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Yvonne Daley, poet, professor, and award-winning journalist, dies at 77

Ms. Daley in Panama City Beach, Fla.

In the late 1960s, Yvonne Daley joined those who grew up in Greater Boston and then headed north, a youthful exodus left weary and angry by the Vietnam War.

That “ragged, leaderless, and divided assemblage of scruffy young people” settled in Vermont, she wrote in “Going Up the Country,” her 2018 book that chronicled “the hippies, dreamers, freaks, and radicals” who descended on the Green Mountain state, changing it forever. They went “to try something new, not protest so much as rehabilitation — of self, of a dream, of a future.”

And there she stayed, living in Vermont full- or part-time for more than 50 years. After giving birth to five children, she launched a writing career and for a time was the state’s best-known journalist, honored with dozens of New England and state awards.

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Retiring in 2015 to her Rutland, Vt., home, she returned to an earlier love of writing poetry, publishing a collection, “Prisoner of Hope,” two years ago. Ms. Daley was 77 when she died Tuesday in Rutland Regional Medical Center of myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of cancer.

At 35 she had landed her first reporting job, at the Rutland Herald, which became a springboard for a career that spanned the country. Her freelance articles appeared in national magazines and in newspapers such as The Washington Post and the Boston Globe, where she had hundreds of bylines.

A John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship in 1995 brought her to Stanford University, and she soon established a bicoastal life. While teaching journalism and writing at San Francisco State University, Ms. Daley kept writing and publishing in New England and everywhere.

“What I didn’t realize until I started reporting on people and issues far from Vermont in my middle years was how lucky I’d been to have spent my hippie years in the Green Mountains and to have begun my journalistic career in Vermont,” she wrote.

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The decision in the late 1960s to leave graduate school and move to Vermont led Ms. Daley to befriend a lifetime of writers, including many women who, like her, had been drawn to the state.

“Yvonne is gone,” the Vermont poet Verandah Porche wrote in a couplet that began a brief poem she posted on Facebook after Ms. Daley died. “How can Death swallow so vast a heart?”

Vast, too, was Ms. Daley’s output: thousands of newspaper articles and six nonfiction books before that final poetry collection.

Her books also reached from coast to coast. “A Mighty Storm: Stories of Resilience After Irene” (2011) highlighted Vermonters who rebuilt their lives after the tropical storm devastated the state.

“Octavia Boulevard,” published the same year, gave voice to those who enlivened her San Francisco neighborhood, including the homeless. She fiercely resisted editors’ suggestions to leave them out.

Ms. Daley wrote books while teaching at San Francisco State, founding and directing the Green Mountain Writers’ Conference, and launching the Verdant Books writers’ collaborative.

Her husband, Chuck Clarino, a retired Rutland Herald sportswriter, said she had a ready answer when her father asked how she became such a successful journalist: “She would say, ‘Dad, it’s your fault because you’re the one who put a “y” at the front of my name and a “y” at the back of my name.’ "

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Those bracketing Y’s became the questioning whys that defined her work.

“I came at journalism in a way I hope I teach as well,” Ms. Daley told Golden Gate Xpress in 2015, when she retired in San Francisco and went home to Vermont for good. “It’s not just the who, what, where, when, and why. It’s ‘How do we get here and where do we go from here?’ "

Born on Feb. 5, 1945, Ms. Daley was a daughter of William Daley Sarah Doucette Daley. She grew up in Medford and Melrose, where she graduated in 1962 from Melrose High School.

The youngest of five siblings, she was an avid reader as a girl, Clarino said, and “liked to make up little stories.”

Ms. Daley attended Merrimack College, Cardinal Cushing College, and Boston College before heading to Florida and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and philosophy from Barry University, the last stop in her tour of Catholic colleges.

While pursuing a master’s in philosophy at the University of Dayton, she met Steven Gallo, who became her first husband. They moved to Vermont, where they had five children and lived among hippies forging new lives.

When Ms. Daley’s marriage ended, she lived for a time in Florida, not far from her parents, and her youngest child, Asa, died in a swimming accident when he was a toddler.

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After returning to Vermont, she applied for a Rutland Herald reporting job, bearing a chapbook of her poems. “The editor was justifiably unimpressed,” she wrote, “but I eventually got the job.”

A couple since the late-1970s, she and Clarino married in 1993 and worked as reporters, raising the children together.

The extensive demands of building a journalism career never interfered with her duties as a mother, said her daughter Shanti McKenna, who lives in the Chippenhook hamlet of Clarendon, Vt.

“I know it was a struggle and she never made us feel like it was struggle,” she said of her mother, who cooked family dinners nightly and sometimes brought her children along on reporting assignments or to protest marches.

“She was part of our lives and she involved us in all of her life,” McKenna said. “In a day and age when women were trying to have careers, she still made sure to have the family and raise us with those values.”

Teaching journalism and writing, Ms. Daley often was much more than a professor for her students, said Angela Hart, a senior Kaiser Health News correspondent, covering California and the West.

“She changed my life. She helped me find my voice and showed me a path,” said Hart, who took her first class from Ms. Daley while she was struggling after returning to the United States from deployments to Iraq with an Army Reserve unit.

Ms. Daley “gave not only time, but patience,” Hart said, “and she empowered legions of aspiring writers and aspiring reporters.”

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In 1982, barely two years into her first reporting assignment in Vermont, Ms. Daley published her first freelance Globe article, about efforts in Vermont to reinvigorate the fortunes of a flailing bird species.

Her opening sentences announced a voice that became familiar to her readers for decades — journalism flowing from a poet’s pen: “In the time of jousting knights, it was the symbol of fearlessness, speed and of power. It was the sleek-winged, majestic hunting partner of medieval kings. The peregrine falcon.”

In addition to her husband, Chuck, and daughter Shanti, Ms. Daley leaves two sons, Geoff Gallo of Claremont, N.H., and Erik Gallo of Rutland, Vt.; another daughter, Dawn Carlson of Rutland; two sisters, Sally Bailey of Augusta, Ga., and Lee Daley of Mill Valley, Calif.; a brother, Robert Daley of Orlando, Fla.; and six grandchildren.

Family and friends will gather from 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 22 at Clifford Funeral Home in Rutland to remember Ms. Daley. A celebration of her life will be announced.

“In the end, what remains is immense gratitude for a time and a place that feels unreal, impossible, and yet we know it happened,” Ms. Daley wrote of her years among Vermont’s immigrant hippies, and of her writing life as well.

“Is the world a better place for our efforts? Who can say? The arguments for yes and no could go on forever,” she wrote. “We look to the sky.”


Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.