BRATTLEBORO- Wendy Frances Ingraham, 70, died at home on January 29, with a great big smile on her face.
She was born in Newton, MA, to William and Mimi (Burns) Ingraham on April 6, 1949. Wendy was the second youngest of five girls, and was bullied a lot by her older sisters. The family briefly moved to Southern California before moving back East to Connecticut. In her youth she loved to ride horses, and she worked at a stable in trade for riding lessons. She told many stories of galloping wildly through the fields and forests, riding bareback and jumping fallen trees.
She was always happiest in the forest and out in nature, so in her early 20s she made many trips to Vermont, camping and staying in communes near Brattleboro and Putney with friends, and getting to know the area. She fell in love with the Green Mountain State, and moved here in 1973 after having her first daughter, Juniper. She felt that this is where her soul truly belonged. In 1979 she had her second daughter, Melody, and together the two girls solidified her true love in life: being a mom.
Ms. Ingraham was truly a great mom. Despite the many hardships of being a poverty-stricken single mother living on the extensively potholed dirt roads in the woods of Dover Hills with a rusted out beater always missing one piece of the muffler or other, she was somehow always able to keep a positive attitude and keep going in order to provide for her daughters. She cultivated a large vegetable garden. She made the kids do homework immediately upon returning home from school before they could watch “Hart to Hart” or do anything else, so they wouldn’t grow up to be procrastinators. With her own hands she built a simple but really cool treehouse that stood for many years, even long after they moved away. She was a great cook and Swedish meatballs and spanikopita were two of her specialties. Her only flaw was that she worried so much that her children had to gift her the “Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Expert Advice for Extreme Situations.”
Ms. Ingraham was an incredible artist and was always encouraging her children to engage in creative arts and crafts projects. She made beautiful woodburnings on both bracket fungi and pieces of wood, delicately burning intricate nature scenes with horses, trees, rivers, and recognizable plants, onto the large dried mushrooms, light-switch covers and coat racks. Her home was decorated with these beautiful little handmade things. They were poor and at Christmas time they would make their own tree ornaments out of shredded wheat (!), cardboard, colored paper, and clothespins. She managed to get presents and winter clothes each year from the Christmas Stocking in Brattleboro. She took her children on many outings to go hiking and fishing and they spent most of their childhood playing outside in “forts” in the woods of Vermont, thanks to her.
When her daughters were just about grown she went back to school part time at CCV, taking classes while juggling low wage jobs, determined that she would somehow find better paying and more fulfilling work. After taking classes at CCV for several years in the mid-1990s, she decided to return to school full time to obtain her bachelor’s degree.
In 2000, at age 50, Ms. Ingraham earned her bachelor’s degree in Native American History and Anthropology, from Norwich University, the culmination of a lifetime of research, knowledge, and passion for the natural world and its original inhabitants and their history. It was in the pursuit of this degree that she found true happiness and her place in the world.
The happiest days of her life were spent immersed in the wilderness. The woods is where she always wanted to be, studying plants, ravens, geology, and history. She loved backcountry solo hiking and camping, and had a particular love for the northern part of Vermont, Lake Champlain, Button Bay, Dead Creek. She loved tracking, finding feathers, collecting stones, geology, Native American history and anthropology, and nature photography. She also loved working in her flower garden.
Her ancestors were of Scottish descent and she loved to listen to the bagpipes, and dreamed of someday visiting Scotland. She traveled to Northampton each summer, even sick with stage 4 colon cancer that had spread throughout her liver, to hear and dance to her favorite Scottish band, Albannach, at the Highland Games. She looked forward to this every year.
Like an iron fist in a velvet glove, Ms. Ingraham was the definition of strength, beauty, and perseverance and she is and always will be missed tremendously. She kept a positive attitude no matter what the cancer threw at her, she was determined to beat it and no matter how hard things got she kept looking at the bright side. “Hold fast!” she liked to say.
A celebration of life party for her will be held as soon as possible after the current events subside and when gatherings are once again permitted. If friends would like to attend contact email@example.com or Melody at firstname.lastname@example.org and they will let people know as soon as they can set a date.