Amherst Magazine

Marilee B. Huntoon ’78

Marilee B. Huntoon ’78 died April 21, 2011.
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My dear friend, Marilee B. Huntoon, Amherst '78E, passed away on 21 April 2011 at the age of 55, after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

Marilee was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, on 17 October 1955, but grew up and spent most of her life in Bellows Falls, Vermont.  Her parents were Richard R. Huntoon and Millie (Cross) Huntoon, and her older brother is the noted Vermont artist Robert Huntoon.  Marilee was educated in the Bellows Falls public schools.  She began her college studies at Keene State Unviersity in Keene, New Hampshire, but transferred to Amherst College, where she majored in classics and was graduated in January 1978.  She then earned an M.A. degree in Classics at the University of Vermont at Burlington.

For nearly three decades, until her retirement in 2010, she taught Classics and Mythology at Bellows Falls Union High School; she was also the longtime advisor to the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. Before joining the Bellows Falls school system, she taught the same subjects at the Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon, Vermont.  Generations of students admired and cherished her as a  rigorous yet generous teacher, a master of the art who also was keenly sensitive to meeting her students' needs.  In particular, she helped to lead trips by her students to Greece and Italy, blending the excitement of world travel with the educational enrichment coming from seeing the scenes of the classical world first-hand.  She was long affiliated with the United Church of Bellows Falls, ultimately becoming a deacon of the church and rendering years of devoted service to the congregation and the community.

Marilee and I first met at Amherst in the spring semester of 1977.  Our friendship grew and deepened from that time until our last phone call, only days before her passing.   She always was one of the most intelligent (both intellectually and emotionally), thoughtful, understanding, generous, and decent people who ever lived.  She deeply loved Vermont and the small town where she was raised and where she became a pillar of the community.  She also deeply loved her family and friends, and the cats whom she rescued and tended with remarkable care and sensitivity.  A talented artist, she also was devoted to literature and philosophy, and she was a keenly appreciative devotee of movies and ghost stories both written and filmed.  Despite her occasional wry dismissal of the baser side of politics, she was an active and committed citizen and remained firmly committed to the idea that government should respond to the needs and wants of society.

Knowing Marilee was and always will be a blessing to all who knew her.  I always will remember her as a force for unassuming yet powerful good, as the incarnation of friendship, and as one of the best and wisest people whom I have ever known.  The closing lines of George Eliot’s great novel MIDDLEMARCH capture her perfectly:

“Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature ... spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Marilee's parents were Spiritualists who believed in the soul's continuation after death.  Marilee shared their beliefs with an unaffected sincerity that touched the spirits even of those who did not believe. I hope and pray that she is right, but even if she is not, I hope and pray that she is now at peace, after a gentle and easy passing into eternity

Marilee is survived by her beloved cats – Wilby, Millie, Simon, and Hannah – and by her beloved brother Bob and his wife Pam, and a legion of cherished friends.  In lieu of flowers, those who wish to honor her memory may make contributions to the Animal Rescue and Protection Society, PO Box 274, Chester, VT 05143.

- Richard Bernstein '77

 

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