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Kenneth Quackenbush, 95, of Westview Meadows, Montpelier, VT, died on May 6, 2012, at Central Vermont Medical Center with his family by his side.
He was born January 28, 1917, in Fonda, NY, the only child of DeWitt and Grace (Albrecht) Quackenbush. He attended high school in Johnstown, NY, acquiring the nickname “Spook.” For two years, he went to Middlebury College on an athletic scholarship where he excelled in football and track. He ran at the Boston Garden where he received the first letter ever given to a freshman. When he left Middlebury, he roomed with friends in Brooklyn Heights and went to work for Birdseye Foods in their minus-20-degree warehouse, good preparation for frigid days at Mad River Glen!
After Pearl Harbor, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps on his birthday in 1942 and spent the bulk of his service in the heat of the South Pacific, then South Carolina.
On January 12, 1944, he married Frances Brackett of Portland, Maine. They had met through mutual friends, corresponded during the war and fallen in love through their letters. Their early years together were spent in North Creek, NY, where they bought a rustic log cabin. Ken became manager of North Creek ski area and in 1949 their daughter Kristi was born.
In 1952, his skiing friend Jack Murphy, manager of Mad River Glen, invited Ken to come be his assistant manager. They packed up Kristi and the cat and moved to Waitsfield, VT. In 1955, they bought their farmhouse with outbuildings and 100 acres on Old County Road and spent countless hours renovating, decorating and creating the beautiful home they enjoyed for 57 years.
When Jack left MRG for Sugarbush, Ken became manager, a post he kept for 25 years. He was president of the corporation for a time and after retirement remained a presence as a consultant. The greater skiing community, along with Roland Palmedo who founded MRG, had great appreciation for Ken’s ability to design trails in keeping with the natural flow of the mountain, his business sense, patience, integrity, sense of humor and knack for managing employees and skiers alike through honesty and mutual respect. Mad River Glen became his life’s work and stands today as a beloved testament to his efforts.
In 1967, Ken and Fran began traveling abroad when the ski season ended. They frequently rented a flat in London and cruises included trips around the Mediterranean, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, down the Nile and the Rhine, Yugoslavia and Russia. They attended numerous dance and musical performances in Montreal and family trips to the Maine coast to visit Fran’s relatives were an annual event.
When he bought his first sailboard, his time on Lake Champlain became his passion, respite and favorite place to get away from his responsibilities. His dear friend from boyhood, Jack Cridland (Crid), and he took weeklong annual sailing trips on Lake Champlain for many years. When a heart valve replacement made sailing too difficult, he bought a lightweight canoe in which he paddled around many Vermont ponds and a Bristol skiff which got him back out on the lake.
He was a devoted father to his daughter, Kristi, and was always happy to include her in what he was doing. He read many a bedtime story, answered at length endless questions and was always patient and kind. He taught Kristi how to ski, swim, sail, fish, dig worms, work, drive and play chess. He provided a good example of how to be in the world.
Ken enjoyed skiing, sailing, soaring, tennis, woodworking, traveling and reading about history and archaeology. He and Fran had a spell of doing western square dancing. He took a lot of pleasure in socializing with their many friends in The Valley and belonged to the “Brown Baggers,” a group of friends who meet every other week for lunch. He continued going until shortly before his death. Although not a joiner of organizations, he spent a term on the Waitsfield School Board and was a member of Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church.
In 2009, Ken and Fran moved to Westview Meadows retirement apartments in Montpelier where they were warmly and eagerly received by the residents. Ken is survived by his wife Frances of Westview Meadows, daughter Kristi Smith and husband Earl of East Montpelier, granddaughter Sophia Smith of Barre, niece Pam Brackett and husband Matt O’Donnell and daughter Phaelon of Wiscasset, Maine, niece Ann Beck and husband Bill and children Johannah and Mitchell of Oakland, Maine, step-grandchildren Justin Smith and Selina Hickman and her husband Troy, all of Portland, Oregon.
There will be a celebration of Ken’s life on October 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Mad River Glen Basebox, Waitsfield. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Mad River Valley Ambulance Service, P.O. Box 305, Waitsfield, VT 05673.