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Anne Burkhardt

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Anne Schlabach Burkhardt 1916-2012 Anne Virginia Schlabach, a resident of Monument Avenue, died Sunday, March 11, 2012 at her residence. Anne Virginia Schlabach Burkhardt was born on 1 January 1916 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Her mother, Eleanor Hugus Schlabach, came from Wheeling, W.V., and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University. Her father, Otto Maxwell Schlabach, also a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan, received his law degree from Harvard University and returned to La Crosse to practice law. Anne graduated as salutatorian from La Crosse Central High School. She then attended Ohio Wesleyan University where she majored in philosophy under the guidance of Laurence Sears. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated with highest honors. Anne then spent a year in Geneva, Switzerland, studying international relations. Returning to the U.S. in 1938, Anne enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin and earned her PhD in philosophy, working under the direction of the famous humanist philosopher and atheist Max Otto. From 1948 to 1980 she taught Western Philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the modern scholars at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont. Among her scholastic accomplishments was her Revised Edition of the much esteemed source-book, Muelder, Sears and Schlabach, The Development of American Philosophy. In 1972 she married Frederick Burkhardt and later, on her retirement from teaching, joined him to work on "The Darwin Project," the collection and publication of all available correspondence to and from Charles Darwin. Fred, who was a philosopher as well and a former President of Bennington College (1947-57), was the founding editor of the collection, and Anne an associate editor. For 25 years Anne and Fred worked every summer in Cambridge and traveled extensively in search of Darwin letters. They made two boat trips to the Galapagos Islands. Their home in bgtn became the workplace .of the amer d team with Anne managing the copy-editing and proof-reading. They completed their work on the letters before Fred's death in 2007, and the collection has already won several prizes including Britain's Queen's Anniversary Prize. In 1973, after President Nixon and President Zhou En Lai agreed to open relations between China and the USA, Anne traveled to China with Fred who was co-leader of the first delegation of scholars allowed to visit and meet with Chinese scholars. Throughout her life Anne was a lively, spirited, warm-hearted, wonderfully intelligent woman with an amazing ability to identify and support the strengths of other people. She was adored by her younger sisters for her constant, generous, caring presence in their lives from childhood, and in the lives of their children and grandchildren. As a Bennington College teacher and advisor, Anne was often assigned or just took on students who were struggling. Anne looked tirelessly for ways to help them become engaged with and find direction in the strengths which Anne could see so clearly in these young people. Her advice was caring and practical, sometimes stern. She knew how to ask good questions. She had a large view of the world, and she could see a good and exciting place for everyone in it. Never wallowing with any student in adolescent miseries, Anne demanded hard work, and rewarded it with dedication and love. Creating a sense of "family" most everywhere she went, Anne brought together faculty, colleagues, and friends in all sorts of gatherings. The relationships and loyalties thus developed were the foundation of her social and political influence, often behind the scenes, always rooted in her devotion to whatever work she was involved in, and her clear integrity. And she was known not only for her seriousness, but for her fun, and for the sense of humor which could result in practical joking, and in the cheerful command of difficult situations. Once, when someone let the Christmas pie fall to the floor on its way from the kitchen, Anne rescued the situation by scooping the pie off the floor and serving it in pieces with ice cream, saying no one would ever know the difference. They didn't. Her husband Fred often mused about how Anne, unlike many philosophy professors, tried to live her life according to the ideas she taught. Like the American Pragmatic Philosophers she so revered, Anne believed that ideas, at their best, were tools to help one live a better life. This rigorous practicality made her the source of much wisdom. One favorite shared maxim was: "When faced with a large number of tasks, perform the hardest first. It firms the will and forms character." Showing remarkable grit and grace as she aged, Anne managed her own household and carried out its tasks through most of her nineties. She continued to "perform the hardest first" into the week of her death. Anne was one of four Schlabach sisters and a brother. She is survived by her sisters Marian Ramlow of La Crosse, Wis., and Ellen Wright of Lima, Ohio. In addition to her husband she was predeceased by her infant brother Frederick Kent Schlabach, and by her sister Margaret Stewart Dalzell. Anne leaves three step-children: Jane Burkhardt of North Bennington, Vermont; Ross (Janie) Burkhardt of Westport, Conn.; and Susan Burkhardt of Evanston, Ill. She also leaves two step-grandchildren, Gillian and Jonathan Burkhardt. Anne greatly appreciated the extraordinary help she received from her caregiver-companion, Marilyn Weglarz of Bennington, Vt., and longtime assistants Jim Payne, Katie Dodge, and Paul LaChance. Her family are also grateful for the superbly caring assistance of Laurel Audy and Beth Newman of VNA and Hospice of SVHC, and Dr. Richard Dundas. At Anne's request, there will be a private graveside service with family. Guest book condolences may be made at www.maharandsonfuneralhome.net

Published in Bennington Banner from Mar. 12 to Mar. 17, 2012
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