Londonderry community mourns death

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LONDONDERRY — A prominent and beloved member of the Londonderry community died July 25 in a two-car crash in Salisbury on July 25.

Joan E. Dayton, 72, of Londonderry died when the car she was a passenger in was struck by a vehicle that ran a stop sign, according to a Vermont State Police news release.

The driver of the 2019 Chevrolet Equinox in which Dayton was riding, was her partner, Center Merrill, 77 of Londonderry.

Merrill was injured and taken to Porter Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

The driver of the other car, Brian Davidson, 37, of New Haven, was injured and taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center.

According to police,

Davidson was seen by witnesses driving "well over the posted speed limit" before he failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Route 7 and West Salisbury Road and hit Merrill's vehicle.

Following an investigation, police charged Davidson with grossly negligent operation with death resulting. Police also found several bags of suspected heroin and drug paraphernalia.

He is due to appear in Addison Superior Court Criminal Division at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 24.

The crash has left the community in mourning.

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Dayton's obituary called her "the nicest Delinquent Tax Collector" in


Dayton was a graduate of Leland & Gray High School and later attended St. Joseph's Business College where she earned an Associate's Degree.

She worked at First Vermont Bank in Brattleboro and as the office manager and bookkeeper for the Stove Depot in Londonderry and Rutland.

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Later, she worked as a Guardian ad Litem and most recently worked at Neighborhood Connections.

A Facebook post on the Neighborhood Connections site read: "This is *our* Joan. A faithful front desk volunteer that has brought laughter and friendship to our office for years. Our hearts are broken. What an abrupt end to a story that wasn't finished. We will miss you, Joan Dayton."

Dayton was known for her art and plants, and later took up golf and was the treasurer of the Tri-Mountain Lions Club, which she helped form.

Pam Nichols of Dorset is the District Governor for Vermont Lions and worked with Dayton to set up the organization and on Lions' projects.

"She was instrumental in getting [the club] started she was a charter member," Nichols said. "She leaves a huge hole in the Londonderry area community. She had a big heart quietly giving not only of herself but with her checkbook. She will be missed by so many. Everyone loved her dearly."

Nichols said they worked together on the gardens at Smith Haven, took seniors to lunch, on food donations to the pantry, eyeglasses, and many other projects.

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"Kindness," Nichols said of what she'd remember about her. "That's the first thing I think of."

Mary Claire Stansbury Schwartz posted a comment on Facebook honoring her friend.

"It is going to be harder to live in the world without Joan," Schwartz wrote. "What a terrific friend who not only brought so much to Neighborhood Connections, but to the Londonderry community as a whole. Just a terrific, fun person. She loved her family and often bragged on her sons, their wives and grandchildren. Oh Joan. You have left behind a lot of broken hearts."

Dayton is survived by her sons, Jason Walker and Brad Walker and their families, as well as her partner Center Merrill and his family.

She is also survived by siblings Patricia Roberts of Londonderry, Sandy Parker of Weston, Donna Williams of Peru, Kathy Dayton of Cold Spring, N.Y., Bill Dayton of Jamaica, and Ron Dayton of Wilmington, N.C.

She leaves 13 grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

Visiting hours will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, July 31 at Brewster-Shea Funeral Home, 34 Park Place Manchester Center. The funeral home asks that masks or face coverings be worn due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at Riverside Cemetery in Londonderry.

Contact Darren Marcy at or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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