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Douglas Craig Zimmerman

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My Husband, My Hero
- by Bet Zimmerman

I hope you will forgive me for selfishly using my last column to write at length about something deeply personal. 

Doug Zimmerman.

Douglas Craig Zimmerman, 1957-2010
His obituary is online at www.gilmanandvalade.com/2010/douglas-c-zimmerman

For those who never had the pleasure of meeting him, see http://tinyurl.com/353rv2t  for a little clip of Doug in action.  I filmed it while we were camping in the Gaspe. (The snort at the end is mine).  

Rope Man
Photos by Bet Zimmerman. Doug dressed as Rope Man for a superhero costume party for a neighbor's child. See more photos of Doug put together by my sister.
He was forever young.

My husband Doug passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. When someone so athletic dies suddenly, there are many questions.  For those lucky enough to know Doug, I will share what we know so far. 

He was running during his lunch break in Hartford when he collapsed.  Hartford Hospital informed me that some wonderful medics lunching nearby attempted to revive him, but there was no response.   We don’t know yet what caused his untimely death, but it appears to have been some kind of cardiac event.  

In preparation for shoulder surgery to repair a softball injury, Doug had a full physical the previous afternoon.  There did not appear to be any problems.  He had been experiencing difficulty getting air into his lungs while running, but thought it was related to his hypertension* and/or cholesterol medication. 

There was one incident in March when he keeled over while running.  His running buddy knew CPR, but perhaps out of reluctance to touch man-lips, tried slapping him first.  Doug came to in a matter of seconds and seemed fine.  He refused to allow his friend to call 911.  However, after he told me what had happened (at his friend’s insistence), I demanded that Doug never run alone until he had a checkup and a stress test with a cardiologist.  I was told that the tests showed nothing. 

Additional tests might not have revealed anything either.  Even with all the advances in medical science and technology, there are limitations.  Still, a hard lesson learned is this -  if you think something is really wrong, don’t stop until everything possible has been done to get answers.  And, as his doctor reminded him more than once, “Listen to your wife.”

Doug was a very special, generous man. His last act was to give the gift of sight and healing to others. He has the ability to help approximately 50 people with the muscles, veins, bone and other tissues he donated.

Doug and I met 27 years ago when we both started working at the CT Dept. of Protection. He made a difference every day, cleaning up polluted sites and preventing impacts to people and the environment.  He was a hardworking, technically competent, practical and responsive “go to” guy.  He tried to help broker solutions that would meet the needs of businesses that are the engine of our State’s economy, while always ensuring that the public trust was protected. 

Two days after his death, the State of CT Board of Examiners of Environmental Professionals adopted a formal resolution offering their sympathies, and stating that “Doug was a dedicated public servant who could be relied upon for his just and fair handling of all environmental matters that came before him.  He was a pleasure to work with and will be deeply missed by all.”

Doug lived in Woodstock for decades.  He loved our neighbors and the people of the Quiet Corner. He enjoyed volunteering for the Woodstock Historical Society. He also loved the location. He joyfully hiked and climbed the open space in northeastern CT. He always looked forward to the annual Woodstock Memorial Day 10K races that Barry Kromer has organized for the past 30 years.  This year, he was proud to receive a medal for finishing as the third Woodstock resident in the Grand Master category.  We were planning to add it to the medal case on his “I love me” wall. 

He enjoyed the challenges of working on our home. He referred to it as “This Old House,” since it was built in the 1840s. He could fix just about anything. He also supported me tirelessly with the many bluebird houses we manage in town, even when sometimes he might have preferred to be working on our "people house."  Whenever I see a flash of blue, I will think of him.

Last but not least, he patiently helped me with this column each week.  While we were out hiking, he took the photo you see of me every week.  (I don’t even know where we were, as I cannot find my way out of a paper bag.  I relied entirely on his planning, map reading and trail blazing skills.)  Doug offered ideas for topics and content.  He forced me to check my sources, and proofed countless drafts.  He attempted to keep me from writing anything that might offend or alienate. He added humor to everything.  He also demanded that I include something about him as often as possible, regardless of whether it was flattering or not.  One of my favorite columns is one we recently wrote together on his possum home invasion experience (www.ourbetternature.org/possum.htm.)   

I am lost without Doug.  He was my North, my South, my East and West.  We loved each other beyond measure. I cannot imagine life without him in it. 

For now, continuing to write the Our Better Nature column is just too much for me.  However, I have heard that a number of people read it.  In the past, several folks filled in for me when I was on travel for my “real” job (with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State.)  If there is interest in the column continuing, and others would like to contribute an article related to conservation, open space, the outdoors, pollution prevention, environmental protection or wildlife, please email Stephanie Jarvis of the Villager at sjarvis@villagernewspapers.com.  I will keep the column archives online at www.ourbetternature.org. I would like to thank the Villager Newspapers for making space for the column for so many years.

In closing, I learned early on that life can be cut short with no notice.  Thank goodness I never took my husband for granted, and nothing was left unsaid.   If I can offer one last piece of advice, do what you can to make sure that everyone who matters to you knows it, before it is too late.

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to Bob Fournier of the Gilman Funeral Home in Putnam, Pastor Jamie Harrison of the First Congregational Church of Woodstock, and all our amazing neighbors, friends and colleagues.  They have been incredibly kind during a time that sucks on so many levels. 

My husband was my hero. He made me a better person.   I think the world was a better place because Doug was in it.  I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to read our articles over the past six years, and for all you do to help make the world a better place.


References and More Information:


Originally published in the Villager newspapers on June 19, 2010.
Thanks again to the Villager Newspapers for running the Our Better Nature column
every week for many years.