Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

19 posts categorized "In Memoriam" Feed

September 17, 2012

Blurt Is No More. Here's Where to Find New Seven Days Content

You may have seen the new blogs that we've been launching here in Seven Days-land in recent weeks. Now that those are up, it's official: We're retiring the Blurt blog. R.I.P., Blurt.

Our dear friend Blurt, in all its green-tentacled, drooling glory, has served us well since early 2008. But it's changed a lot through the years — from odd photos and video clips from all over the internet in the early days to its recent life as a place primarily for longer stories that popped up outside of the usual weekly publishing cycle of our dead-tree edition. There's nothing wrong with that, but, being an internet-friendly, 21st-century news organization, we want our blogs to feel like, well, blogs. 

So that's why we started two separate blogs dedicated to two of our most popular areas of coverage: the news-and-politics blog Off Message, and the food-and-drink blog Bite Club. On both blogs, expect a more frequent publishing schedule, more photos and video, and more links to stuff our staffers are reading around the web.

Content that used to be on Blurt that doesn't fit in with those two blogs, such as arts news and the Movies You Missed DVD reviews, will be posted on our main website at There's now a big widget for web-exclusive stories outside the usual weekly publishing schedule on the website. And the best way to make sure you don't miss any Seven Days content is to subscribe to our email newsletters and follows us on Twitter and Facebook.

It's important to note: no content is going away! Old links will continue to work here, and future posts in longtime Blurt staples will have a new home — Grazing and Alice Eats are both now on Bite Club, for example. We're just doing some reshuffling to make our web structure more sensible and, we hope, better.

We'll miss the little green monster, though. Sleep well, little guy.

May 31, 2012

In Memoriam: Bernard "Bernie" Beaudoin, Burlington Philanthropist, "Unsung Hero"

3a7aac6342Bernard "Bernie" Beaudoin, a man of modest means who donated his own home on North Avenue in 2007 to become the current headquarters of HOPE Works (formerly the Women's Rape Crisis Center), died earlier this month after a brief illness. He was 89.

Beaudoin, a lifelong Burlingtonian and Korean War-era Air Force veteran, was hardly a stereotypical philanthropist. A former barber who ran the Palace Barber Shop on Bank Street in Burlington in the 1960s and ’70s, Beaudoin later dabbled in real estate in Burlington and Winooski but never grew rich from it. In fact, in a 2007 interview, Beaudoin told Seven Days that he couldn't even afford his own health insurance.

Nevertheless, in October 2007 Beaudoin approached what was then the Women's Rape Crisis Center with a virtually unheard-of real estate offer: He agreed to sell the nonprofit group his 3200-square-foot Victorian house (right) at 336 North Avenue for its assessed value rather than its true market value — a $40,000 discount — and further agreed to finance the deal with a zero-interest loan. In effect, the WRCC scored a double win from Beaudoin's generosity because it enabled the group to move into much larger quarters and pay less each month than it was doing previously. As Cathleen Wilson, WRCC's executive director, remarked at the time, "Bernie kind of fell from the heavens for us."

Beaudoin died on May 5 in a VA Hospital, according to an obituary in the Burlington Free Press. But even in death, Beaudoin didn't stop giving. According to Wilson as well as an unnamed family member, Beaudoin agreed to absolve HOPE Works of the remainder of its debt to him upon his death — a sum of about $250,000.

Continue reading "In Memoriam: Bernard "Bernie" Beaudoin, Burlington Philanthropist, "Unsung Hero"" »

April 08, 2012

America's Most Popular Artist Heads to Heaven

SOTA-kinkadeAmerica's most popular — and richest — artist died in California on Friday at age 54. But unless you're an aficionado of kitsch, you may not have been familiar with Thomas Kinkade. He made many, many millions by painting pictures that deftly catered to mass tastes but caused outbreaks of aesthetic hives in those who look to art for something more than syrupy sweetness, corny theatrics and unnatural scenes of rural bliss.

The Middlebury College Museum of Art presented a sampling of Kinkade's work in 2009, with curators proceeding from the premise that his popularity warranted thoughtful appraisal. The nonjudgmental approach did help illuminate the reasons why the self-styled "painter of light" was so successful in market terms. But Kinkade, who actually functioned more as a corporation than as an individual creator, was a terrible painter in the ways that matter most. The organizers of the Middlebury show surely knew that, and their unwillingness to say it seemed disingenuous.

Image courtesy of Middlebury College Museum of Art for Seven Days' review of "Making Sense of Thomas Kinkade."


March 12, 2012

RIP Sid Couchey, Cartoonist of 'Richie Rich' and Champy

Artreview1_6I'm sad to pass along the news that Sid Couchey died yesterday at the age of 92. I had occasion to meet and interview this delightful, funny and humble gentleman for an article in 2010. He was not a household-name cartoonist, but fans around the world knew his work, primarily from the 1950s comic book "Richie Rich." It had been translated, he told me, into many languages.

Later, the story of the tow-headed "world's wealthiest kid" — ever clad in a prissy black jacket and oversize bow tie — was reincarnated in an animated TV series and, in 1994, in a film adaptation starring Macauley Culkin. Couchey also drew for the comics "Little Lotta" and "Little Dot," among others. (He proposed to his sweetheart, Ruth, in a "Little Lotta" episode, he told me, some 52 years ago. The couple were married more than 50 years.)

Couchey worked for Harvey Comics (now Harvey Entertainment) in New York City, but lived since 1961 in Essex, N.Y., — a ferry ride from Charlotte, Vt., and quick zip down Rt. 9. When I went to visit him on a warm summer day, Couchey graciously showed me some comic-book archives that collectors would have drooled over, as well as casual piles of other drawings. Many were of Champy, his affectionate nickname for the Lake Champlain monster that residents on either side of the water like to claim as their own.

Continue reading "RIP Sid Couchey, Cartoonist of 'Richie Rich' and Champy" »

November 29, 2011

From the Archives: Seven Days' 2002 Profile of Tom Wicker

TomwickerAuthor and journalist Tom Wicker died on Friday, November 25. Wicker was perhaps best known for covering the Kennedy assasination for the New York Times in 1963. After retiring from the Times, Wicker moved full-time to his home in Rochester.

Kevin J. Kelley profiled Wicker for the January 9, 2002 issue of Seven Days in a story called "Wicker's Word: A former Times man and presidential observer weighs in on world — and Vermont — events". The story predates our website, but we've reprinted it below.


One of the great journalists of the 20th century lives quietly now in a comfortable old farmhouse in central Vermont. Tom Wicker has come a long way from Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. That's when he first earned a place in American journalism history by writing the lead story in the New York Times on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Continue reading "From the Archives: Seven Days' 2002 Profile of Tom Wicker" »

October 10, 2011

Mikey Welsh, Painter and Musician, Found Dead

Mikey-welsh-2004  I heard the tragic news yesterday that Mikey Welsh was found dead, at age 40, in a Chicago hotel room. It still feels like a slap in the face. Such a cliché, rock-star way to go. Oh, Mikey, why? It shouldn't have ended this way, or this soon.

Online fan and news sites were abuzz with words like narcotics and overdose. But the toxicology reports apparently take weeks, and at this writing I don't know the actual cause of his death. When I first met and interviewed him, in 2004, the only drugs Mikey took were psychtropic — treatments for bipolar syndrome and post-traumatic stress, he told me. In fact, he said apologetically at our meeting, "I'm afraid you've caught me in the middle of a nervous breakdown."

Another one.

Continue reading "Mikey Welsh, Painter and Musician, Found Dead" »

August 23, 2011

In Memoriam: Paul Robar, Owner of Benways Transportation (1955-2011)

Paul Robar A giant of the Burlington taxi community has passed away.

Paul L. Robar of Colchester, who built Benways Transportation into the largest taxi company in Chittenden County, died last Thursday, August 18. He was 55 years old.

Robar purchased Benways Transportation in 1973; he was also the owner of Morf Transit and Apollo Limousine. He was hospitalized in critical condition on July 27 after crashing his car on North Avenue in Burlington; he apparently suffered a brain aneurysm while driving. Police said Robar was traveling south on North Avenue when his car left the roadway and brushed a telephone pole and a tree, causing the airbags to deploy.

Recently, he had been a vocal opponent of the city of Burlington's new taxi regulations and threatened to pull his business out of the city if they were enacted, pledging to take "every legal action known to mankind to fight them." Passed by the city council on July 11, the regulations require all cabs to install taximeters by next year and impose a host of other restrictions on cabbies. Robar had predicted taximeters would cost riders more than the current zone pricing system.

Continue reading "In Memoriam: Paul Robar, Owner of Benways Transportation (1955-2011)" »

April 12, 2011

Remembering Blair Hamilton, Cofounder of Efficiency Vermont (1949-2011)

Blair Hamilton A very bright light has gone out in Burlington.

Blair Hamilton, the founder of Vermont Energy Investment Corp. and a longtime champion for energy efficiency and renewable power, died on April 8 after a long battle with cancer. He was 61.

Hamilton founded VEIC with his life partner, Beth Sachs, in 1986 and was the driving force behind Efficiency Vermont, the nation's first statewide energy efficiency "utility." He remained employed as VEIC's policy director until his death from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, according to executive director Scott Johnstone.

Reached by phone this morning, Johnstone recalled that at the time Hamilton and Sachs started VEIC, inspired by the Arab oil embargo, few people were thinking about efficiency as a key component of energy policy.

"The idea of starting a company in 1986 that would focus on lowering the economic and environmental costs of energy was pretty monumental to consider, when the fact was there just wasn't a whole lot of people who wanted to pay for that, or see that happen at the time," said Johnstone, who is in Washington, D.C., for a conference."It was just a different time in our world's history. They along with a few others really brought it forward so that people see that the cheapest energy is the energy we don't use."

Today, VEIC is a private nonprofit with 200 employees, $38 million in annual revenues and satellite offices in Ohio, Boston and Washington, D.C. Hamilton's work was recognized in 2002 when he was named a "Champion of Energy Efficiency" by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Continue reading "Remembering Blair Hamilton, Cofounder of Efficiency Vermont (1949-2011)" »

March 30, 2011

Artist George Tooker, 1920-2011

Eyewitness-tooker Artist George Tooker of Hartland, Vermont, died Sunday at his home. He was 90. The Burlington Free Press noted his passing in a front-page story this morning.

Writer Kevin J. Kelley profiled Tooker for Seven Days in 2009, after a career retrospective revived the painter's reputation. Wrote Kelley, "Hailing Tooker’s 'visionary imagination,' the New York Times called the show 'richly affecting.'"

Here's an excerpt from Kelley's profile:

If ever there was a radical disconnect between artist and subject matter, it can be found in the personality and paintings of George Tooker.

Now 88 and nearly deaf, Tooker lives modestly in a semi-decrepit farmhouse on a craggy hillside in Hartland. He smiles placidly, Buddha-like, while discussing a body of work filled with haunting images of urban angst and alienation. Many of Tooker’s paintings exude menace, but the man himself, clad in a checkered flannel shirt and denim pants, seems the very model of a mellow old Vermonter.

Tooker stopped painting in the last few years, so his meagerly furnished home displays no tools of his trade. It doesn’t contain his paintings, either; those reside in museums, in private collections or in storage with his dealer in New York. Casual visitors could never guess that their gentle host is one of the great American artists of the 20th century.

Click here to read the rest.

Image: "The Waiting Room" by George Tooker, 1959.

August 03, 2010

In Memoriam: Shayne Higgins

F-smokedout1 It's with great regret and sadness that I report the death of Shayne Higgins, a resident of the Starr Farm Nursing Home in Burlington's New North End. According to a friend and longtime caregiver, Higgins, 49, was pronounced dead on arrival at Fletcher Allen Health Care at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sunday night, Aug. 1, due to complications related to his advanced multiple sclerosis.

I never knew Shayne before his body was ravaged by the chronic disease that finally claimed his life. Shayne was like so many of the people I've met through my work over the years. Like a smokejumper, I parachuted into the inferno that was his personal hell and stayed there for just long enough to do my job and sense the heat he endured daily, but nowhere near long enough to feel his pain.

I met Shayne in May 2006 through two of his friends, one of whom was his state-authorized medical marijuana provider. Although Shayne was one of only 29 Vermonters who, at the time, was legally permitted to use cannabis to treat his symptoms, an overly zealous staffer at the Starr Farm facility called the police in the summer of 2005 after she spied a joint among his belongings. You can read my original story about Shayne here. 

File photo credit: Matthew Thorsen

Continue reading "In Memoriam: Shayne Higgins" »

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