Obituary: Ellen Leonard, 1961-2022 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Ellen Leonard, 1961-2022 

Cofounder of AllTogetherNow! kept music and meditation at the core of her life

Published January 2, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated January 2, 2023 at 1:41 p.m.

click to enlarge Ellen Leonard - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Ellen Leonard
On November 29, 2022, Ellen Gilbert Leonard, 61, passed peacefully in her home, held by her family and friends in a nest of love and song.

She was born in 1961 to R. Webb Leonard and Betty McGee Leonard in Belleville, N.J. The youngest of four children, she attended the Vershire School and graduated from Skidmore College. Early on, she made her own way in the world, and the giving of joy and spirit through music was at the heart of her way.

At age 19, she gave birth to Aaron in a lean-to built by her husband George Jones on Martha’s Vineyard. Soon after, she moved to Vermont to continue her education, which had at its core a lifetime practice of meditation. She taught Aaron to meditate at 3 years old, and that is still a big part of his daily practice. Ellen’s mother was an initiate of Kirpal Singh.

In 1985, she married James LaPaglia, and Sophia and Aliza were born soon after at home, with help from midwife Judy Luce. At that time, another midwife, Katra Kindar, started teaching an Afro Cuban prenatal dance class, with live drumming by Stuart Paton. For more than 35 years, Ellen would sing, dance and teach the life-sustaining songs and rhythms of this Afro Cuban tradition. Also, for more than 17 years, she sang and danced as part of Midnight Capers, a Morris dance troupe.
Throughout the '80s and '90s, Ellen taught music in central Vermont schools, including in Cabot and Waterbury. Ellen also taught private music lessons and Music Together to preschoolers.

Her collaboration with Janice Walrafen included leading the song and dance for All Species Day, Enchanted Forest, Ice on Fire, First Night Montpelier and more. She collaborated and performed with Emily Lanxner on many projects and performed with Dragon Dance Theater. In the words of Katie Trautz, a music student whom she mentored, "She was a rock star.” And, in fact, she was a rock star, having been a touring member of the rock band Uproot.
In 1995, Ellen had a handfasting ceremony with Chris Miksic. Aaron, Sophia and Aliza would grow up with Chris’ three children, Erin, Galen and Amber, in Plainfield through 2003.

In 1999, Ellen opened the AllTogetherNow! Preschool as her part of the vision that she and Janice dreamed up. They had been teaching, organizing summer camps and hosting seasonal celebrations for years, and together they founded the AllTogetherNow! Community Art Center. For over 30 years, AllTogetherNow! has been a place of celebration and creative learning for everyone. It is home to workshops, classes and popular summer camps. These seasonal offerings have planted the seeds of song and spirit in generations of central Vermont children.

But Ellen always found a way to break free. There was Prescott, then a horse, or a motorcycle, or a sailboat. When she turned 50, she traveled alone around Europe on a motorcycle, and for the past 10 years, she kept a sailboat moored and ready to go on Lake Champlain. In 2016, she went with Aro Veno by bus to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation at the peak of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Guided by dreams, she worked for many decades with North of Eden Archetypal Dreamwork, offering dreamwork and cofacilitating North of Eden workshops in this country and abroad.

She is survived by her children, Rev. Aaron Webster Leonard Jones and his partner, Rachel Houseman, of Santa Fe, N.M.; Sophia LaPaglia and her fiancé, Andy Cofino, of Los Angeles, Calif.; and Aliza LaPaglia; her sister Dr. Randi Leonard Holmes and brother-in-law, Dr. Doug Holmes, of Raleigh, N.C.; her sister Leigh Leonard Stallings of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; her brother, Mark Leonard, and sister-in-law, Ginger Leonard, of Princeton, N.J.; her stepsisters, Heather Lund and Holly M. Leonard Ingersoll, of St. Paul, Minn.; and her beloved dog, Lily.

She was predeceased by both of her birth parents, as well as her stepmother, Joan Leonard, and stepfather, Dr. Philip West. She was also predeceased by her half brother, Justin, who was disabled and lived in a nursing facility in Argyle, N.Y. As Justin neared the end of his life, Ellen retrieved him and moved him to her property in Vermont, where she tended him until he passed. This experience pointed Ellen in a new direction, and she was actively contemplating becoming a death doula. She noted with irony that, instead of becoming a death doula, she would need one herself. She was tended by Aliza for the last nine months of her life.

The burial and memorial celebration happened on December 2, 2022, in East Calais, Vt.. Ellen had a green burial; she was wrapped in a shroud and laid to rest in the Robinson Cemetery. 
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