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January 07, 2009

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009

Peter Freyne never missed a deadline in the 13 years he worked for Seven Days. He delivered his political column, "Inside Track," every Tuesday by 4 p.m. and was never subtle about it. Shortly after emailing his article, Freyne would show up at the office to answer questions, argue, check last-minute facts and, depending on his mood, terrorize our staff. His column was the last thing we squeezed into the paper before sending it to press.

So it’s ironic — not to mention premature and terribly sad — that Peter Freyne left this Earth early on a Wednesday. After battling cancer, seizures and a strep infection that spread to his brain, he died peacefully at Fletcher Allen Health Care at 12:26 a.m. today — six hours after our weekly deadline. Did he have a hand in the timing of his final departure, knowing the news would break just after the paper went to bed? We wouldn’t put it past him to go out with a poke.

Peter-freyne Freyne, 59, came out of the bar-stool school of journalism, along with his hero, Chicago newspaperman Mike Royko. He never went to school to learn to be a political columnist, but brought his considerable and diverse life experiences to a fun and informative “Inside Track” that originated in the Vanguard Press, Burlington’s original alt weekly, in the late ’80s. Freyne was the rare reporter who could skewer a politician in print and have a drink with him two days later — until he gave up drinking. Many of his “victims” became his sources — and in some cases, friends.

Vermont journalism has been a lot less lively since he retired last June. Here's a video that Eva Sollberger made of Freyne right after that, when Seven Days readers once again named him the state's "Best Print Journalist" in our annual Daysies survey.

His passing marks the end of an era. He may have planned that, too.

Please direct media inquiries to Seven Days Co-editor Pamela Polston, 864-5684, [email protected].

Click here for downloadable press images of Peter.


UPDATE: We'll post information about a memorial service here and in the newspaper next week. Thanks for all of your messages.

From Governor Jim Douglas:

"Early this morning, longtime political columnist Peter Freyne peacefully passed away. I’ve known Peter for many years. Peter was a determined journalist who had a way about him that was uniquely his. You knew where you stood with him – a trait that made all public officials examine their positions more closely. Peter will be missed."

From Sue Allen at the Times Argus:

"This loss hits close to home for me. I've worked with Peter since becoming a journalist in Vermont in in the '80s, and would like to think I've learned a great deal from watching him dig like a terrier for tips, follow up on leads with a tenacity I could only admire, and hold every public official's feet to a ferocious fire."

From Jack McCullough at Green Mountain Daily:

"Many Vermont bloggers look at Peter as a kind of godfather. He did the kind of journalism that we aspire to: irreverent, insightful analysis, personal perspective and voice, and a commitment to progressive values."

From Philip Baruth at Vermont Daily Briefing:

"There’s been no reason to say so until now, but this blog began with a kind note from Freyne, about a VPR commentary I wrote on Vermont’s role in opposing the Bush Administration. He ended that note with the word 'Bravo!' And that one word of praise, coming as it did from that one particular guy, was enough to make me think I had it in me to write about politics on a daily basis."

From Senator Patrick Leahy:

"Marcelle and I have lost a good friend, and Vermont has lost its own version of the legendary Mike Royko.

Though Peter was born in the age of manual typewriters, in recent years he took to blogs like a 20-year-old. Flatlander reporters sought him out first when they wanted to understand our state. He brought insight to some of the biggest stories of our time here in Vermont – the civil unions debate, the Dean campaign, the Jeffords switch and the war in Iraq.

He was courageous in his fight with cancer and helped many others facing similar battles.

He knew the difference between healthy skepticism and hollow cynicism, and his reporting helped make Vermont better.

From Sam "The Sham" Hemingway at the Burlington Free Press:

"I'll miss Peter, even though I was among the many who he sometimes skewered in his column over the years. I'll miss him because, while I took issue with some of his tactics, there was nothing phony about the guy. He was a passionate political junkie, which I admired, and it was always great theater watching him use the press conference format to ask a politician an uncomfortable question, just to see how the person would react."

From Senator Bernie Sanders:

"Peter Freyne was one of the most remarkable individuals I ever met, and I am going to miss him very much. As a friend and occasional antagonist for over 25 years, I knew Peter to be brilliant, honest, courageous and unusually observant. In addition, he was prickly, annoying, and utterly relentless in getting the information that he wanted.

"I first encountered Peter when I became mayor of Burlington in 1981. While he was supportive of many of my initiatives, it was not unusual for us to have strong differences of opinion, to say the least, about some of the decisions I made as mayor.

"A small memory of mine reveals his quirky but perceptive personality. I remember an event that I held as mayor to talk about our success in repaving Burlington’s streets. We served sandwiches. Peter ate about half of them. In his next column, he commented about the absurdity of serving sandwiches at such an event. He was right, as he was on so many other occasions.

"He was also right about bigger issues, including the war in Iraq, which he felt very strongly about. At almost every press conference that he attended, he in one way or another made clear his disgust with the war.

"He was also right in being the lead reporter in Vermont prepared to take on the scandal several years ago at Fletcher Allen Hospital, which ended with the CEO receiving a prison sentence.

"I think it is fair to say that Peter was an institution in the state of Vermont. He will be missed by thousands of his readers, he will be missed by his many friends, and he will most assuredly be missed by me."

From Congressman Peter Welch:

"Peter Freyne was a gift to Vermont.

"The power and punch of Peter’s writing was rivaled only by his passion for justice and his contempt for pomposity. Those of us who occasionally found ourselves on the receiving end of his acerbic observations rarely considered it an enjoyable experience. But behind the force of his personality and his hard-hitting reportorial instincts, it was clear to all who knew him that his spirit was as gentle as his soul was poetic.

"Peter often seemed to know more about what was going on in Vermont politics than did the state’s politicians – including this one. But it was his understanding of the human condition that set him apart from most.Though he had a deep passion for making the world a better place, he understood all too well the foibles and limitations of the human spirit.

"Peter will truly be missed."

From Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin:

"I am deeply saddened by the news of Peter Freyne’s death. Peter was an insightful and witty journalist who filled an important niche in Vermont’s press corp. Peter could always be counted on to ask the probing question that would make any public official squirm, find the lead to an exclusive story, and keep Vermonters up to date and smiling with his weekly column. Peter was a great friend and will be sorely missed."

From Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith:

"It was with sorrow that I heard the news today of Peter Freyne’s death. Peter brought unique insight to the state and its politics.  He used his humor and investigative drive to connect Vermont readers with the inner workings of their government. I am happy to have known Peter and I know he will be missed by many."

UPDATE 1/8/09: Many media outlets have reported on Peter's passing. Here are some of the links we've collected:

Journalist Freyne dies at 59 (by Sam Hemingway at The Burlington Free Press)

A Rememberence of Peter Freyne (by Ross Sneyd at Vermont Public Radio)

Longtime Vt. political writer Freyne dies, 59 (by Dan Barlow at the Times Argus)

The Times Argus also published an editorial about Peter.

UPDATE 1/13/09: Here's a video tribute from CCTV.

I was shocked to hear of Peter's passing. It hadn't made the dailies down here in Southern Vermont/Central New Hampshire and I hadn't heard about it until I spotted the e-mailed tribute from Congressman Peter Welch. I then checked the Free Press web site -- nothing. It wasn't on the e-mail list of Rutland Herald headlines either. I finally went to the Seven Days website to find out what happened. I met Peter a couple of times and I never missed his column whenever I was near a copy of Seven Days (and before that, the Vanguard). The last time I saw Peter was at a forum on drug policy in Montpelier, or, as Peter liked to call it, "Montpeculiar." Windsor County State's Attorney Bobby Sand and U.S. Attorney Tom Anderson were on opposite sides of the marijuana issue, and it was a very interesting forum. Since I live in Claremont, NH, and nowhere near the Seven Days circulation area, I went on line a few days later to find the on-line version of Seven Days in order to find out what Peter had written about it. His column was a great read, as always, and I'll miss him.

yea, it's too bad he passed away. BUT, he did cause a lot of unnecessary drama within the news world (esp with WCAX). he really never got his facts straight and complained way too much about the television news business. yea, he'll be missed... but not that much. goodnight and good luck mr. freyne.

I feel the need to respond to Gringo...someone Peter would have loved to get to the bottom of...because he/she obviously operates from the bottom and is soo very comfortable ,bragging about their ignorance...The facts are that Peter,when he was and would have stayed Madeline's Press Secretary,had not the rest of the "world" been so nubile & prosecutive, about confusing the medium with the message,was OVERHEARD by a reporter (who was so desperate for a story ,that he/she was willing to exploit a trendy tempest in a teapot)...speaking to a female reporter, who was secure enough to get a kick out of his metaphor at leisure,speaking to his confidentiality by saying "if you sit on my face,I still won't tell you". Subsequently ,the overheard conversation made the front page...Do you think the female that Peter was speaking with wasn't using sexual suggestiveness to unlock the information in the first place? Peter recognising his "victim" of the times position...& having more respect for Madeline,than his egotistical rightiousness,resigned out of sage & grace...Excuse you,gringo for having a sandbox ax to grind and exploiting a dead soothsayer to "hide "behind....many of us ,who are still here ,are not fooled...that you are foolish is now obvious in general...congratulations ,on using Peter as a forum to advertise your ignorance,with. Since most of his constituants are civil and evolved beyond your sad amoeba status ,we'll wink at eachother,about you...He had the grace to accept this...You need to ask Santa for some of that grace for Christmas ,next year ...And please be greatful that those of us who support our local zoos are already, benevolently enduring your lack of extinction,as it is.

I was working as the Director of the King Street Youth Center, and the Center (as neighborhood folks called it) was very involved in organizing the King Street neighborhood on issues that really mattered to the people who lived there. Very working class, very tough.

The Vanguard was just starting up, and their new reporter came by to report on the enviornmental issues that was impacting neighborhood kids who played around the barge canal, where most of them fished and went swimming. People organized, and the end result was enviornmental action that created the super fund site.

The neighborhood was tough, and so was the reporter, Peter Freyne. We've already missed Peter now for some time, but his death really saddenned me. We'll miss you, Peter.

In the late 90's when Peter was sick with pneumonia - his first time maybe? - I visited him in the hospital.
As I was leaving he said he getting freed the following day and would i come and drive him home.
Next day, on the way to his apartment he 'guided' me in the direction of the Pearl St. liquor store. I said no way you just had a close one, don't push it. He responded there was no booze in the apartment, and if i didn't he would just walk back after i dropped him off.
With his passing, we lost great access and insight into our state government, a good Irishman and a fair gambler on the horses in Saratoga.

Peter told the truth about vermont politicos and didnt care if they liked it or not....i dont believe we will get that insight from the traditional media..too bad he kept them on their toes and didnt blink at bashing the Free Press and WGOP (WCAX) kudos to Parsons at CAX for running a story on him and a follow up on the effects of cancer!! Ralph Wright what is up with your "OH" comments???

When you walk this earth treating people the way he did...he died the way he deserved to die....alone.

Ah, but Peter did not die alone; every Irish saint and dead patriot carried him in triumph to St. Peter's Gate. And who wants to bet the crowd at his memorial will exceed both "Happy's" and "Gringo's" combined. Love him or hate him, one was never indifferent to him. And that was just the way he liked it. See Gringo and Happy, you too were under his spell as well. What he wanted most was his enemies at his funeral, checking to make sure he was really dead. Peter, my dear old friend, "Mission Accomplished."

Peter was not alone. He was surrounded by those who appreciated him, were challenged by him, respected him, and who ultimately loved him. As he, and we all, deserve.

Gringo, I imagine you've been carrying that anger for quite a long spell. You can let it go now, my friend. Peter has moved on. You can, too.

Here's to my former Vanguard Press colleague and fellow-traveler in the noble but otherwise inglorious pursuit of speaking truth (frankly, precisely, accurately, invigoratingly) to power.

Aw, shit.

This blog is getting to be like the proverbial Irish wake. There must be a bottle of Jameson's around here somewhere, eh?

If there was ever a pebble in a politician's shoe, Peter was it. He knew politics and government in Vermont like few ever have, and he wrote it all down without fear and with flair.

Slan agus beannacht leat Padraig...Goodbye and blessings with you Peter.

Freyne’s fans are just sadistic voyeurs, egging on the school bully for the joy of seeing someone skewered in public. Surely Seven Days will come out with one last edition dedicated to the man and for one last time trade on his mean-spirited gossip column for a healthy profit. So who’s the worst: The bully; the crowd egging him on; or, the profiteer, trading on the worst of human nature for some coin.

Hear! Hear! Except, Mike, that for old Peter, the bottle of Irish Whiskey he'd endorse would be Bushmill's, the only thing to which I ever saw him genuflect (or was that a stumble?)

I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Peter Freyne. I cannot think of a better barometer regarding the political climate of Vermont than Peter. One can only hope that another writer with half his talent and integrity exists somewhere within our reach. Vermonters lost an absolute treasure with his passing. Give 'em hell wherever you are, Mr. Freyne!

Peter Freyne's passing has also hit 'the other side of the Lake.' As a former PoliSci professor, I would often cite his column as a 'must read' for students in State and Local Politics classes. His was an old-school type of journalism that, looking past what his subjects often saw as bombast and bluster, went beyond mere reporting, but in-depth research in digging out the information that would complete a story. For those in seats of political power, there was a begrudging understanding that, at one time or another, they would be skewered by this proud Irishman.
It is sad that he is not around to hear and read all that is being said about him, but, if there is an after-life, we can be assured that those eyes are twinking and the laughs are constant. While I shared the shyness that all saw in Peter, I followed his career almost as a stalker. When he was struck by cancer, I became aware of it before he shared it with his readers as I would constantly see him in the halls of VMC. When he beat it, it was a wonderful time only to be tempered by his 'retirement' to Speeder & Earls. Although I lost a citation for Vermont State Politics, I would bow & acknowledge his place in this world every time I passed his watering hole on Pine Street. It will never be the same, nothing is 'they' say, but we are richer for knowing him.

The Cardinal Rule of Columnists is, "Thou Shalt Not Bore." Until the final years when the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak, Peter never transgressed. Rest in peace Peter, and give my regards to Michael Collins.

Regarding the few over the top, more-than-negative, responses: Perhaps we might remind ourselves, at least in this instance: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. The debate is over, Peter as we knew him is gone; please let those who wish to pay homage and express grief and gratitude do so with respect and peace.

"the bottle of Irish Whiskey he'd endorse would be Bushmill's"

No freakin' way. Really?

Well that explains the odd look he gave me when I complained to him at the 7 Days Party that the only Irish Whiskey they had was this "orange" Bushmills stuff, rather than Jameson.

Wonder which one he's finding is served at the bar upstairs, eh?

So Long Mo Chara

Peter could be infuriating, and he would say the same about me. I remember what it would feel like when Peter would pick up on something and ask a few questions with a look that was not a “twinkle” - that sounds way too innocent. His eyes bent and reflected light back at you in a way that made you know you were cooked, or at the very least, you were at risk of losing yet another layer of protective veneer.

My friends have often told me that my skin is not thick enough for politics. And, if my skin was supposed to become thick enough that Peter’s acerbic derision and teasing monikers wouldn’t hurt, it’s true, it was never thick enough. But to develop skin that thick would require that you just stop listening and that would be a big mistake. Peter’s words could hurt. They wouldn’t have if they didn’t contain so much truth.

Peter could make me laugh so hard. He was always looking for a con or a motive, and he usually found one that was at least partly real. He was genuine and he spoke the truth as he saw it, though often not with grace.

I miss Peter Freyne. I would like to have a conversation with him, especially now that it wouldn't end up in whatever he was working on next.

Peter and I became friends when we worked together at the old Vanguard Press and WDOT radio. Back in those days, we were part of a motley crew that stayed up too late and prowled the bars, talking to anyone and everyone about nothing in particular. It may be interesting for some to know that Peter is a double scorpio which of course fits his mecurial, double-sided nature. I never forgot this fact as Peter climbed the road to media success; knowing that he would skewer a friend as fast as a foe. A few years later while working within the administration of Bernie Sanders, Peter stopped by every day to make sure I was taking care of the "people's business" and not the mayor's political agenda. I, and a lot of other appointees, ended up working a lot of double shifts as a result. Make no mistake about it, Burlington would not be the award winning city it is without the hot dogging, paternal smile of Peter Freyne. Goodbye Peter.

What a long strange journey that Peter and
I had for twenty-plus years. From our first
meeting in the basement of the old VANGUARD
office on College Street to many hours of
discussion at his offices -- the third barstool
at Esox and later to the third barstool at
Finnegans. We were both Irish-descended and
hopeless political junkies. I cannot count
the numbers of times when we would be the only
political observers at some obscure candidates
debate at some obscure church basement or
middle school.

We traded freely in political gossip. I often
relied upon him when I needed a quick assessment
of some public event and he relied upon me for
some arcane political fact. For most of our
shared years, it was a mutually (but not always)
beneficial relationship.

I was one of the few who urged Governor Madeleine
Kunin to hire Peter as her press secretary in 1989
and later to urge Sue Gillis to hire him for the
old VERMONT TIMES and was one of those who ponied
up a hiring bonus for SEVEN DAYS to give Peter
his most consistent outlet for his unique talents.

The Vermont press has no tabloid newspaper akin
But Peter's column came close to a tabloid style
with its quick-hitting commentary, names in boldface
and nicknames for public officials, some positive,
others not so.

Pamela rightly pointed out that some of Peter's
"victims" became his sources. It also could run
in the opposite direction when some of Peter's
sources became his victims.

Peter Freyne, the son of an Irish Republican Army
veteran and a one-time good Catholic who seriously
considered the priesthood would appreciate this
Irish blessing.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there... I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow...
I am the diamond glints on snow...
I am the sunlight on ripened grain...
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you waken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of gentle birds in circling flight...
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry?
I am not there... I did not die...

Godspeed Peter


All our love to Seven Days, his close friends, and family.

May the four winds blow you safely home Peter.

As much as Mike Royko might have been Peter's hero, Peter was my journalistic hero. From the early 1980s, when I had the good fortune to come to Vermont to become the head of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, to my current work as managing editor of Business People-Vermont magazine, Peter's terrier-like approach to the news and his consummate journalistic integrity earned him a high place in my esteem. Although our paths crossed only once or twice a year (the last time I saw him was at the 2008 Daisies), he always had a smile and a wisecrack. Godspeed, Peter.

Anonymous and Happy, It shocks surprises me that you can say Peter will be missed "not that much," and that he died "alone" smack in the middle of this flood of comments commending and remembering his life and work. May any of us be so lucky as to have as many eyes cloud with tears when we pass.

Well, I imagine Peter's sharing a few pints of the good stuff with Uncle Peter over a few crude sexual remarks on the other side of the wire.

I knew Peter for more than two decades, but really got to know the softer post-cancer Peter over coffee after coffee after coffee after coffee over the last year down at Speeder's where Peter spent the last months of his life presiding as the shop's de-facto Mayor.

Peter had come to appreciate his life as he never had before and he filled me with that appreciation. I'm sorry now that his days are gone as I am that the time that I had to know him were as short as they were.

Peter will be missed as he asked the hard political questions that few other journalists were willing or capable to ask.

I remember interviewing Peter for a community history project my sophomore year at BHS. Each student was to produce a page for a book on notable folks in the community. I tried to make the process easy for him, or so I thought, by sending him an e-mail questionnaire.

Peter wasn't having it; he was going to make me do some work for this project. First he sent me flippant answers to my questions of “How do you define politics? From latin Poli-(many) tic (a blood sucking creature) so politics is a collection of blood sucking creatures.”

I was a bit ticked off after this. I explained that I was just trying to make it easier for him; he went off about the lazy cut-and-paste journalism that is the norm and is encouraged in our institutions these days. Peter insisted that if he was going to participate we were to meet face-to-face. I reluctantly agreed... nobody else in the class was doing this much work.

We met up at Nectar's. After our email correspondence, my expectations for him were low. As it turned out, Peter was incredibly generous with his time and insights on life and politics. I was so engaged that I gave up on taking notes. The final project ended up being more of an essay than a Q&A, unlike my peers' projects. I had a decent piece of journalism and even got an A+, when I would have been happy with a C+.

Peter cited his time as a taxicab driver in Chicago as a major force in his development as a journalist. He told me that “getting outside the norm- the box” and attempting to experience life from different perspectives is key to finding the truth in the world.

Peter, irascible but never erasable, you will be missed.

I was lucky to intern with the Vermont Times before I moved on to the Hardwick Gazette after graduation. Although I'm far removed from the journalism field now, reading Peter's column always brought back memories. Thanks, Peter.

As a UVM student, and then later as a reporter at WCAX-TV in the 1990s, I NEVER missed Peter's column. You just couldn't. He always had the scoops.

As a journalist, I learned an incredible amount from reading him in print, and observing him at press conferences. His prose, wit and dogged pursuit of the story always impressed me, and frankly, often intimidated me. I wanted to do it as well as Peter did.

I left Vermont 8 years ago, but kept in touch with Peter via email. He was always supportive and interested in my life and career in South America; I always read "IT" online to keep up on the latest VT happenings...and to be reminded how a journalist's job is to tell the tough stories, no matter what.

Vaya con Dios, Pedro.

During the years I lived in Burlington, the first thing I read when I picked up the weekly paper was Peter Freyne's column. I didn't always like what he wrote, but he made me think, he kept me in touch with what was going on in Vermont, and he made me laugh (especially with the funny names he gave to politicians). He will be greatly missed and always remembered.

No journalist can ever, will ever fill his penetrating style with elected officials. I've lost a friend, a constituent and a look-a-like-on-a-bike.

When I saw the notice come into my e-mail inbox from Seven Days that Mr. Freyne had passed away, it was like a punch to the gut. Being relatively young (26) and not having always been a follower of political goings-on, I didn't get turned onto Peter's writing until the last few years of his contributions. But even so, in that short time, I cannot help but be very saddened by his passing; he really represented that truly Vermontian aspect, wherein we as a state are not content to settle for the uncouth status quo, whatever we deem it to be. He will be missed.

From the editor:

A couple people have inquired whether we might delete the few negative comments on this memorial thread.

I just wanted to let everyone know that I thought about that possibility yesterday, and decided to leave them up. By the time I had seen the comments, other people had responded, and it seemed more appropriate to allow that conversation to take place here — mainly because it's about Peter, who was loath to censor any comments on his own blog. And he got some bad ones.

I think I'm afraid to cross him, even now.

But that could change. It really is in extremely poor taste to post nasty, anonymous comments about someone who just died, even if the person in question was as "prickly" as Peter. That's a nice euphemism, I think.

I had a sometimes rocky relationship with Peter -- as others have noted, he wasn't always easy to work with -- but I always respected and even admired him. I hadn't seen him since before his latest illness, but I miss his presence here and around town. I feel lucky to have known him.

Thanks again to everyone who has written to us.

We plan to excerpt some of these in the newspaper next week.

-- Cathy Resmer, Online Editor

Tá daoine a shiúlann inár saolta agus shiúlann amach astu go luath,
Tá daoine a fhanann ar feadh tamaill,
Agus fágann siad rianta a gcos ar ár gcroíthe,
Agus casann ár n-anamacha port nua go deo deo.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go,
Some people stay awhile,
And leave footprints on our hearts,
And we are never, ever the same.

Thank you Peter for always "telling it like it is!" I appreciated the mutual respect we shared in the work that each of us did. We always knew, without having to say it, that we were committed to making this a better world. You did a good job.

I am one of those wayward wayfarers who for some misbegotten reason left Vermont, though Vermont has never left my heart or soul. I return to the state every summer. One of my first priorities, upon stepping back on Vermont soil, always had been to read Peter's column. It made me feel as though I had never departed. Peter immediately got me caught up with events and with the tenor of what was going on in the state and what Vermonters were feeling and talking about. Another priority was to stroll the streets and gin mills of Burlington, hoping to run into Peter. We shared a love of politics and journalism. His departure removes a little bit of what makes Vermont such a very special place. The state gave an original character like Peter a chance to share his uniqueness, his wit, and his insights with thousands of people.
I, like so many others, will miss him.

- louis berney

I got my first glimmer of an insight into Peter Freyne when I read his story about being the son of an IRA gunman. His passion for the Irish Civil War seemed unabated after all those years. Then, when I learned he had been a seminarian, it seemed the other shoe had dropped.
He was funny, caustic, moody, provocative, but most of all he was original in an industry that once was populated by originals but has become distressingly corporate of late. One wonders if his particular footsteps will ever be filled again.

My god...what a bunch of hypocrites..... I personally know most of you self-loving-psuedo-journalists who have commented here. You all hated Peter...said nothing nice about him and wished him dead when he was alive...well you all got your wish....

Peter kicked me when I was down. I called him on it and he laughed. If ever there was someone who deserved to suffer it was him.

The corner stool at Leunig's Bistro should have his name plate on the seat!


Peter Freyne is dead.
He was a vicious HACK, a self important scmbg who masquraded under the title "journalist"...I'm overjoyed to hear the news of his demise and Im glad as hell he'll never get to see the Soviet takeover of America on Jan 20

I out lasted you you piece of shit, and Ill outlast that pedophile Peter Kurth as well
Fuck You Freyne!
Death to the Left!

FCK BURLINGTON & the P.E.R.V.(Peoples Republic of Vermont)

Some years ago, when I served in the Vermont legislature, I noticed with amusement how eager I and my colleagues were to grab the hot-off-the-presses copies of Seven Days on Tuesday afternoons. We would immediately rip it open to "Inside Track" to see who was getting gored that week--it was almost as much of an honor to be ridiculed by Peter's incisive wit as it was to be praised by him. I remember the glow I felt when Peter reacted to a speech I made defending civil unions by commenting, "Rep. Jordan had it exactly right. . . ."

Some years before that, when I was a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, I happened to be in the governor's ceremonial office when Peter made a highly offensive, sexually harassing comment to reporter Betsy Liley of the Free Press. This was shocking--I considered Betsy a friend and I knew from my own experience how women at the state house were sometimes treated by men who seemed to think they owned the place The thing of it is, I don't think Peter meant that remark quite the way it came out and I also don't think he meant to hurt Betsy, who was one of the better reporters of the day. It seemed to just roll out of his mouth before his brain had a chance to rein it in. He had to step down as Gov. Kunin's press secretary and served his deserved time in purgatory for it--I think Gov. Kunin was right when she observed he was more successful as a critic of state government than as a representative of it.

But over the years, I came to respect the thoroughness with which he would track down a story and his courage in asking questions no one else would ask. Many wrongs were eventually addressed and even righted because Peter persisted--his tenacity in uncovering the mess at Fletcher Allen a few years back comes to mind. Even after I left politics and, ultimately, Vermont, I religiously read Peter's column so I keep up with what was really going on under the Golden Dome and in the halls of power. Although he could be biting, he was never bitter, and he did all Vermonters a great service by holding Vermont politicians and policy makers to high ethical standards with wit and panache. He was one of a kind and although we weren't close, I, like many others, feel blessed to have known him and very sad at his passing. A giant has fallen, and to paraphrase Sandburg, a huge empty space remains. Hopefully, an equally talented, curious, and insightful journalist will someday fill it. Peter would like that, I think.

Wasn't it Peter Freyne who a few years ago "outed" a Burlngton public official (I won't repeat his name here) for having a personal ad on a dating website? Somehow, Peter was tipped off to it. Peter could have taken the high road. Nope. As I recall Peter identified the individual and reprinted part of the poor guy's ad. There was absolutely, positively no reason to do this, other than Peter's vicious, mean-spirited glee at hurting someone. He even publicly reported that the guy begged him not to run the story. That was an extra little twist of the knife.

The fact that the guy had a personal ad had absolutely nothing to do with the guy's job or his performance of that job. It was just an example of pure, spiteful meanness. I didn't and still don't personally know the guy whom Peter destoyed and I definitely don't share his politics. But I felt extremely sorry for him. What Peter did was an outrageously mean thing to do. And it was completely unnecessary.

That was the Peter Freyne that I saw.

While Peter was the first to recognize that irony is the strongest force in the universe, he'd also note the lack of irony behind the fact that those few who have come here to savage him are also those who don't have the balls to sign their names to their drivel.

I didn't always agree with Peter and, in fact, I was occasionally enraged by him, but Peter signed his name to everything he put in print.

Hear, hear.

Fine. He put his name in print when he told only part of the story, when he lied, when he spun, when he savaged, when he gratuitously destroyed. Great. Signing you're name when you print dirt is something to be proud of? To be lionized for? Hope that makes you feel better.

I was saddened to read about Peter's passing and it has rekindled many memories I have of the guy, but one in particular from a long time ago.

I met Peter soon after moving to Burlington in 1981. I was working at City Hall, in the Planning Office, and Peter was working at making the transition from radio news to print journalism. In that capacity, we would often talk shop at City Hall (the 'Puzzle Palace' as he sometimes called it), and our friendship extended to Leunig's for morning coffee or most any other bar for a cold adult beverage in the evening.

One afternoon Peter stopped by City Hall for no particular reason, and in the course of our conversation, he let on that the Vermont Vanguard had finally purchased a story he was pursuing. Looking back, I don't recall the topic and it really isn't important. What I do remember is the wonderful sense of pride and humility Peter expressed when I congratulated him. On the one hand, he was rightfully excited that a byline and paycheck now confirmed his identity as a print journalist. On a deeper level, Peter also understood he was joining a storied fraternity he had long admired. For Peter, journalism was a vocation as opposed to a career path and he was able to convey the distinction to me in a few sentences. It was the kind of innocent moment one would not typically associate with Peter, and one I will not forget.

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