The Killington community gathered with family and friends of the
late Betty Cady Merrill to celebrate the life of the spirited lady
who was known as the "Voice of Killington."
Merrill, who passed away in January after a brief illness, was
remembered for her years of service to the Killington Ski Resort by
many who recalled her snow reports, 40 years at the switchboard,
loyalty, dedication, and ready sense of humor.
Beverly Anderson, pastor of the Sherburne United Church of
Christ, led the service of remembrance and celebration. She noted
that Betty Cady and Harold Merrill were the first couple to be
married at the church in 1943 and that when he died in 1964, she
was a widow with five children to raise. That eventually led to her
being employed "to roll posters for a few days" at Killington and a
career there, which included becoming "the first woman to do snow
reports" on radio, begun. "People would stop by just to meet the
beautiful voice," Anderson noted.
Describing her dedication to her job and penchant for
punctuality, Anderson related that when Betty fell one morning and
broke her ankle, she told her daughter to drive her to the resort
so she could record the snow report. Wisely, Melanie had refused
and got her the medical attention needed, Anderson added.
Anderson also noted that Betty and Norma Biathrow, who had hired
her to roll posters, had become "best friends, travelled together,
and gambled in Vegas. She became Aunt Betty to Norma's children,"
she said of a relationship that even included wallpapering
together. "Every time they hung a strip, they drank another Black
Russian," she related, introducing a note of levity that was to
repeat in the guests' stories that followed.
Tyna Baird Gallagher, who worked with Merrill for 17 years,
noted how stressful the switchboard job was. Due to handling a high
volume of calls, which could reach thousands a day, she insisted on
the simple greeting of 'Killington.' "It drove [former President ]
Hank Lunde crazy because he wanted her to say more," Gallagher
noted. [It wasn't until Killington had changed owners that her
greeting transitioned to 'Killington Pico Ski Resort.']
One worker told the story of a person who claimed that they had
been promised a discount on a lift ticket from Chandler Foster.
Sent to the administrative offices, he first had to get by Merrill,
who politely told him, "We don't have anyone by the name of
Chandler Foster." That the guest paid full price for his ticket
drew appreciative laughter from those who knew both Merrill and
Martel Wilson, a former Killington vice president, noted that
despite disguising his voice, Merrill always said "Yes Marty"
whenever he asked to be put through to someone. Frustrated that he
couldn't fool her, he told of learning "a little German" and asking
if the president was in. Merrill replied, 'Yes, Sir.' Asking if it
would be possible to speak to him, Merrill replied "Yes, sir. I'll
put you right through, Marty."
Foster Chandler, former vice president and director of
marketing, added that while she was known as the "Voice of
Killington" for faithfully giving the snow reports and answering
the resort's phone lines at the switchboard in the days before the
Internet, she also was the greeter of all guests to the
She was a frontline representative of the ski area, he noted,
saying that she handled all kinds of situations from complaints
(not satisfied at customer service) to airplane crashes to bomb
scares. "She represented Killington to the public… she was
ubiquitous and that's how she got the Voice of Killington" moniker,
She was a "gracious, classy lady," Chandler added, noting "With
Betty, every day was a sunny day even if was raining out" and that
he misses her.
CONRIBUTION TO SKI INDUSTRY
Among the many photographs on display, including a collage of
Merrill playing Mrs. Santa Claus at company parties, were newspaper
articles, Merrill's army-base admission card which gave a clue to
her eventual career, and letters of congratulations for an award
Merrill's unflappability at handling a high volume of calls
actually began at age 20 when she worked her first job answering
phones at an army air base in Chatham, Georgia where Harold had
been stationed. When he was sent overseas, she returned to her
family's home in New London, Connecticut and worked at the Groton
naval submarine base call center.
In an newspaper interview, Merrill had described phone calls
that included military personnel and "anxious family members
wondering about how their soldiers were doing. It was World War II
and a time of great stress and pressure," but Merrill had indicated
that she liked "a job that required one to work hard under
Merrill's contribution to the ski area earned her recognition
from the Vermont Ski Areas Association, which bestowed an award on
her in 1988 as an employee who had "grown with and contributed to
Vermont's ski industry." Governor Madeleine Kunin sent her a letter
of congratulations, as did the resort's founder Preston Smith. He
praised her "total dedication to Killington," saying "your
unwavering dedication as well as your friendliness with every staff
person at Killington, has, I am sure, led other people to greater
dedication as well. That positive approach every day cannot help
but rub off on others," he wrote.
The service concluded with guests joining in the 23Rd Psalm and
Billy Wiles stirring a-cappella rendition of Amazing Grace.
The service of remembrance was a true celebration of the spirited
woman who always had a warm smile, a kind word, and sincere
helpfulness in a voice that won't soon be forgotten.
Photo by Karen D. Lorentz