A dear friend has departed our Museum family and community, leaving a sparkling trail of love, tears, poetry, laughter and enlightenment. Since its founding, Norman Rockwell Museum has been blessed with great and caring leaders. It is inevitable that generational turning must happen, but for some of our family it comes too soon.
Michelle Gillett, of Stockbridge, MA, served for 15 years as a trustee and first and second vice presidents of Norman Rockwell Museum, joining the board shortly after the opening of the new museum. Poet, teacher, writer, columnist, mother, wife, daughter, friend, Michelle added creativity and wisdom to the Museum, illuminating board meetings with her thoughtfulness, staunch support of the artistic mission and shaping our writing and communications.
I remember when Michelle taught a poetry workshop with our staff. Everyone can write poetry she said! Sit with your thoughts, put them on paper. She contributed her writing skills, writing our museum story for our Campaign materials. She was a leader, teacher, program presenter, and planner for our 40th anniversary celebration. She developed inspiring program ideas for the Museum, and continued bringing intellectual enrichment to our community through the Stockbridge Library Sunday afternoon speaker series.
Michelle held an MFA in writing from the Warren Wilson program. She was an award-winning poet, having won fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and published work in numerous literary magazines. She was the author of Blinding the Goldfinches and The Green Cottage; and winner of many poetry prizes, including the 2005 Backwaters Prize, the 1998 Billy Murray Denny Poetry Award, and MacGuffin Poet Hunt in 2001. Her poetry was widely published. Some years ago, she had the audacious idea to bring United States poet laureate Billy Collins to Stockbridge for a reading and filled the Congregational Church to capacity.
It’s daunting to write about a brilliant writer. Michelle taught me and hundreds of her students how to write more clearly, more meaningfully. Scratch those adjectives. Make declarative sentences. Write how you would speak. She also helped many women to find their voice in our community, urging us to write Op-Ed pieces in regional press; why not aim for national press she advocated! The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers owes great gratitude for her leadership. She inspired a community of writers in the creative Berkshires.
Her columns in the Berkshire Eagle were widely read, inspiring thought about family, women’s issues, matters of community and national importance, always with the intent to make society just a little better. With her steadfast will, she wrote her columns until the very end of her life – an utter marvel – advocating gender equity, women’s rights, and redressing society’s wrongs. She leaves a void in our community of a sage, brave voice to redress inequities and educate our citizens to issues of importance.
Michelle, we shall miss you, and cannot believe you have been taken from us so soon. Our hearts are with your loving husband Chuck, daughters Erin and Lisa, and your beautiful grandchildren. We are grateful for the artistry of your words that will remain with us always.
–Laurie Norton Moffatt, Director/CEO
“Michelle Gillett, gifted poet and artist,” Berkshire Edge, February 11, 2016
“Michelle Gillett, Eagle columnist of 30 years, dies at 68,” Berkshire Eagle, February 12, 2016 By Derek Gentile