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Friends mourn Fern Feather, lover of plants and birds, after killing in Morristown

A photo of a paper sign reading "Fern Feather <3, Feel free to put a feather in your cap for solidarity for those who love Fern."
Peter Hirschfeld
/
VPR
An altar and a jar of feathers sit on Elm Street in Montpelier, in remembrance of Fern Feather.

Fern Feather, 29, had eyes that sparkled, and a big, true smile. Friends say Feather loved plants and animals, and always worked to create spaces that were alive, and beautiful, and safe — in Vermont, and in time spent out west.

Nina Shoenthal met Feather 15 years ago. Around that time, Feather made the news for stealing an exotic tortoise – “to rescue it,” Shoenthal said.

“Fern was one of the most brilliant, colorful, loving, special, super special people that you would ever meet,” Shoenthal said, “The kind of person that everyone loved. Everyone wanted to be close with.”

Born on April 22, 1992, Feather grew up in the Northeast Kingdom town of Albany. A wanderer, according to Shoenthal, Feather once hitchhiked all the way to Guatemala, and spent several years living in Oregon.

Suzanne Podhaizer used to work with Feather in a restaurant in Montpelier. She said Feather “seemed to find these groups of people and live with them for a while and raise some plants and then leave.”

Podhaizer says Feather disliked the violence of the phrase “kill two birds with one stone,” and instead would say, “plant two flowers with one seed.”

“Fern liked to kind of notice the things about people that would make that person feel beautiful,” she recalled.

The Pride Center of Vermont will hold a vigil in Morrisville's Oxbow Park on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Authorities have charged a man with murdering Feather in Morristown earlier this week. The incident has drawn condemnations from Gov. Phil Scott and other officials, and members of Vermont's queer community are in mourning.

Feather wrote about identifying as a trans woman in a social media post last month. Those close to Feather told VPR that all pronouns were acceptable to them.

Toussaint St. Negritude was a friend of Feather’s. He says what he loved most was their openness: unabashed, and unashamed.

“Fern was 100% out,” he said.

Feather was found stabbed to death on Tuesday, according to police. Political leaders, advocates, and friends have expressed concern about violence against the trans community.

“This same very violent threat that took Fern’s life has been around in Vermont for decades,” St. Negritude said.

He says he keeps seeing Feather’s smile.

Toussaint St. Negritude shared with VPR the following poem:

THROUGH

For however many times
Fern was stabbed

I ache
and bleed from every wound.

So many of us do.

Only Fern's
smile holds me through.

© 2022 by Toussaint St. Negritude

This story will be updated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Feather hitchhiked to Ecuador, not Guatemala.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Anna Van Dine @annasvandine.

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