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Richard Ketchum

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Richard M. Ketchum 1922-2012 Richard M. Ketchum, prominent American historian, writer, and editor, passed away on January 12, at Wake Robin, the retirement community in Shelburne, Vt. He was 89 years old and died of natural causes. Ketchum was the co-founder of Blair and Ketchum's Country Journal Magazine, and the author of seventeen books, including six titles focused on the American Revolution. These include the popular Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War, and Winter Soldiers. The Borrowed Years, 1938-1941: America on the Way to War, drew on Ketchum's experience during the Second World War. His most recent book- Down on the Farm (Up in Vermont): A Love Story-is a memoir of life on Saddleback Farm in Dorset, Vermont, where he and his wife, Barbara Bray Ketchum, raised beef cattle, sheep, and goats. Richard Malcolm Ketchum was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., on March 15, 1922. He attended the Linden School and Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh and graduated from Yale University in 1943 with a major in American History, his life-long passion. During World War II he served as commanding officer of a submarine chaser in the South Atlantic. Married in 1943 to Barbara Bray, who danced with Martha Graham, the couple moved to Dorset, Vt., following the War. Mr. Ketchum first worked for the Orvis Co. and then started his own advertising agency. In 1951 he joined the United States Information Agency, in Washington, D.C., where he was in charge of the overseas publications program. He and his family moved to Bronxville, N.Y., in 1956, when he joined American Heritage Publishing Co. He became Editorial Director of the Book Division, and was Associate Editor of American Heritage Magazine as well as vice-president and director of the company. During that time, he edited many of the firm's books, including The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. In 1974, he and his wife returned to Vermont, where he and William S. Blair founded Blair and Ketchum's Country Journal. He was editor of the magazine until its sale in 1984. His monthly essays for the magazine, entitled Letter From the Country, were collected in the anthology Second Cutting. Ketchum and his wife, Barbara, were deeply involved in environmental and conservation issues at the local and state level. The Ketchums were founding members of the Mettowee Valley Conservation Project and Dorset Citizens for Responsible Growth. Mr. Ketchum served as chairman of the board of the Vermont chapter of the Nature Conservancy. An active supporter of the arts, Ketchum was the first executive director of the Southern Vermont Art Center. He was later a trustee of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Vermont Historical Society, and Vermont Public Radio. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition to his published books, Ketchum-who liked to call himself the "town crank"-was well known for his pointed yet humorous letters to politicians of every stripe. His articles, opinion pieces, letters, and Op Eds appeared in New England newspapers, as well as in The New York Times, and covered a wide variety of subjects, from American history to conservation, politics, land use, and farming. In 2011, National Public Radio's Storycorps program profiled Richard and Barbara Ketchum for their Memory Project. An excerpt of the interview was aired on Vermont Public Radio and was part of the Memory Quilt exhibit at the Shelburne Museum. Richard Ketchum was devoted to his wife, Barbara, of 68 years, who preceded him in death by only three months. He will be remembered for his keen sense of humor, his passion for the natural world, and his belief in the importance of history. He leaves his daughter, Liza Ketchum and her husband, John H. Straus: a son, Thomas Bray Ketchum and his wife, Pauline Dent Ketchum; his sister, Janet Grayson Whitehouse, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, a niece and two nephews, and a wide circle of friends. A Circle of Remembrance will be held at Wake Robin Community Center, 100 Wake Robin Drive, Shelburne, Vermont on Saturday, January 21st, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Vermont Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, or the Richard M. Ketchum American History Fund at Yale University.

Published in Bennington Banner on Jan. 14, 2012
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