State Rep. Warren Kitzmiller of Montpelier dies at 79

Montpelier Fourth of July, Warren Kitzmiller
Rep. Warren Kitzmiller, D-Montpelier, marches in the Montpelier Fourth of July parade on July 3, 2015. Photo by Roger Crowley/VTDigger.

Updated at 10:46 a.m.

State Rep. Warren Kitzmiller, who announced in April that he would not seek reelection after more than two decades in the Legislature, has died at age 79, according to House Speaker Jill Krowinski.

The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reported Kitzmiller died during the weekend after having a stroke on Saturday.

Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, Kitzmiller moved to Vermont in 1963. In 1974, he became a Montpelier resident, where he had lived ever since. 

Kitzmiller’s wife, Karen Kitzmiller, was serving her sixth term as a state representative for the Washington-4 district when she died of breast cancer in 2001, at age 53. Following her death, then-Gov. Howard Dean appointed Warren Kitzmiller to fill her seat.

Karen Kitzmiller was a proponent for legalizing same-sex marriage and was part of the historic vote to legalize civil unions in 2000. In an interview with the Montpelier Bridge after announcing his retirement in April, Warren said he was proud of his vote to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009. 

“Many of us will remember Warren not only for that vote but his love for and dedication to his Montpelier community,” Krowinski said in a statement Sunday. “My thoughts are with his family and the Montpelier community. He will be deeply missed.”

Gov. Phil Scott said he was saddened to learn of Kitzmiller’s death.

“I had the pleasure of working with Warren when I served in the Senate, also representing Washington County,” Scott said. 

Kitzmiller co-founded with with Jack Nash Onion River Sports, since renamed Onion River Outdoors, after he moved to Montpelier — a bike and ski shop in the city’s downtown. Kitzmiller was a longtime participant in local politics, serving on the Montpelier City Council, Planning Commission, Recreation Board and Board of Civil Authority. 

“Warren was always kind, respectful and a good representative for his community – both in and outside of the Legislature,” Scott said in a statement. “Whether through his legislative work or at Onion River Sports, which he founded and owned for decades, he made a difference for central Vermont and leaves a distinguished legacy.”

Kitzmiller also took pride in his contributions to the Karen Kitzmiller Memorial Coat Drive, started by his late wife in 1989. Every year, the drive provides hundreds of coats and other cold weather items to families in need. 

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Representative Warren Kitzmiller,” Vermont Democratic Party Chair Anne Lezak said in a statement Sunday. “He was a kind, honest, hard-working legislator for over 20 years. Rep. Kitzmiller made Montpelier and the Legislature better by his presence, and will be dearly missed."

Rep. Mary Hooper, from the same district as Kitzmiller, had served alongside him since she assumed office in 2009. She remembers when he was chair of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee and made the “unusual” choice to let his vice chair take his place in 2010, when he thought they would make a better fit for the position. 

“He was just this steady, constant presence in the House,” she said.

Kitzmiller was also a strong advocate for protecting Montpelier’s drinking water supply. He sponsored a bill that would allow Montpelier to close Berlin Pond to human activities, such as swimming, boating and fishing.

“He was terribly approachable,” Hooper said. “And so willing to take time to help people think through issues that they were trying to understand.”

In 2006, he married Jeanne Cariati, a childhood friend; she survives him, along with their children Amy Kitzmiller, Carrie Kitzmiller, Renee Cariati, Joseph Cariati and four grandchildren.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story was unclear on the founding of Onion River Sports.

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Jenna Peterson

About Jenna

Jenna Peterson is a student at the University of Southern California, where she is majoring in journalism and political science. She is news editor at the Daily Trojan at USC and was an editor of the Burlington High School student newspaper when it received a special New England Newspaper & Press Association award for successfully fighting a censorship effort by school administrators.

Email: [email protected]

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