KATHY A. SEARLES - SOUTH BURLINGTON - Kathy A. Searles, 63, of South Burlington, died on Sunday, April 21, 2013, in the Vermont Respite House in Williston, following a brief but heroic battle with pancreatic cancer. As she faced death, her remarkable courage and good humor was a great comfort and inspiration to the many family and friends who gathered around her. She was a strong, highly intelligent, fiercely independent woman who dedicated her whole life to social justice and helping others. Her firmly held beliefs were always tempered by her quick wit and humorous nature. She will be greatly missed. Kathy was born in New Haven, Conn., on Feb. 2, 1950, the first daughter, and second child of Vincent Richard Searles and Frances Theresa (Edwards) Searles. When she was two years old, the growing Searles clan moved to Vermont where Kathy spent the rest of her life, except for relatively brief forays to Binghamton N.Y., and the wilds of Montana in the early '70s. Most of her early education was in the public schools of Essex Junction and Essex Junction High School, where she graduated in 1968. She then moved on to the University of Vermont where she earned her bachelor's in psychology and her master's in counseling. Most of her graduate work was done while working full time as a counselor and social worker. During the folk music boom of the early mid1960's, Kathy taught herself to sing and play the guitar. She had a pure beautiful soprano singing voice and performed in local folk clubs, as well as on live television programs in Vermont and Poland Spring, Maine. She maintained her deep love of music throughout her life. In the very early 1970's, Kathy was one of those who helped establish the Liberty Union party in Vermont. The LU reflected her left-wing politics, and one faction later evolved into the Progressive Coalition. Kathy was also one of the founders of, and the first Shelter Manager of, Women Helping Battered Women, in Burlington. In the 1980's, Kathy used her considerable talents as a grant writer and program developer to start Project Self-Sufficiency at CVOEO, an innovative approach to moving women from public assistance to meaningful careers and economic independence. She was a tireless advocate for, and supporter of, the many young women who successfully moved through PSS. Her example, and role as a mentor, changed many of their lives for the better. From the late 1980's until her retirement in 2012, Kathy had a distinguished career as a Family Therapist for the Baird Center for Children and Families. As always, her focus was on helping others improve their lives. She was a Master Gardener who loved nothing more than tending her backyard garden at her home in South Burlington. Kathy is survived by her father, VR Searles of Springhill, Fla.; brother, Brian Searles and wife, Elizabeth, of Burlington; brother, Chris Searles of Albuquerque, N.M.; brother, Tim Searles and wife, Karen, of Grand Isle; sister, Wendy Young and husband, Robert, of Burlington; brother, Patrick Searles and partner, Karen Fuller, of Burlington; nieces and nephews, Bradley Searles and wife, Amie, of Boston, Mass., Kate Brayton and husband, Jim, of Essex Junction, Sarah Izzo and husband, Dave, of Mechanicville, N.Y., Ben Young and wife, Jess, of Culpepper, Va., Kasten Searles and fiancé, Michael Norton, of Little Rock, Ark., and Kevin Searles of Colchester; as well as several grandnieces and nephews. Kathy was predeceased by her mother, Frances Searles. Kathy fondly remembered numerous beloved four-legged friends including Chaucer, Farley, Ivan, Percy, Bob Searles, Sophie and Willa. The Searles family would like to offer their thanks to the oncology staff at FAHC, with a special recognition of Hany Abdullah, as well as the staff of the Vermont Respite House. They would also like to thank Kathy's dear friends, Deborah Kutzko and Jim Merrill, for their help and kindness. A celebration of Kathy's life will be held at the St. John's Club in Burlington at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. All are invited. Gifts in Kathy's memory may be made to the Vermont Respite House, 99 Allen Lane, Williston, VT 05495.

Published in The Burlington Free Press from Apr. 23 to Apr. 28, 2013