Obituary: Beth Danon, 1954-2023 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Beth Danon, 1954-2023 

Hinesburg attorney was a fierce advocate for justice

Published January 10, 2023 at 6:01 a.m. | Updated January 24, 2023 at 2:34 p.m.

click to enlarge Beth Danon - COURTESY
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On Friday, January 6, 2023, Beth Ann Danon, 68, died in the arms of her sister, Mary, and best friend, Kate Mulgrew, succumbing to a recurrence of endometrial cancer. Beth lived the last few months of her life first in the warm and welcoming home of her dear friends Susan Sussman and Scudder Parker, and then with her sister, Mary Kehoe, brother-in-law, Jeff Johnson, and niece Libby Dysart. In her last days, she was lovingly cared for by Kate, her best friend of 50 years.

Beth was born in Chicago on May 31, 1954, to William Kehoe and Joan Smith. As a young girl, Beth led her four siblings on endless exciting escapades throughout their North Side Chicago neighborhood, sneaking into hotel lobbies (Marlborough House), climbing on city statutes (Alexander Hamilton), swimming in the conservatory fountain (not allowed), and hunting for wounded turtles, birds and ducks in Lincoln Park (brought them all home). One of her favorite activities was forming clubs with the sole purpose of setting admission requirements she knew her little sister could not fulfill (like riding a bike down a long flight of stairs).

Beth began high school in Mamaroneck, N.Y., after her family moved there in 1967 so her mother could pursue her doctorate at New York University. In January 1969, while in high school, Beth led a group of activists to Washington, D.C., to participate in a nation-wide anti-war demonstration. Thus began Beth’s lifelong pursuit of justice.  

Beth finished high school in Hanover, N.H., and immediately returned to New York. Beth started college at NYU in 1972 and finished at Hunter College in 1984. In the interim, she had a lot of fun, waiting tables in some of the classic folk and jazz clubs of Greenwich Village. Living in New York City enabled Beth to indulge her love of opera at the highest level. Beth went on to CUNY School of Law at Queens College, graduating in 1987. During law school, Beth provided legal services to victims of domestic violence. After graduation, she moved to Vermont to be close to her family, where she lovingly assumed the role of a third parent-figure to Mary’s children, Peter and Libby.

Beth began her legal career as a law clerk to Vermont Supreme Court justice Frank G. Mahady. After completion of her clerkship, she began practicing law as a plaintiff’s attorney. She was a partner at three law firms, most recently at Kohn Rath Law in Hinesburg, and at one time worked as interim director and staff attorney for Vermont Protection & Advocacy. In her 35 years of practice, Beth accepted cases simply because her client needed help. She was never interested in making money. She was only interested in helping people and was drawn to those most in need. Beth was a fierce advocate and highly successful attorney with the highest of ethical standards. One of her many victories included winning equal health care benefits for same-sex partners of University of Vermont faculty and staff, well before such rights became universal.

Practicing law was not enough to fulfill her ardent need to pursue justice. Beth was an early board member, and then president, of Vermont CARES. She served as president of the Vermont Bar Foundation and the Vermont Association for Justice. She was a long-standing member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont. Her work with these organizations is evidence of Beth’s devotion to maintaining a fair and just Vermont community.  

Beth was the least judgmental person anyone could hope to know. She always had time to listen to her friends’ and family’s problems and woes for as long as necessary, often providing profound and helpful insight. She was reliable and willing to help at the drop of a hat. She found great joy in her Birdland community in North Hero, making connections that were deep and dear. Hers was a life well lived.

Though Beth had no children of her own, she was a devoted aunt to her 10 nieces and nephews. But no remembrance would be complete without mention of her adorable dog, Lilly. Her constant and dear companion for over 19 years, Lilly passed away in April 2022, leaving Beth bereft for some time.

Beth is survived by her sister, Mary Kehoe, and her husband, Jeff Johnson, of Shelburne, Vt.; her brother Bill Kehoe and his wife, Kerstin Cmok, of Belmont, Mass.; her brother John Kehoe and his wife, Marina Kehoe, of Statesville, N.C.; and her brother Michael Smith Welch and his wife, Ami Yamasaki, of Tokyo, Japan. She is also survived by her stepfather, U.S. Sen. Peter Welch, and his wife, Margaret Cheney. Her surviving nieces and nephews are Peter (wife Raechel) and Libby Dysart; Lucas and Liam Cmok Kehoe; Leo and Eji Conger; Max Kehoe; Whitney Johnson; Kasey Murray (husband Osa Imadojemu); and Blake (wife Emily) and Steven Murray. She is also survived by her great-nephew, Cassius Dysart, and great-nieces, Sosey Dysart and Theodora Imadojemu.

Our family wishes to extend special thanks to Beth’s friends, too numerous to name, who supported her throughout her last months of life. We are also grateful for the support of UVM Home Health & Hospice; nurse Judy Johnson, whose help was both indispensable and kind; and Beth’s primary care provider, Dr. Susan Weinstein, and oncologist, Dr. Elise Everett.

A service to celebrate Beth’s life will be held on Saturday, January 21, 2023, 4 p.m., at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 152 Pearl St., Burlington, VT.

Should anyone wish to honor Beth’s life with a gift, in addition to holding her memory close to heart, we suggest a donation to either the Vermont Bar Foundation or the Humane Society of Chittenden County.
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