Obituary: Elizabeth Amaden, 1943-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Elizabeth Amaden, 1943-2020 

West Topsham woman "had a way of bringing happiness" to others

Published December 9, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated December 9, 2020 at 1:24 p.m.

click to enlarge Elizabeth Amaden - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Elizabeth Amaden

Elizabeth "Liza" Anne Johnson Amaden passed away on December 7, 2020, at the age of 77. Liza was raised by Muriel and Lawrence Johnson in New Hope, Pa., with her brother Ron and sisters Audrey and Kathy, who knew her as "Betsy."

The sisters were great fans of "American Bandstand" and often had living room dance parties when they got home from school. Ski trips inspired a love of Vermont, and Liza moved to the Green Mountains in the mid-1960s; here, she married dairy farmer Jim Ameden and raised three children — Will, Don and Josie — on a farm in Londonderry. Liza helped to bring a whole new set of ideas to a historic multigenerational dairy, introducing a thriving vegetable business, occasional veganism to the family table, plastic bag recycling and enthusiastic skinny-dipping. She loved her old motorcycle, haying the fields and milking cows. Liza also brought music to the farm. She played guitar and sang, both to her family and at the local church. The three generations that have followed her have absorbed her love of music and singing together at family gatherings.

Always a good teacher, Liza was a cofounder and teacher at the Green Mountains Community School House, an alternative elementary school, and also taught at the East Hill Farm School. She was involved in passionate advocacy for nuclear weapon disarmament, which included local campaigning and spearheading a group of Vermonters to march at the 1982 nuclear disarmament rally in New York City.

In the mid-'80s, feeling a strong connection with the Indigenous peoples of Central America, Liza went back to school and graduated from Skidmore College's "University Without Walls Program" with a degree in Spanish and Latin American studies. She spent two years living with families in Guatemala and Costa Rica, learning about their life and culture.

In the early-'90s, Jim and Liza chose different roads to follow and parted ways as lifelong friends and co-parents as Liza moved to Iowa to study transcendental meditation, and then to California to earn a licence as a hatha yoga instructor. She later returned to the East Coast and Massachusetts, where she worked at Maharishi Veda Health Center and contributed to the growth of Gaia Herbs, where she met her partner Mark Dello Russo. As farm manager at Gaia Herbs, Liza oversaw the company’s move to Asheville, N.C., where she and Mark lived for a couple years until the call of her beloved grandchildren — Sierra, Cody, Silas, Wesley, Georgia, Tabor, Wyatt and Clara — brought her home to Vermont.

Liza had a passionate and lifelong appreciation for animals and the natural world. She was a vegetarian and would not kill a fly or a tick even if she found one crawling on her. She would just say, "Hello, little one" and brush it gently away. The gardens and the forestscape of her Topsham home were both beautiful and abundant. She loved playing with her grandchildren and had a way of bringing happiness to people around her.

Liza spent the last few years of her life loved and cared for by the wonderful staff at Maple Ridge Memory Care, where her dancing, creativity, and sense of community and fun brought joy to both residents and caregivers.

A celebration of Liza’s life will be held at a later date. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers or donations, those who knew and loved this wonderful woman protect and nourish their local landscape and the creatures who live there by perhaps planting a tree, hanging a pollinator house or introducing a child to gardening.

Arrangements are being made through Guare & Sons Funeral Home. Online condolences may be left at

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