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Elizabeth Faris

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Dr. Elizabeth Faris SHAFTSBURY -- Dr. Elizabeth C. Faris, who with her husband, Dr. Arthur S. Faris, formed a team that served their community with compassionate medicine for a half century, died peacefully April 15 at her home on Main Street after several months of declining health. Known to many as "Doctor Bette," she had endeared herself to the Shaftsbury community, especially for her attention to children in the elementary school and for her moral compass and sense of social justice that derived from her experience growing up during the Great Depression. Born in Greece, Monroe County, N.Y., on March 22, 1928, a daughter of Wesley and Margaret Anne Hutchinson Cunningham, she earned a bachelor's degree in 1949 at the University of Rochester, and, when she graduated from the Albany Medical School in 1953, had the distinction of being one of five women in a class of 50. While at the University of Rochester, Bette worked summers at Eastman Kodak. She started to follow the career of her mother, who was a nurse, but preferred the challenge of going beyond that to become a doctor. In 1954, soon out of medical school, the Faris' chose Shaftsbury from a list of communities in need of family physicians. In the early days, they charged $6 for an office visit and were known for extra attentiveness to patients, either in their home office which also had been "the doctors' house" in earlier times in Shaftsbury or to those in the hospital. Sometimes patients paid them in lieu of money with cakes or other gifts, and in one instance, with chickens. When Medicare and Medicaid came along, Dr. Bette and her husband stretched the rules to give far more time to their patients than was approved for compensation. They were widely known to be among the last doctors to make house calls. In recognition of their contribution to the community, the town of Shaftsbury held a reception called Faris Day in 1979 to mark the 25th year of their practice. Dr. Bette Faris served for many years as executive secretary of the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians and kept that position long after her retirement. The organization honored her for being "the guiding light of the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians for decades." She and Arthur, who both favored the concept of "family practice" as a medical specialty, often combined their attendance at annual meetings of the American Academy of Family Physicians with vacations in cities all over the U.S. Bette Faris led a Renaissance life. In addition to her active medical practice, she was the loving mother of four children, a skilled gourmet cook, an accomplished knitter and seamstress, a sports fan (Mets, Red Sox, New England Patriots), a hiker and camper, a student of public issues and an active participant in local Democratic politics, an elected justice of the peace, a gardener, a traveler, a music lover, and a strong swimmer who insisted on music and swimming lessons for her children. Rather late in life, she took up fly fishing, joining her husband in membership in the Wantastiquet Trout Club at Weston, Vt. Even though each parent was nearly always "on call" at the hospital, Dr. Bette maintained a close-knit family that always had dinner together in a home filled with books, conversation, and wide variety of friends. She and Arthur Faris, whom she met at medical school, were married in 1952. Besides her husband, she leaves sons, Tom of Jericho, twins, Greg of Paris,France, and Chris of St. Johnsbury; daughter Ann of Manchester, and Ann's son, Jaalid Amoroso, who resides with his mother; nephews, nieces, cousins; a sister, Margaret "Peg" Hathaway of Oneonta, N.Y., and close friend, Alice Miller of Shaftsbury. MEMORIAL NOTICE: A Memorial Service is being planned for this summer in Shaftsbury, the date and location will be announced at a later date. Memorial gifts in her memory may be made to the Shaftsbury Fire Department in care of the HANSON-WALBRIDGE FUNERAL HOME, 213 West Main Street, Bennington, VT 05201. To send condolences to the family please visit www.sheafuneralhomes.com.
Published in Bennington Banner on Apr. 17, 2009
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