The town of Charlotte lost two prominent members of its community Monday.
Community members and colleagues shared their shock and sadness at the sudden loss of Martha Illick and her husband Terrence Dinnan.
Vermont state police say the married couple — in their 70’s — were boating with their three-and-a-half-year-old grandson on Lewis Creek when it capsized. Only the young boy survived.
Both were active members in environmental conservation efforts in their community and around the state. In fact, Martha, or ‘Marty’, served as the executive director of a group dedicated to protecting the Lewis Creek.
“She really helped bring state-wide awareness to the importance of considering planning from a watershed perspective,” said Andrea Morgante, President of the Lewis Creek Association.
Together, they founded the organization in the late 80’s.
“We can’t be just within our own little political boundaries. She saw that there needed to be better communication at all levels,” said Morgante.
Marty was also on the Charlotte Planning Commission and worked alongside Chair Peter Joslin for nearly a decade.
“It’s tragic — I can’t think of any other words to use,” said Joslin. “She was a great collaborator, she was very forth right, and just was passionate about her little town, the state, ecology, and very very concerned about the water quality.”
Another colleague and former president of the Charlotte Land Trust said Marty speer-headed critical conversation efforts, namely removing frogbit from Town Farm Bay in Ferrisburgh – an invasive, exotic species the size of lily pads.
“They got tons of volunteers for many years to go in kayaks and canoes…and pulled this stuff out of the spring and put it big laundry baskets and then dump it. Well, darned if we didn’t clean up this very huge bay…now it just comes back in very small amounts,” said Charlotte Land Trust member Frances Foster.
Without Marty’s leadership, care, and passion, boaters would not have been able to use Town Farm Bay. The state would have also had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix it.
“And so that success…you know she would just get on the phone and call all kinds of people or email and say…let’s figure this out,” said Morgante.
Morgante says Terrance was a very supportive husband.
“He was a much quieter guy but totally creative and contributed so much to their lives and to Lewis Creek Association…he was an amazing photographer. Always took the most beautiful photographs that we would use for our post cards when we would invite people to our annual gathering or for our annual appeal or on the website,” said Morgante.
The couple even impacted those a part of the Vermont Fish and Wild Life Department.
“Marty was a very dear friend of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and her passing is a tragic loss. Marty brought agencies together and pushed us to do better for Lewis Creek. She would use our data and show us where there were threats and opportunities,” said Will Eldridge, Aquatic Habitat Biologist with Vermont Fishing and Wildlife.
Eldridge explained a number of state and federal officials were working with Marty to restore passage for fish and other aquatic organisms, woods and wetlands, and flood resilience.
“She showed us how working together we could achieve the biggest wins,” said Eldridge.