Marcia Jean (Masterson) Perry died Wednesday, January 18, 2023, at the age of 73, surrounded by loved ones at her home in Starksboro, Vermont, after a six-month struggle with pancreatic cancer.
Marcia was born on December 8, 1949, in Middlebury, Vermont, to Margery Louise (Bent) Masterson and Edward Charles Masterson. She spent her early life in Bristol and South Bristol, where her love for nature was instilled when her father, Ned, took the girls fishing, hiking, and picnicking.
When the family moved to Brandon, Marcia began playing the clarinet in Band and became involved with an active youth fellowship at the Methodist Church. She was also a hardworking and spirited employee at the Rexall Drugstore and Shapiro’s Department Store. She graduated from Otter Valley Union High School in 1967, attended Castleton State College and lived briefly in Florida and Rhode Island before returning to Vermont in 1970, residing in Rutland and Shrewsbury. She was married for a short time to Robert Norton of Florida, with whom she had her son, Chad, in 1970. She worked for several years at the First Vermont Bank & Trust Company in Rutland, and in 1971, she met Peter Osterhoudt of Glens Falls, N.Y., and he soon joined her and Chad’s family. The three moved to Vershire, Vermont, in 1973 when she and Peter began working at the Vershire School, a private boarding school.
The Vershire School was founded on the concept that young teenagers undertaking a college prep curriculum could also benefit from a strong hands-on experiential component. Faculty were given a great deal of freedom to develop programs and learning opportunities for students. Marcia thrived in this environment, operating, with Peter, for several years, a Pioneer and Wilderness Summer Camp. Their program provided a camp-based focus on homesteading, gardening, and building primitive living facilities; and a wilderness focus on backpacking, canoeing, and climbing, both in remote areas in the northeast, and in the Canadian and Colorado Rockies. During the school year, Marcia helped lead months-long, culturally immersive residences in Mexico, and shorter excursions to Greece and to the Grand Canyon. At her home at the school, Marcia engaged in her own homesteading activities – gardening, keeping a milk cow, and raising huskies.
During this time, Marcia completed her bachelor’s degree in biology and secondary education at Norwich University, and then began her teaching career in Biology, Spanish, English, and Music at Vershire. She eventually served the school as Director of the Academic Summer School, Director of Studies, and Director of Judgment Ridge [Summer] Camp. In this period of her life, Marcia expanded her sense of adventure and opportunity, and gained self-confidence and a strong sense of her own personal integrity and leadership capacities. She honed her pedagogical skills and discovered her innate compassion and talent for nurturing students with learning differences and personal challenges.
While at Vershire, Marcia met Tom Perry of Dover, Massachusetts, an English teacher who became her best friend, travel companion, and loving husband in a marriage that spanned almost 40 years. There, Marcia also met her two dear lifelong friends, Sheri Amsel and Sara Lyda.
In 1984, Marcia taught at the Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, N.J., then returned to Vermont to settle with Chad, and Tom, in Burlington. There, Marcia worked as a Chapter One tutor with teenagers at St. Joseph’s Group Home, and, in 1987, she and Tom welcomed a daughter, Caitlin, into their lives. Also at this time, Marcia and Tom began their life in Starksboro, first at a tiny off-grid stone cabin half a mile up a four wheel drive road above the Huntington Valley, where they spent most of their free time. Later they purchased a partially converted dairy barn in the same part of Starksboro, which they spent the next 25 years transforming into their home. Marcia kept goats, chickens, and geese, and expanded her gardening and beekeeping hobbies. She embraced the nuances of country life and the ecosystems around her, and she had lively interactions with her flocks and herds in the barn each morning! She also loved birdwatching, reading, knitting and fiber arts, sitting on her porch, and connecting with loved ones on a long walk or around a dinner table.
Marcia’s teaching career continued to broaden over the course of her working life. She enjoyed lengthy tenures at the Pine Ridge School in Williston, the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne, Rice High School in South Burlington, and at the Stern Center for Language and Learning in Williston. She also taught at U32 High School in Montpelier, at Vergennes Union High School, and at Burlington’s Mansfield Hall. [CP1] During the spring before she died, Marcia briefly became a substitute teacher in her local school district until her illness made that impossible. She also served her local community as Starksboro’s Green Up Day Coordinator for ten years, as a Meals on Wheels driver, and at the Starksboro Community Food Shelf.
Marcia loved to laugh, especially at the ironies in life, and believed one may as well be dead without a sense of humor. She was a bit irreverent and a little rebellious, but she could also listen – really well, in fact. She was a supportive, perceptive mentor whom many relied on as a confidant and advisor. She raised her two children with openness, trust and respect, and made her home inviting and comfortable – a space filled with beloved dogs and cats, houseplants, photos of her favorite people, and fresh flowers. Marcia’s supportive presence was the foundation for her close relationships with all, including every one of her nieces and nephews, making her a special and beloved aunt.
Marcia’s other real passion was to travel and explore new places. She brought her children, husband, and students on frequent road trips throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. She enjoyed additional travels to Alaska, Europe, Japan, and the Caribbean. She firmly believed in the power of “a change of scenery” to uplift one's mood and change one’s perspective.
Marcia is survived by her husband, Tom Perry; her son, Chad Osterhoudt of Duxbury (Jodi Shippee); her daughter, Caitlin Perry of Pittsfield, Massachusetts (Victoria Arnoldi); her sisters, Margo Masterson of Brandon, Margaret Fish of Maidstone (Robert Fish), Jennie Masterson of Brandon (Len Schmidt), and Josie Masterson-Glen of New Haven (William Glen); as well as numerous nieces, nephews, grand nieces and nephews, cousins, and friends.
A service celebrating Marcia’s life will be held later in the spring or summer at a location to be announced. If desired, to honor Marcia’s life, donations may be made to Addison County Home Health and Hospice or Starksboro First Response.
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