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Couple who died in boating accident remembered for commitment to conservation

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 5:53 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont authorities have identified the couple who died in Monday’s boating accident in Charlotte. Martha “Marty” Illick and Terrence Dinnan were very involved in the community and environmental conservation. As Olivia Lyons reports, Illick lost her life in the same creek she spent decades defending.

“They spent their lives with the creek,” said Andrea Morgante, who met Marty Illick, 70, and Terry Dinnan, 71, in the late ’70s at the swimming holes along Lewis Creek. The two women came together over the idea of preserving Lewis Creek in the five towns it runs through. “It was really out of love that we formed Lewis Creek Association.”

Illick did not have a background in science but had a passion for learning about the environment and wildlife around her and then sharing that knowledge. “Her legacy is one of great strength, but it’s also one of caring and concern for her fellow Vermonters and our environment at large,” said Steve Costello, who presented Illick with Green Mountain Power’s 2017 Zetterstrom Environmental Award.

Costello says the Department of Conservation nominated Illick, recognizing her decades of volunteer work and commitment to conservation, not just close to home on Lewis Creek, but throughout the region and state. “If she got a decision on a regulatory issue or something related to water quality that she disagreed with, she didn’t just appeal it or complain about it, she would start researching to find new data that could overturn that decision,” he said.

Illick had been on Charlotte’s Selectboard in the ’90s and was the Lewis Creek Association’s executive director. She spoke about the challenge of protecting the Lake Champlain watershed while receiving the Zetterstrom award in 2017. “The lake has a problem -- the lake is aging too quickly. That is what everyone has come to appreciate. And the challenge is how to turn that around. Turn the pollution problem around,” she said.

Morgante says Illick’s husband was more behind the scenes, but also had a strong appreciation for the beauty of the environment around him. “They really understood the magic of Lewis Creek. It is a really magical place and they just enhanced the magic,” she said.

The boating accident that claimed their lives remains under investigation. Authorities are trying to figure out how the boat capsized, sending the couple and their grandson into the water. Their 3.5-year-old grandson was found over an hour after first responders arrived on the scene. He was wet, but safe. He had been wearing a life jacket but Illick and Dinnan were not.

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