Eric Robert Seidel was born to William Robert Seidel and Patsy Ruth Hursey Seidel on April 14, 1945 in Clovis, New Mexico, where his father was based between missions in World War II. He grew up, along with younger sisters Sue and Beth, in Riviera Beach, Florida, and he spent summers on his grandparents’ farm in Worthington, Ohio. He attended Michigan State University for several years before enlisting in the Navy, where he spent most of his tour in the Mediterranean as the ship clerk. In 1969 he married Ann Moulton. In the 1970s Eric fell in love with the Vermont landscape during a family visit, and it became his beloved home state. He and Ann built their own home in the woods of Berlin, had large vegetable and flower gardens, helped found the local whole foods cooperative, and had one daughter, Lynn, before separating in 1988.
In 1980 Eric became one of the earliest employees of the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) in Montpelier, designing and maintaining countless restaurant, kitchen, classroom and administrative spaces there, and in Essex and Burlington as the school expanded. Eric helped NECI weather the devastating 1993 Montpelier flood, expand their influence internationally, and grew with the school to be Vice President of Planning by the time of his retirement. After retiring he volunteered his time designing the new commercial kitchen at the renovated Montpelier Senior Activity Center and managing the build-up project. Eric greatly appreciated gourmet food, while he also loved sampling donuts out on road trips and the occasional fast-food burger. Although he wore a tie to work for decades, he was happiest in jeans.
In 1992 he married Donna Russo and became stepfather to Jeff, Jeremy, and Janna Carpenter. Eric and Donna’s life together included a shared love of travel, lifelong learning, music of all sorts, outdoor adventures in hiking, biking, skiing, paddling and camping, passion for improving the landscape around their home in Middlesex where Eric also quarried slate, built stone walls, raised berries, fruit, and vegetables, planted trees, enjoyed birdwatching, and maintained a particularly challenging rural driveway. The woods there were his solace, and he spent countless hours harvesting wood, walking, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing the trails through their acreage and beyond, often leading family groups who were less skilled in navigation than he.
Eric treasured time with his family, including visits from daughter Lynn and her husband Edwin and larger family gatherings with all of the children and grandchildren, most often in his Vermont home. Eric was exceedingly generous and skilled in helping their children with home renovation and farm projects, and he kept up a loving banter with his stepson Jeremy for years. His three grandchildren christened Eric “Gumpy”. He shared his wisdom, humor, and presence with them whether hiking, enjoying other adventures, or witnessing their playful antics.
He was a long-term volunteer for the Green Mountain Club, leading groups of volunteers on hikes and to construct and maintain trails and build shelters along the Long Trail of Vermont, notably on Camel’s Hump and near Sterling Pond on Spruce Peak. He also served on the GMC board, and he was recognized with an award for his dedicated trail work.
Eric was also an endless reader, particularly of history, biography, and natural science. He had a lifelong love of classical music, from Bach to Gorecki, and he became very engaged with the Cape Breton and Quebecois Celtic traditions later in his life and greatly enjoyed the contemporary and classical guitar music of his son-in-law, Edwin Munera.
Eric had a special skill for tackling any project he set his mind to, designing or building everything from model ships through a mahogany dresser up to his dream home in Middlesex. His commitment to cutting, stacking, moving, and restacking firewood was both a meditative spiritual practice for Eric and one of his strategies for maintaining physical and mental health into his later years. One unfinished challenge was his goal to kayak, with Donna, the entire shoreline of Lake Champlain, of which they completed over 500 miles.
In retirement, Eric and Donna divided their time between Vermont and Tucson, Arizona where they have a large network of hiking, biking, and petanque club friends. In Arizona they were active members of the Arizona Land and Water Trust and the Archeology Society. They pursued international travel that took them to many destinations for adventures and learning, including to Italy where they often lodged at working farms; to Spain and France; on walking tours in the British Isles; and a memorable trip to Norway with dear friends Andrew and Reidun Nuquist; as well as to the Eastern Provinces of Canada, New England, and National Parks across the United States. Eric’s final trip in 2019 was to revisit Malta, a port of his Navy years, as well as Tuscany and the Adriatic Coast of Italy.
In the final years of his life, Eric suffered symptoms of memory loss and Parkinson’s Disease. In January 2020 he was diagnosed with ALS. While weathering the challenges of the pandemic and need to move for better accessibility, his last year and a half of declining health was supported by Donna’s presence at his side commitment to making his favorite meals in their home at Dove Mountain in Marana, visits from and zooms with friends and family, a warm network of skilled caregivers, neighbors, friends, VA and Mayo Clinic health care providers, and the hospice team of Casa de la Luz. Eric’s loved ones are grateful to those who helped care for him. Eric’s gentle and humble spirit left a deep impression on those who spent time with him at any time in his rich life. A lover of nature, he was a dear friend to many. He will be deeply missed by those he leaves behind.
Eric was predeceased by both his parents. He is survived by his wife Donna Russo, daughter Lynn Moulton of Watertown, MA (son-in-law Edwin Munera), stepson Jeff Carpenter of Hyde Park, VT (daughter-in-law Melanie, granddaughter Lily), stepson Jeremy Carpenter of Montpelier, VT, stepdaughter Janna Clar of Montpelier, VT (former husband Dan [a special friend to Eric], grandchildren Russell and Ada), sister Sue Ross (nieces Jennifer and Cara and their families), sister Beth Henson (brother-in-law Doug and nephews Jason and Patrick and their families). Eric leaves many dear friends who he remained connected to in his later years.
In the fall there will be gatherings in Vermont and Tucson for family and friends to gather and celebrate Eric's life.
Donations can be made in his honor to the Green Mountain Club in Vermont or the Arizona Land and Water Trust.