Cheryl Hanna: Her life, legacy and personal struggles - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Cheryl Hanna: Her life, legacy and personal struggles

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Hundreds gathered in Burlington Friday to say goodbye to Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna. Her family tells us she took her life Sunday. Before her funeral, her husband and close friends talked about the legacy she leaves behind and her recent struggle with depression.

"She was more full of life than anyone I've ever known," Ellen Sklar said.

Cheryl Hanna made an impact on many people, including her close friend Ellen Sklar.

"She talked to you as if you were capable of understanding things you didn't necessarily think you were," Sklar said.

That skill made her popular with many WCAX viewers, breaking down and explaining why complex legal cases mattered to our everyday lives.

Hanna took her own life Sunday at her Burlington home; she was 48. Her family says she was battling depression for the past few months.

"It's a loss I won't even pretend will ever be replaced," Sklar said.

"She was the face of the law school, the voice of the law school," Pat Parenteau said.

Parenteau worked with Hanna at the Vermont Law School.

"She brought the law alive," Parenteau said.

A Harvard Law graduate, Hanna began her teaching career 20 years ago, fresh faced and ready to tackle anything.

"She's a force of nature," Parenteau said.

Reporter Gina Bullard: What did her career mean to her?

Paul Henninge/Hanna's husband: It meant a lot.

She was a beloved professor, accomplished scholar and a cheerleader for many, from women's rights-- like a pay equity case she helped bring for three female Vermont state employees-- to students overwhelmed by the pressures of school.

"A lot of students that were struggling found a helping hand with Cheryl," Parenteau said. "She made her mark on constitutional law and criminal law in the articles she published in the top law journals in the country, talking about the Harvard Law Review and the books she help co-author and edit."

Hanna leaves behind two children, Samira, 11, and Elias, 8, along with her husband, Paul Henninge, who says she was also a cheerleader for them.

Gina Bullard: Talk about the bond with her kids.

Paul Henninge: Cheryl had this saying, be a star. And that's how she operated with the kids.


Gina Bullard: What did her family mean to her?

Ellen Sklar: Her family was her rock that she came home to at the end of very long days.

But behind her quick wit, intellect and ability to connect that we all saw, her family says there was much more going on.

"When she had her public face, she put on the face the public wanted to see," Henninge said.

The depth of Hanna's depression was something few understood, even those closest to her.

"She went to a dark place so quickly," Henninge said.

Gina Bullard: Did you ever think it would come to this point?

Paul Henninge: ...No, I didn't.

Henninge says Hanna was seeking treatment, but it wasn't enough.

"For Cheryl, she began to loop," he said. "And when you loop in a dark place, you lose your ability to see outside of this dark place."

A dark place-- yet she was a ray of light for so many.

"She was an emotional person who flew very high and very low. All of the confidence that so many of us see in her is also balanced by a fragile, insecure person," Henninge said. "Sometimes I refer to her as my shooting star because she was so bright and then poof! Nothing."

Friends and family say they will seek comfort in the fact that their hearts will still be full of the warmth, love and knowledge that Cheryl Hanna shared with so many.

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