A community art project in the tiny town of Cavendish was shown for the first time at this year's town meeting, but its longtime champion wasn't there to see it.
Former Cavendish Town Manager Richard Svec died just a few hours before the annual meeting.
Svec had retired last year after serving the Windsor County town for almost three decades. In that time, he was a cheerleader for big projects and for smaller ones.
One of those smaller projects was a community tapestry.
About 15 years ago, fiber artist Wendy Regier came up with the idea for the town to weave a tapestry together. The plan was that she would haul her loom out to the town green and get the people of Cavendish to chip in and weave a few lines.
Regier says the former town manager was a big fan of the idea.
"Every once in a while Rich would come over to me and say, 'So, what about that tapestry?'" Regier said.
The project languished for awhile, until Regier was elected to the selectboard in 2015. That meant she was seeing Svec a lot more often, and it was hard to ignore his enthusiasm for the project.
"Richard just really believed in community," she says. "I mean, part of what he did, in his tenure as town manager, was just to really, really try to engage people in community efforts."
The tapestry is a celebration of Cavendish. It shows the town green, the Black River and the region's famous green marble, which was used in building the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Cavendish has a little more than 1,300 people. And in a tiny town, where small projects have large impacts, Svec left a legacy.
When Tropical Storm Irene hammered Cavendish, Svec helped rebuild the town.
He and his wife helped open the community library, and when a fire leveled an old mill in the center of town, Svec made sure the parcel was re-developed. Today it's a town green that holds summer concerts.
"He put his all into the effort; never really said, 'I can't do this.' In fact I don't think he ever did," said Assistant Town Manager Bruce McEnaney.
Even after Svec retired last year, McEnaney says he kept his former boss on speed dial to pick his brain about town business.
McEnaney says this year's town meeting will be remembered for a very long time.
"It was very solemn," says McEnaney. "The moderator, Michael Ripley, announced it and also had a few minutes of silence, but I don't think there was anybody in the room that hadn't known by that time."
Regier was planning to dedicate the tapestry to Svec at town meeting, in honor of his recent retirement. She says that Svec never got to see it.
"Words can't describe," says Regier. "I mean, I think we all felt that sickening numbness of a life gone. A life that had been so much a part of this community, and you know, given so much to the community. You know, I was going to get up and say 'Richard, come up here and let me present this to you,' and he wasn't there."
The tapestry now hangs in the Cavendish Fletcher Community Library. This summer, the town plans to put up a small plaque on the town green to honor Svec.