecal, the love of her life whom she married in 1965. After graduating from the University of Vermont, she deftly balanced family and career with grace and incredible success. Her work life’s golden thread was finding the most fair and efficient way to better the lives of Vermonters. It was as commissioner of the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living that she and her “amazing team” achieved the greatest testament to her life’s mission in the crafting, implementation and enduring success of the Choices for Care Program. The program has become a national model and improved the lives of countless older Vermonters and those living with disabilities because of Joan’s unshakable belief that everyone should be able to live their lives with choices and dignity. Joan loved to travel and, together, she and Ken found joy in discovering new places and peoples with awe and openness of discovery. She was a studied and hardworking gardener who was able to share her love of flowers with family and friends, many of whom enjoy her plants in their own gardens, carrying on her gardening legacy for decades to come. She enjoyed remastering the flute after retirement and was a part of the Montpelier Orchestra where she embraced the music and the friendships she developed as a result. But the center of her life was always her family and her husband, daughters and grandchildren basked in the bright, warm glow of her love as evidenced by the many family gatherings, special trips and times spent with children and grandchildren, and the quilts she sewed for her daughters and grandchildren that will be treasured by them as she was. She will be missed terribly by her bereaved family and friends who dearly loved and admired her. Joan instilled in her family her lifelong commitment to bettering the lives of those around her. That dedication will be honored by her husband, children and grandchildren who will strive to live as she did and leave the world a better place. Services will be decided at such time as COVID-19 will allow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Joan’s name to Kellogg Hubbard Library, 135 Main St., Montpelier, VT.

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She was one of the kindest people I have ever met. When my terminally ill wife and I moved to Montpelier in 2014 she demonstrated her goodness. Being a fellow gardener my wife missed her flowers and at a chance meeting Joan immediately offered flowers to transplant. She even offered pots and tools to use. Her spirit will live on through the hearts she touched and the gardens that hold her gifts of flowers so freely given.


She ABSOLUTELY made the world a better place. I was her lucky flute teacher for over a decade and I always felt inspired by her energy, drive, enthusiasm, and commitment. She was that way in every aspect of her life and she wore her love for her husband, children, and grandchildren on her sleeve. I miss her very much but her light still shines in the heart of our community. She will never be forgotten.

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