Robert E. Sheridan III died on August 21, 2019 at Birchwood Terrace Healthcare Facility in Burlington, Vermont, ten days after his 84th birthday.
Born in Morristown, New Jersey on August 11, 1935, Bob was the first-born son to Robert E. Sheridan II and Rosalie Averill Monahan Sheridan. He grew up on his grandmother Monahan’s dairy farm with an extended family in Mt. Fern, New Jersey, where---despite the fact that his early childhood encompassed the lean, great-depression years---he often spoke of fun-filled, active days, spent tending the farm animals, playing in the various outbuildings, and exploring nature in the fields and woods with his dog Beau-Geste. He described a home filled with warmth, affectionate banter, hijinks, and a crowd around the dinner table. He lived on the farm until his high school years with his parents, four sisters, a younger brother, his paternal grandfather, two grandmothers, and the seemingly-ever-present visiting uncles and aunts.
At age 16 a life-altering tragedy struck, when a gallon can of antifreeze exploded on Bob, causing 2nd and 3rd degree burns over much of his body, nearly costing him his life. He often stated that he owed his survival to his sound physical condition at the time of the fire, having spent his early teens climbing trees assisting his father with his tree surgery business. Nevertheless, he endured a year-long, painful recovery, delaying high school graduation. Very soon after enrolling in Seton Hall University, he answered a spiritual calling, entering a seminary in pursuit of a life as a Carmelite Priest. During his fifth year as a monk at Mt. Carmel College in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, he decided that, while most aspects of the life fulfilled him, celibacy did not. He returned to South Orange, New Jersey, completing a BA in history from Seton Hall University and immediately entered the field of public education. In 1967, he received his M.Ed. in Personnel and Guidance, from Seton Hall University. During the 1960’s Bob taught high school history, elementary school, and served as a guidance counselor in New Jersey. In 1969 a former boss, Robert Dikon, recruited Bob to serve as his Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Orange East Supervisory Union in Bradford, VT, beginning a life-long journey as a school administrator. During the next 30 years he served as Superintendent of Schools in Orange East and Chittenden Central Supervisory Unions, Coordinator of Extension Services and Graduate Lecturer in Educational Administration at Johnson State College, Director of Guidance and then Principal at Milton Junior-Senior High School, and guidance counselor at Bakersfield and Berkshire Elementary Schools. He retired in 1997 as Principal of Bakersfield Elementary School.
An admirable leader, Bob possessed those qualities that earned the enduring respect of students, teachers, and colleagues. He was extremely kind and generous. When things went well on the job, he shared the credit with colleagues and subordinates; in contrast, when results were poor or mistakes were made, he graciously shouldered the blame. He found particular delight in praising individuals in the presence of others. He truly loved helping people actualize their talents, be they students, teachers, or other staff members. Bob was mentor to many. He had an entertaining sense of humor with the ability to laugh at himself. With his keen perception and understanding of human behavior, coupled with a strong sense of justice, he strove---each and every day---to perform ethically in all situations, holding himself to high moral standards. He expected the same of students, staff, and superiors alike. Bob had the courage to expose and fight unethical behavior or actions when he encountered an abuse of power from those in high places. Refusing to be seduced by the comfort of job security inherent in staying silent, or “turning a blind eye,” he chose the more difficult, risky path of speaking truth to power. He was particularly intrepid, and strong-willed when an injustice harmed the least powerful within his custody---the students. He felt duty-bound to, not only protect, but also inspire them by setting the right example. He did not always prevail in his battles, and in several instances resigned his position rather than abandon his values. People and principles were always more important to Bob than titles, prestige, or money. No matter the challenges, he brought his eternal optimism, bias for action, and enthusiasm to every endeavor.
Throughout his career, Bob served on various boards and commissions, and was often recognized for his contributions in the field of public education. He was particularly proud of having been honored by the Vermont Council on the Arts as a 1978 recipient of the “Award of Merit for Distinguished Services to the Arts,” and his “Certificate of Appreciation” awarded by the Vermont Alliance for Arts Education in 1979. Bob firmly believed in the value of the arts in childhood development. He was an unwavering advocate for funding of music, dance, theater, and visual arts even in times of austere budgets. Of the recognition Bob received from his life’s work, he cherished most of all the admiration and expressions of gratitude he received from students. The Milton High School Senior Class of 1989, for example, dedicated its yearbook to Bob with the inscription: “You are an inspiration to us and when we look back at our senior high school years, you’ll be the one we remember. Thank you for making our years something to be proud of !!”
Bob enjoyed his retirement years in the Mount Mansfield area. If Bob was not abroad visiting his wife, who was still working in Russia until 2005, he could usually be found engaged in some form of social interaction. It might be at the side of the road, smiling and chatting with neighbors as he walked one of his adored Scottish Deerhounds, or high above the ground on a friend’s property, helping remove ice dams, or wielding a pruning saw to save an injured maple tree. Bob was generally a modest person, not given to bragging, but he so enjoyed showing off his lack of fear of heights and the arborist skills he gained working for his Dad. Although he had many intellectual pursuits---quietly pondering and reading about the cosmos or trying to comprehend Steven Hawking or Einstein’s theories---he was rarely at home for long unless he was executing one of his massive landscaping projects or entertaining friends. Bob often invented reasons for a surprise celebration for someone. He delighted in treating friends at local restaurants, never forgetting to compliment the chef or leave a large tip.
Above all, Bob was a “people person.” With child-like innocence, he simply loved people---old/young, rich/poor---it mattered not. He always had good wishes or a sincere compliment to give to acquaintances and strangers alike. Bob was loved in return and will be missed by many.
Bob leaves his wife of more than 39 years, Doreen J. (Boyle) Sheridan, a daughter and son from his first marriage, Lauretta Sheridan of South Burlington, VT and Robert E. Sheridan IV of Hinesburg, VT, three grandchildren: Robert E. Sheridan V, of Hinesburg, Gerald Sheridan of St. Albans, VT, Angela Simpson of Atlanta, GA, and one granddaughter, Nevaeh Sheridan of St. Albans. He is also survived by his siblings: sister Rosalie Guest, of Torrington, CT, brother David Sheridan and sister-in-law Karen Sheridan of Somerville, NJ, sister Judy Meyer and brother-in-law James Meyer, of Raleigh, NC. and brother-in-law, Dennis J. Boyle of Orchard Park, NY. He was predeceased by his sister, Marie Drew of Clermont, FL. His eldest sister, Jeanne Knowles of Bushnell, FL, passed away on August 23rd, two days after Bob’s passing. He also leaves a multitude of beloved nieces and nephews, their children and grandchildren, as well as many cousins, all totaling numbers far too great to mention each by name.
His wife would like to thank his caregiver, Monica Morano, not only for the loving care she provided Bob, but also for lessening her own heartache through the gentle guidance she so selflessly gave during Bob’s illness. Doreen would also like to express her gratitude to the devoted caregivers at Birchwood Terrace for the joy and comfort given Bob, and the peace of mind the Birchwood family provided her over the past difficult eight months. Donations in Bob’s memory may be made to the Birchwood Terrace Residents’ Activities Fund at 43 Starr Farm Road, Burlington, VT 05401. Friends and family will be invited to share memories at a celebration of Bob’s life to be announced at a later date. Condolences may be sent to Lavignefuneralhome.com