Ellen Putnam: What an obituary can teach us

Published: 7/21/2021 5:40:14 PM

I did not know Yvonne Boucher, though she was part of the background of my life in Northampton — as an occasional substitute teacher for my children in the public schools, and as a frequent fellow walker on our lovely city streets and rail trail.

Upon reading in and between the lines of her recent obituary, I was much moved by the powerful and inspiring life story this petite, quiet woman carried with her. This apparently included fleeing from Germany to Belgium in 1939 with her family at age 10, then emigrating to New York where she eventually graduated from evening high school at age 25.

She proceeded to graduate from Holyoke Community College and then (magna cum laude) Smith College while raising four children and participating in a number of community activities/causes. After earning her doctorate in her 50s, she had a long teaching career in our local schools.

And, of course, the walking — clearly through much of her 91 years. As I say to my family (who are amused by my habit), “This is why I read the obituary”; to remind myself that those who move quietly amongst us are often leading lives of determination, grace and accomplishment from which we could learn much.

Ellen Putnam


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