So Long Neighbor

Dec. 7, 2022  |  Woodstock, VT

When we bought our house in Woodstock, one of the first people to greet us was neighbor Ducky Freeman. Greet may be a bit strong, I think her first goal was to make sure the house wouldn’t be occupied by a bunch of hell raisers or somebody who change the neighborhood. Ducky turned out to be a great friend.

Ducky passed away today at age 81.

Initially we were part time residents of Vermont. It took a while to get to know Ducky, she was pure New England, independent, tough, opinionated and not afraid to let you know what she thought. Ducky didn’t like change, especially when things were working just fine as they were.

Ducky has some property in Pomfret, the next town north of Woodstock. She was hesitant to talk about it much at first but one evening over dinner at our house she opened up a little about it. I was telling her how I had a fairly hard time finding places in Vermont to photograph because most land is privately owned and I’m not much for trespassing. She asked if I would like to go with her to Pomfret. Of course! When? she asked. Tomorrow was my response and we agreed to go at sunrise.

We drove to Pomfret and I turned my Jeep onto a one-lane dirt road. Ducky pointed out the barn her father built, told me where a little quarry was and about 1/2 mile in we came upon a house. It wasn’t being used then, she rented it at times but it was empty. The road went from small to mini. It was pretty rough and as we came up over a little crest there was a beautiful pond. We got out and walked around. Such a wonderful place and very serene. There’s a little dock in the pond and Ducky said that if I’m every there and she was swimming to look the other way because she liked to skinny dip.

She then asked if I wanted to see The Pinnacle. I said I didn’t know what that was but sure. She said it was a bit of a hike but I figured if a woman 15 years older than me could make it so could I. Of course I was carring a full load of camera gear and as we walked through the woods it got steeper and steeper. Then she asked if I was ready for the big incline. I was breathing pretty hard but she zipped right up. Once I made it to the top the view was incredible. Some trees had grown up so it was no longer a 360-degree view but it was spectacular looking into New Hampshire and over to Killington, 30 miles away.As we were standing there I noticed tire tracks and asked her if one could drive up there. Oh yea, she said, a four wheel drive can make without any problems. That was Ducky, why drive someplace when you could walk?

Ducky was thrilled to share her property with me and Robin. I’m privileged to go quite often, been to the pinnacle many times but haven’t hiked it again. She loved when I would take workshop participants to photograph the property. Several times she would be outside her house when we got back and everyone would yell Thank You across the street. Ducky would beam.

Ducky was walking her dog in a nearby park about three years ago. Some people were playing pickleball, she had seen them before but have never tried it. Ducky being Ducky, she tied her dog to the fence and hopped onto the court. Fairly soon she planted her foot to lunge for a ball and her leg shattered in five places. That was the beginning of the end. She went through rehab and fought hard but soon some dementia set in. The last few months she has been in a nursing home, which is about as anti-Ducky as can be. I knew she wouldn’t hold on very long. She died the way she lived – her way.