BENNINGTON — Expressions of grief and appreciation have proliferated online in response to news of the recent death of a woman known to many downtown merchants, residents and visitors simply as “Ida.”
“I have no idea what her last name is but Ida doesn’t need a last name,” resident Joey Kulkin wrote in one post in the “Bennington Bulletin” Facebook group. “She’s Ida ... like Cher, like Madonna. If you’ve spent any amount of time on Main Street then you’ve seen Ida the human butterfly walking with a groove in her step as she pushed her cart with one hand and held a small transistor radio to her ear with the other. Every 20 or 30 steps she’d stop and dance and sing along to whatever song was playing, and those rhythmic little dances are what make life ... life.”
Facebook posts commemorating Ida’s passing have garnered hundreds of likes, comments and shares since last week.
Her last name was Whitman, according to posts by two Facebook users who identified themselves as relatives of the decedent. Whitman died “peacefully” on Oct. 14 after becoming “very ill,” one of those relatives wrote.
Ryan Hassett, who owns several Main Street businesses with his wife, Heather, said in an interview that Whitman frequently visited Bringing You Vermont, the couple’s country store and cafe.
She often sought Hassett’s help in rectifying minor issues with her cell phone, which she used to play country music, he said. “It seemed like I was her IT person.”
“She just lived her best life,” said Heather Hassett, adding that Whitman “just made you want to spend time with her and to see the world through her eyes.”
Activist Mary Gerisch said that she frequently hosted Whitman for dinner when the two Bennington residents lived next door to one another downtown for a number of years before Whitman relocated to Washington Elms, a residential care home on Elm Street.
“She was a really upbeat person and i always enjoyed talking with her,” said Gerisch, who shared her belief that Whitman is “much freer where she is now.”
Polly van der Linde, director and owner of Sonatina Enterprises, which hosts overnight piano camps in Bennington, wrote in an email that she did not know Whitman “beyond having seen her awesomeness on the streets of downtown, full of joy, dancing and prancing around” but that her “joy transferred to our joy.”
“She radiated happiness through her listening on the radio and her colorful attire,” van der Linde wrote.
Additional biographical information regarding Whitman couldn’t immediately be obtained.