Sarah Bassett Chamberlain died peacefully on March 29, 2018 at VNA Respite House just short of her 66th birthday after a courageous battle with breast cancer. Sarah was surrounded and supported by many close friends, her faithful, loving brother Glenn and his wife Charlene, and by the skilled, caring staff and volunteers at the Respite House. Even as Sarah’s health declined, her smile and spirit shone brightly and warmed our hearts.
Sarah was predeceased by her parents; by her husband of 27 years, Malcolm Chamberlain in January 2016; and by her sister, Abigail, in 2010. Sarah is survived by her brother Glenn Bassett and his wife Charlene Dauphin of South Burlington, Vt., many cousins, and Mal’s daughter Susan (Chamberlain) Williams and her husband Thomas Williams of Hilton Head, SC, Mal’s son Jerry Chamberlain of Grosse Ile, Mich. and Mal’s grandchildren Katie Williams, Jarret Chamberlain, Shannon (Chamberlain) Gorkewicz, and Briana Chamberlain.
Sarah was born in Havana, Cuba April 10, 1952, the daughter of Lynaford Kershner Bassett and Glenn Bassett. At two, Sarah’s family moved to Flemington N.J. and at 16 they moved to Tiburon, Calif.
Sarah was a devoted daughter to her parents and a loving older sister to Glenn and Abby. According to Glenn, the sole surviving member of their family, Sarah loved her family unfailingly and unconditionally.
As a child Sarah loved riding and winning ribbons with Silver Bell, her spotted appaloosa horse. She was an excellent student, always in the top of her class. This love of learning and academics followed Sarah throughout her life. Sarah attended college at Berkeley and Pomona, Calif., receiving degrees in rural and urban planning. She worked for several years as a city planner in Edmonton, Alberta B.C.
While living in Edmonton, Sarah was married briefly to Ian Mellor. They parted as friends and Sarah often said, “He was a good man.”
In 1981 Sarah moved to Vermont where her family had lived since 1972. She studied anatomy and became certified in Hellerwork and built a successful practice.
In the mid 1980s Sarah’s interest in spirituality brought her to Unity Church in South Burlington and then Essex Junction, Vt. Here she attended services and classes, formed lasting friendships, sang in the choir and volunteered in numerous capacities. Most importantly, Sarah met Mal Chamberlain, the love of her life.
Mal and Sarah married on September 20, 1989. Devoted to one another and beacons of light, love, laughter, compassion and generosity, their marriage of 27 years was a joy to behold. Sarah and Mal embraced a passion for adventure as seen in their love of travel, camping, sailing and hiking. They shared quieter interests as well: music, reading (often reading to one another), listening to VPR, spiritual study. They were deeply committed to volunteering and community involvement. They also enjoyed live theater, movies and live music. Sarah and Mal treasured the company of many friends and family members over the years. A few years ago, Sarah set aside many her many interests to care for Mal as his health declined until his passing in January, 2016.
Sarah was deeply committed to spreading awareness of mental health issues. Her volunteer work at NAMI Vermont is immeasurable. Serving in many roles as president, trainer, teacher and support group leader, Sarah’s visionary leadership helped thousands of Vermont families find hope and strength. Sarah co-authored the NAMI Vermont Resource Guidebook for families, which provides information about mental illness and resources for recovery. Sarah tirelessly taught the 12-week Family-to-Family class throughout Vermont. And, with her colleagues, developed a much-needed one-day workshop. Laurie Emerson of NAMI VT says, “Our hearts are filled with gratitude and appreciation for her contributions, love, and caring. Sarah’s legacy will continue and will always be a part of the work we do at NAMI Vermont.”
Sarah received further training and worked as a community mental health worker for Howard Center Burlington Vermont.
Sarah’s spiritual study brought her to All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne in 2014. Until just weeks ago, she was actively involved on the board, led morning meditations, volunteered for outreach programs, and participated in classes and in the minister internship program.
Sarah was exceedingly generous with her time and volunteered for many organizations such as the Shelburne Food Shelf, the Shelburne dog park, as a mentor at the Shelburne Community School, and as a driver and EMT in training for the Shelburne Rescue Squad. In October 2016, despite the news that her cancer had recurred, Sarah fulfilled a dream and traveled to India where she generously contributed to schools in need.
Sarah loved dogs and dogs loved Sarah. Her most recent faithful canine companion was Jackson. He was devoted to Sarah and, with the help of friends, spent these last weeks curled up on her bed at the Respite House.
Sarah will be remembered for her spirit of adventure, her joy in learning, her keen intellect and articulate expression of thoughts and ideas, her sparkling smile, her compassionate and loving heart. Sarah will be dearly missed as her legacy of light lives on.
A simple memorial service will be held at All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne VT this spring.
Donations in Sarah’s memory are most appreciated.
McClure Miller VNA Respite House
3113 Roosevelt HWY
Colchester, VT 05446
NAMI Vermont at
600 Blair Park Road, Suite 301
Williston VT 05495
All Souls Interfaith Gathering
291 Bostwick Farm Rd
Shelburne, VT 05482