Ida L. “Mother” Lange

Thursday, April 26, 2018

East Montpelier, Vt. — After a long, hard-fought battle, Ida L. “Mother” Lange died Thursday, April 12, 2018, at Barre Gardens, surrounded by her husband, children, a friend, and many thoughtful nurses and staff. She hadn’t completed everything she’d hoped to before she died, but wow! she sure accomplished a lot and touched many lives!

She was born in Utica, N.Y. on Oct. 22, 1939, to Winfield and Doris (Simmons) Capron. She often shared stories of her abusive childhood. She was the eldest of six girls (sister Celeste died shortly after birth) and she was often the primary caregiver as the family was constantly on the move. By the age of 10, she could be seen pushing her sisters in a carriage down the street to the movie theater where she knew they were safe. She dreamed of the far-off exotic places and beautiful people they saw in the movies. Her imagination helped her and her sisters through very difficult times. Around the age of 12, they escaped from their father into the Canadian woods. She distracted her younger siblings by building a fort out of saplings and playing house. At the age of 16, social workers removed her from the family’s apartment after she was severely beaten for the last time. A couple years ago at her first nursing home, a fellow church parishioner helped her write a memoir. Her focus was on those people who gave her a chance, and guided her to opportunities that led to her success. For most of her life, she strove to pay it forward and do the same for others. A force of nature, she was sometimes misunderstood, but always had the best intentions.

She had attended 16 schools before graduating in 1957 from the Blue Ridge (Episcopal) School for mountain kids from broken or stressed families in St. George, Va. Upon graduation, she received a scholarship to attend Madison College (now Madison University) in Harrisonburg, Va.

During the summer of 1959, she worked as a telephone operator in Syracuse, N.Y. Her walk to work took her past a group of construction workers digging holes in the street. One day, a young man jumped out of the hole, chased her down, and asked her to have coffee with him that evening at a diner. Always up for an adventure, she said, “Yes.” Twelve weeks later, on Halloween, she married that construction worker, the love of her life, Willem M. Lange, III. Everything she owned fit into one trunk.

They first lived in Keene Valley, N.Y. and then moved to Wooster, Ohio where Will graduated from the College of Wooster. They later lived in Willsboro, N.Y. where Will taught school and they built their first home. She was an active member of the Girl Scouts of America and the Historical Society. She taught business law and typing as a substitute in Mineville and Moriah, N.Y. Her typing students passed the New York Regents exam without ever finding out that she herself could hardly type a stroke.

She spent summers on Hurricane Island, Maine from 1965-1968. She couldn’t stand disorganization, so she took over the supply and equipment lockers, numbered everything – even the Director’s oilskins! – and kept a running inventory. They finally hired her. She took an Outward Bound course herself in the summer of 1971, climbing Mount Katahdin, and the next month went with her family down the Allagash in canoes and then hiked across Baxter Park, filming the whole way. She was often seen behind her 8mm movie camera, Polaroid, or Instamatic camera. Thanks to her, many adventures and milestones were preserved along with most of her children’s schoolwork, art, and crafts.

 A job opportunity with Outward Bound at Dartmouth brought them to Hanover, N.H. in 1968. In the mid seventies, Ida and Will began a partnership where she designed houses that he and his crew built throughout the Upper Valley. She had an eye for highly efficient elaborate kitchens and worked at Connval, Inc., in Ely and Norwich, Vt. Later she founded her own business, Signature Kitchens, and thrived for 20 years.

No matter where she lived, she continued her mission in life to be a volunteer. She was the Lebanon Rotarian of the Year and is fondly remembered for jumping in and taking charge when she grew impatient with long discussions. She was involved in the Booster Club at Hanover High School (N.H.) and helped organize bake sales and spaghetti dinners for her son’s football team. She was active in the VT/NH Goat Owners' Association in order to learn more about her daughter’s goats.

 After losing their home in a business bankruptcy in 1985, she, Will, and their younger daughter spent 14 months living in a camper and then a 10’ x 20’ “shack” with no running water. A phone line ran through the woods to a phone in a box that was nailed to a post. As the President of the Skating Club at Dartmouth (SCAD) she often stood outside on the phone in all kinds of weather helping organize meetings and events. One board member remembers that she once had to get off the line because a skunk was approaching. She was the creative genius behind many skating shows and helped make detailed sets, props, and unforgettable costumes on a shoestring budget.

Will founded the Geriatric Adventure Society, an informal group of middle-aged outdoor lovers, in 1973. Mother was the secret weapon behind the organization and food prep for local trips, as well as Arctic adventures. She calculated how many calories each man would need per day and prepackaged gourmet meals with freeze-dried ingredients. The instructions were included in Ziploc bags of, for example, omelet, Spanish rice, and beef Bourguignon. The results were amazing. Hearing of her creations, a camping magazine once approached her about expanding production of Ida's Tundra Treats.

Her ever-tested faith and devotion to the Episcopal Church was the source of her strength. She was active at St. Thomas Church, Hanover, with roles as the Sunday School Director, Hospitality Chairperson, and Vestry member. She and Will moved to East Montpelier, in 2007 and quickly joined the Christ Church of Montpelier family. She again jumped right in and volunteered as Hospitality Chair. She looked forward to the free Wednesday lunches open to everyone. She would sit and talk to those who sat alone. She cared, offered help, and was interested in their stories. She knew she could have ended up in their shoes if she hadn’t had people who believed in and helped her. When she heard that her father, whom she hadn't seen in 35 years, was comatose and near death in Central New York, she and Will made the journey to see him and, ever the organizer, she arranged for his funeral, at which she was the only family member present.

Mother hated being in the spotlight, but was happy to hold the light and shine it on those around her. She was her husband’s muse and often flooded him with story and column ideas when he let on that he had a moment of writer’s block. Her imagination was incredible!

She and Will traveled extensively, with several adventures to Europe, Iceland, and South America. In 2005 she completed 23 zip lines through the Costa Rican jungle. One of her final wishes was to have some of her ashes scattered in her beloved France.

As the memories flood in from her family and friends, there is one common theme; her cooking. She often hosted elaborate traditional holiday meals and invited strangers, widowers, and the needy. Her children never fully appreciated her generosity and trust in strangers, but in the end these meals were opportunities to learn about other religions, faraway places, and alternative lifestyles.

Besides her immense pride for her family, her greatest legacy would be that she never gave up. She came from one of the worst possible beginnings, but built an incredible life and never forgot what she had overcome. Your situation could always be worse, she said, and you should look for the silver lining. She was humble, but grateful for what she had accomplished. She prayed to the end that she could live longer and accomplish more. She and Will dreamed of spending their sixtieth anniversary in France.

She is survived by her husband, Willem, of East Montpelier; three children: Virginia Lange (Chris Sullivan) of Olympia, Wash., Willem Lange, IV, (Elizabeth) of Fort Smith, Ark., Martha Lange (Todd Croteau) of Calais, Vt.; sisters, Barbara Buffington, Canton Ga., Susan Staudinger, Gibsonville, N.C., Janice Kadlub, Cleburne, Texas, Patricia Souza, Marietta, Ga.; five grandchildren: Mack, Riley, Alexandra, Olivia, and Cody; and several nieces and nephews around the country. She was predeceased by her parents and sister Celeste.

There will be no callings hours. A funeral and celebration of her life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at Christ Church in Montpelier, followed by a potluck reception in the Parish Hall. She loved the color blue and flowers. If you are able to attend the service, please, if you can, wear something blue or floral.

In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to the charity close to her heart, the Food Shelf at Christ Church, 64 State St., Montpelier, VT 05602, with the memo notation "Full Ladle Soup Kitchen."