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Willis L. Curtis

WOODSTOCK - Willis Lansing Curtis died at home in his 94th year on April 18, 2011.

He was born on September 25, 1917, in Marlborough, Mass., son of John Arnold and Dorothy Rumsey Curtis. Will attended Westminster School in Simsbury, Conn., and graduated from Vermont Academy in 1936. He was married to Jane Pitkin of Scituate, Mass., in 1940.

Although the fourth generation of a shoe manufacturing family, he loved the outdoors and, with wife Jane, moved to Vermont to raise Jersey cattle and run a dairy farm, both in West Hartford and in Hartland.

In the 1960s, realizing that small-scale farming was not viable, the couple bought the Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock. Advertising for the Yankee Bookshop on radio station WNHV led to another career as a radio commentator. His program on Vermont Public Radio, "The Nature of Things," was one of the first to address environmental concerns. It was heard from coast to coast, even in Barrow, Alaska. His commentaries were compiled in two books, "The Nature of Things" and "The Second Nature of Things." In collaboration with Frank Lieberman, Will and Jane published the art history book, "Monhegan, the Artists' Island." In all, they published six books ranging in subjects from Calvin Coolidge's Vermont years to the history of the Green Mountain Club. With Jane, Will participated frequently in Tony Adams' popular WCAX television show, "Across the Fence."

For many years, he took voice lessons and performed in numerous plays at Woodstock's Little Theatre and in the St. James Church choir. He loved anything to do with the outdoors - spring skiing in Tuckerman's Ravine, fly fishing on the White River, backpacking on the Long Trail. In his 70s, he discovered the delights of watercolor painting. Best of all, he loved sitting around the dining room table surrounded by his family and dear friends. He was president of the Woodstock Historical Society and on the board of directors of the Vermont Institute of Natural History. He represented Hartland as Representative in the Vermont General Assembly in 1963, serving on the Conservation and Development Committee. With Jane, he traveled from the Arctic to Patagonia, even tracking Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East.

He was predeceased by his parents and four brothers and a daughter, Elizabeth. He is survived by his wife, Jane, and daughter, Katherine Curtis Donahue, and her husband William Johnston Donahue of Hartland, Vt.; his sister, Louise Hahn of Ontario, Canada; three grandsons, Thomas, Samuel, James; and a great-granddaughter, Alex Helena Donahue-Ochoa. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Eleanore Marshall, and by his first cousin, Virginia Clark, both of Marlborough, Mass.; and many nieces and nephews. Services will be held at St. James Episcopal Church, Woodstock, Vt., on May 7, 2011, at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Vermont Institute of Natural Science, 6565 Woodstock Road, Route 4, PO Box 1281, Quechee, VT 05059; or to the Woodstock Historical Society, 26 Elm St., Woodstock, VT 05091.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Cabot Funeral Home in Woodstock, Vt. Condolences may be expressed at Cabotfh.com.

Published in Rutland Herald on Apr. 20, 2011
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