Obituaries

Judith Herbst Witters, 79, of Lincoln

JUDITH HERBST WITTERS

LINCOLN — “Once there was…. there was… and there was not” a storyteller named Judith Herbst Witters. She told many stories, but they were all part of a larger one, her life. As she told her story, it changed into many forms, and whirled around her, moving her across the world and in and out of lives. Some of these stories were beautiful, entrancing, enlivening, and some were difficult and painful. But she held on with the strength of a mother, with the strength of someone who truly loved, because she wanted all these stories to turn into the one thing that is all things: love.

On the morning of May 3, 2024, Judy ended a long struggle with a chronic respiratory illness that she had managed with grace and determination. She was born in Richmond, Ind., where she made many life-long friends and learned her love of horse riding. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from De Pauw University in 1967 and went on to earn an M.A. in Education at the University of Maine, most of an M.A. in English at Boston University, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Vermont College. She lived in many places and loved to travel and have adventures all over the world — Sweden, the American Southwest, Scotland, Madagascar. She started her family with Lee in Massachusetts, and then they followed her heart and moved their family to Norwich, Vt. — a community that was so important to their family life.

During those years, she honed her craft, storytelling, teaching and telling in schools and libraries all over Vermont. Her Christmas stories at the Hanover Inn became an institution. Always, and even more as she aged, other than children, the natural world was most important to Judy. She helped organize a group of naturalists (Keeping Track) who worked to track wildlife corridors in the Upper Valley.

When her third grandchild was born, Judy moved to Lincoln, Vt., to be closer to her children, where she lived tucked against Mt. Abraham with her horses and dogs in a wonderful community. It is in that home where — after days spent surrounded by her whole family — she died peacefully, with her daughter, son, and dog by her side.

In 2016, Judy took stock of her life and wrote some goals that resonate and may serve as a lesson to so many of us. Judy was always so giving and sharing with her curiosity and realizations about life. Her priorities at the end of her life were:

  • “Being IN the natural world fully with my animal friends, the forest animals, water, [and] the seasons.
  • Offering helpful, kind neighboring.
  • Being a sturdy, honest, loving friend.
  • Being a responsible keeper of my own good health.
  • Learning as a pianist.
  • Listening, really listening to my life.”

Judy is predeceased by parents, Robert Emerson Herbst and Margaret M. “Peggy” Herbst. She is survived by her husband, Lee; her son Sean and his wife Christy; her daughter, Molly and her husband Pat; grandchildren Ben, Miles and Hazel; her brother, David Herbst and his wife Lisbeth, and their children Liza, Derek and Martin; and cousins Bill, Dick and Jim Affolter and their families; her horse, Dexter; her loyal dog, Jack; and her cat, Wendell.

In lieu of flowers, we ask people to give in support of two things she loved most: horses and reading. The first is the farm where her horse, Dexter, lives. Eddy Farm has a long tradition of giving back to the community and making horses accessible to many for whom they wouldn’t otherwise be (just like Judy did). Donations to Eddy Farm can be made online at eddyfarmschool.org/ or if you prefer by check to: Eddy Farm, 1815 South Street Ext., Middlebury, VT 05753. The second is the organization with which Judy worked through the years, teaching children and adults the craft of story. Donations to the Vermont Humanities Council can be made in honor of Judith Witters and Vermont Reads online at vermonthumanities.org/donate or by sending a check to: Vermont Humanities, 11 Loomis St, Montpelier, Vt., 05602.◊

 

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