Robert Gannett - 'genuine statesman' - dies at 95

Monday August 27, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- A former Windham County Representative and State Senator died this weekend at the age of 95.

Robert T. Gannett, of Brattleboro, was a man who was dedicated to public service.

Born in Boston, Gannett received his law degree from Harvard University in 1942 and then shortly after, joined the U.S. Army in the midst of World War II.

He served as Major Field Artillery until 1946 when his tour of duty was up. When he returned to New England, Gannett moved to Brattleboro and for the next half-century, worked for his community.

Gannett, a republican, was elected as a member of the Vermont House for four terms starting in 1953 and re-elected in 1955, 1957 and 1959.

He also served as a trustee for the Brattleboro Retreat, president of the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, director of the United Way of Windham County and National Life Insurance Company as well as trustee of the American College of Probate Counsel and the Vermont Community Foundation.

After taking a 14-year hiatus from politics, practicing law, Gannett ran for Windham County State Senator seat and the voters elected him again and again for 10 terms from 1973 until 1992.

During the last Legislative session, Gannett was honored for his many years of dedication and hard work for the state of Vermont.

When Gannett arrived in the state's capital in January 1953, it was his legal expertise as a respected attorney that garnered him a seat on the judiciary committee and then two years later, his appointment to the appropriations.

"His rapid mastery of budgetary minutiae was a prelude to his service as committee chair during the 1957 and 1959 biennia," his biography stated in the legislative session minutes.

Gannett, along with his wife Sarah Alden Derby Gannett, who died in 1999, were champions for the Long Trail and getting state financial assistance to establish a permanent corridor for the popular hiking route.

One senator from Barre Town said that Gannett's service in the General Assembly, as an attorney and in the community at large "epitomized the work of a genuine statesman."

Following the reading of Gannett's accolades, Rep. David Deen, D-Westminster, shared his experiences getting to know Gannett, whom he called "consummate gentleman."

"In the early 1980s, the federal Congress changed the federal law and basically disenfranchised the Community Action Agencies in Vermont," said the former executive director of the South East Vermont Community Action Agency. "The way out of this seemingly impossible situation was to pass state legislation that recognized the Community Action Agencies as state agencies. This was not an easy task since the CAAs had always been federally funded, ran federal programs and served the most vulnerable people in Vermont so there was no large constituency for (them). Even though Sen. Gannett and I are at different places on the political spectrum, he responded to the plight ... and served as an advocate for passing the necessary state legislation."

Rep. Thomas Koch, R-Washington-4 District, described his friend with the utmost admiration and sense of pride.

"He had a comprehensive knowledge of the workings of Vermont government and he was always willing to listen to those who had questions or suggestions regarding pending legislation, always in a non-partisan manner," Koch said. "In my view, he sets the ideal of how those of us who work in this building ought to go about serving the people of Vermont."


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