Erik C. Esselstyn

Erik EsselstynNORTH MONTPELIER — Erik C. Esselstyn, 86, died Dec. 23, 2023, at Central Vermont Medical Center with family by his side. He had been diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer less than three months before his death. An inquisitive, thoughtful, and caring man, capable of both gentleness and tenacity, Erik led a life of many distinct chapters, with variety in professional roles, intellectual pursuits, and geographic location. His commitment to deeply connecting with people means that, in addition to kin from his birth family and from two long marriages, he leaves behind a multitude of close friends.

Born Apr. 7, 1937, in New York City, to Harriet and Caldwell Esselstyn, Erik spent most of his childhood in Claverack, NY, where his family lived on a farm. After graduating from Deerfield Academy, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale College. Following military service as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, he studied education, earning a master of arts in teaching degree from Yale University and a doctorate of education from Harvard University.

In 1967, he married June M. “Micki” Bingham, and their marriage lasted until her death in 1999. Together they had two children, Jody and Blake. Though Erik began his career in earnest as an educator and educational administrator, he later worked in multiple other fields, including as a therapist, a writer, and in leadership roles for organizations promoting renewable energy, green building, and land conservation (when in his 50s, he returned to Yale to earn a master’s degree in environmental studies). In 1976, Erik underwent surgery for biliary cancer, a condition that most of his physicians did not expect him to survive for more than a few years. Up until his final days almost 50 years later, medical experts marveled at his having regained his health. He—and others—attributed his recovery partly to using a meditation technique that involved intently visualizing his immune system patrolling for and eradicating any remaining cancerous cells.

Most of Erik’s life took place in the northeastern US (as an adult he spent significant time in every state in New England), but he and Micki also moved to North Carolina for six years in the 1970s and to Florida for eight years in the 1990s. In 2001, he moved to Vermont and in 2004 married widow and longtime North Montpelier resident Celina Moore and played fatherly and grandfatherly roles for her children and grandchildren. The roots he put down in North Montpelier proved durable, as in the end he lived longer there than he had in any other place. In retirement he was active in the community, serving on various boards and committees, assisting with the East Montpelier Volunteer Fire Department, writing frequent letters to the editor, volunteering on numerous political campaigns, and participating as a member of the Old Meeting House congregation. Erik relished a number of lifelong solitary hobbies as well, perhaps most notably reading and writing, in particular the writing of letters and emails to friends and loved ones—he actually listed “correspondence” as a hobby on his résumé. His curiosity about the environment and about humanity led to research about newly emerging topics; his old friends remarked that they often heard about issues from him years before those issues appeared on the broader public radar. He also dedicated time to being physically active, be it in regular running (and later walking) and calisthenics, or in home and land maintenance and improvement projects.

Survivors include his wife, Celina Moore and her descendants (based in North Montpelier and Montreal); daughter Jody Esselstyn of Charlottesville, VA, and her husband and three children; son Blake Esselstyn and his wife and daughter, currently living in Maastricht in the Netherlands; brother Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. of Cleveland, OH; and 15 nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his first wife, Micki; brother Richard “Ditch” Esselstyn; and sister Sarah “Sal” Howell. A service to celebrate Erik’s life will be held some time in 2024 at the Old Meeting House in East Montpelier. More details will be shared at Memorial contributions may be made to the Vermont Flood Response & Recovery Fund,

As this book’s first page states, it is “…dedicated to the memory of Erik Esselstyn, friend, mentor and planetary pilgrim. Reproduced [within] is a selection of e-mails he shared with a group he called ‘the Ann Arbor Six’ from 2019 to his last days in December 2023. They reflect Erik’s profound commitment to life and love, family, community, earth and all its creatures.”

Please click on this link to access the full work.