Jere Urban, 70, of Monkton
MONKTON — Jere Urban, 70, passed away due to pancreatic cancer on March 15, 2021, on the hillside in Monkton where he and his wife Robin Shalline, his love of 45 years, built their own home, raised a family, and cultivated a beautiful life together. In front of him was the fireplace his friend Phil had built; behind him were the Adirondacks, the first place he felt home, and a place that would call him back for adventures throughout his life. Surrounding him were his dear loved ones.
Jere grew up outside of New York City with two older sisters, Alix and Xenia, and their adventurous parents, Jerome and Xenia. His family made frequent fishing, canoeing and hiking trips to the Adirondacks, where Jere forged a deep connection with nature, especially water.
During his younger years, Jere found joy in athletics. His grit, heart, and quick thinking on the field would continue to be qualities that others appreciated in him and that he developed throughout his life. He attended Deerfield Academy where, like many young people during the ’60s, Jere felt ambivalent about his place in the world, but also appreciated the opportunity for an excellent education.
Following high school, Jere continued to explore his sometimes unconventional interests. At age 18, to his father’s dismay, Jere drove his mom’s pink Cadillac to the Woodstock music festival. Although his parents expected him to pursue a medical career at St. Lawrence University, Jere grew interested in learning practical homesteading skills. Living in a farmhouse with friends, Jere kept goats, hayed fields, repaired cars, made dandelion wine, and found more courage to be himself.
Upon graduation, Jere hitchhiked from New York to Alaska. In typical Jere fashion, he had a wild idea and went for it. Venturing down the Yukon River with hitchhikers he’d met along the way, Jere scavenged wood from an old sawmill and fashioned a raft, floating 300 miles through the Canadian wilderness. The group ate well, fishing for grayling and trading Molson for moose meat. A lasting image from that trip is of hearing the roar of rapids up ahead as they approached the U.S. border at midnight.
Despite finding great adventure, time in the wilderness revealed a longing for community and relationships. Jere returned to the East Coast, landing among like-minded people at the Kingsland Bay School in Ferrisburgh, Vt., an experiment in community living and holistic education, where he worked as a house parent and teacher. There he met the love of his life, Robin. The story goes that Robin was leaving on a road trip to Maine, and on a whim invited Jere. He was game (and already an admirer). What could have been a seven hour trip turned into thirteen as the two made stops for beachcombing, picking up hitchhikers, and falling in love. It was the beginning of a life together full of adventure and spontaneity.
At Kingsland Bay, Jere developed his skills in helping young people. He enrolled in UVM’s graduate program in Counseling and this became his life’s work. Jere recognized his privilege and harnessed it to elevate the lives of those without similar opportunities. He brought this spirit of service to work in community health organizations and local schools, particularly Bristol Elementary School where he was a Guidance Counselor for thirty years. Jere loved the BES community.
Jere’s proudest accomplishment was raising his family in the home he built with his own hands. When he and Robin first visited the land in March 1980, they skied to the back meadow and saw a pair of bluebirds, which sealed the deal. After marrying, they cultivated kids and gardens with great care and attention. An indomitable team, they worked tirelessly on projects, knew each other’s strengths, and found ways to make the impossible happen. Jere’s determined and inventive spirit is everywhere on the property; from the stone walkway to the swingset he built for his grandchildren. Jere left the land more beautiful than he found it.
“Bear,” as Jere was known by his family, appreciated the small wonders of his home: fireflies in the field, a homemade meal from the garden, children digging for worms, one last sled run at sunset. He inspired his family to pursue lives of meaning and wonder, to seek out adventure and to foster relationships. Bear loved deeply and openly, would cry easily when moved or inspired, and expressed love through actions: homemade gifts, a sure hand on the tiller, small acts of kindness. During his passing we shared that it is now our turn to take the helm and to paddle him around the bend to his next journey.
Jere is survived by his wife, Robin Shalline; son Chris (Mara Mueller) and their children Aurelia and Juniper; daughter Anna (Asa Sourdiffe); and son Cam (Marta Solomianko); sister Alix Keast (Tom Banasiak) and niece Emma; sister Xenia Urban (David Ford) and nephew Alex (Allegra Shum); brother-in-law Paul Shalline (Susan) and nephew Jason; and cousin Peg O’Malley. He will be missed by many dear friends.
A celebration of Jere’s life will be held later this spring. If you’d like to make a donation in Jere’s memory, please consider contributing to the landscaping committee at the new Monkton community center. Jere devoted significant time to this project and imagined people gathering and enjoying the view of the surrounding pond and mountains. Checks can be written to: Town of Monkton. Mail to: Bill Joos, Treasurer, P.O. Box 12, Monkton VT, 05469. Subject line: Community Center Landscaping (in memory of Jere Urban). ◊
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