Business & Economy

Former VTDigger staffer Alan Panebaker dies in kayak accident

Alan Panebaker at work as a reporter at the Vermont Statehouse in May. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs regrets to report that Alan Panebaker drowned on Wednesday, Sept. 19, doing what he loved best — whitewater kayaking.

Alan was an avid paddler who graduated from Vermont Law School last year and recently worked as a reporter. In July, he took a job with American Whitewater, a river conservation group.

Every chance Alan got, he found a way to hit the whitewater. Nearly every weekend, he explored the St. Lawrence River near Montreal or went kayaking on Vermont and New Hampshire waterways.

Yesterday was no exception. Tuesday night heavy rainfall swelled the Pemigewasset River in New Hampshire, and the next morning Alan went kayaking with friends in a remote section of the Flume Gorge.

Alan lost control of his kayak as he came down the falls near Centennial Pine Bridge. His boat was wedged between rocks, and when he tried to right the kayak it flipped over, according to a report from local police. His body was submerged for an hour before it surfaced. The Lincoln, N.H., police department and search and rescue team recovered his body. This morning officials released his identity.

Alan was 29 years old. He lived in Montpelier with his partner Magdalena Dale — or “Mags” as he always called her — and his dog Buddy. He is survived by his parents Dave and Janet and his brother, Eric.

Alan graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism in 2005 and cut his teeth reporting for the Ashland Daily Tidings and Mail Tribune newspapers in Southern Oregon where he covered education and the environment. He later wrote a weekly outdoors column for the Anchorage Press in Anchorage, Alaska, and he published freelance work for Canoe & Kayak magazine. Alan took a three-year hiatus from journalism to attend Vermont Law School. He passed the bar in November 2011.

We here at are greatly saddened by Alan’s death. He was a bright and talented man with a great work ethic and sense of integrity. He was beloved by us and the Statehouse community. We especially enjoyed his keen and self-deprecating sense of humor. He will be greatly missed.

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Gov. Peter Shumlin issued the following statement Thursday on Alan’s passing:

“I am deeply sorry to learn of the death of VTDigger reporter Alan Panebaker, and my heart goes out to his friends, family, and the VTDigger staff. Alan was a fair, thorough and informative reporter, and always had a smile for his fellow journalists and the politicians he covered. He will be missed.”

Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith issued this statement:

“I am greatly saddened to hear that former VTDigger reporter Alan Panebaker passed away this week. He was a diligent, effective reporter and brightened the halls of the State House with his sly smile and great sense of humor. I extend my sincere condolences to his partner, family, friends, and the staff at VTDigger.”

Vermont Democratic Party Chair Jake Perkinson’s statement:

“I am deeply saddened to hear of Alan’s passing. He was a thoughtful and fair reporter who brought a unique perspective to every story. We send our condolences to his family, friends, dog Buddy and the entire Digger Team during this difficult time.”

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Here’s a blog post Alan wrote last year about the death of kayaker Boyce Greer: Keeping on

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Alan’s death was reported on a range of media. Here are some links:

Vermont Public Radio: Former Vt. Reporter Dies In Kayaking Accident

Seven Day: Alan Panebaker, Former Digger Reporter, Dies in N.H. Kayak Accident

Vermont Press Bureau: Former Statehouse reporter Alan Panebaker dies at 29 in kayaking accident

Burlington Free Press: Former Vermont reporter dies in New Hampshire kayaking accident

WCAX-TV: Former Vt. reporter dies in kayaking accident Former Vt reporter dies in NH kayaking accident

New Hampshire Public Radio: Kayaker Who Died Was Official With National Whitewater Organization

American Whitewater Association: AW Northeast Stewardship Director in Tragic Accident

Paddling Life News/Playak/com: AW Northeast Stewardship Director Alan Panebaker Dies Kayaking in New Hampshire

Boater Talk forum:

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Anne Galloway

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  • Daniel Barlow

    This is so sad … Alan was a fantastic reporter and I enjoyed seeing him around the Statehouse. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and close friends.

  • Liz Schlegel

    Such a loss. Alan was one of my favorite reporters ever.

  • Stan Hopson

    How sad.

  • Tom Stevens

    This is a terrible loss. Our thoughts are with his partner and his friends. He was a thoughtful and inquisitive reporter while with Digger. He will be missed.

  • Jeanne Keller

    This is just awful. In the blink of an eye, an engaging, smart, ethical, hard-working journalist and public-spirited Life is gone. Alan: we hardly knew you, but we shall really miss you. My heartfelt condolences to all his family, friends and colleagues. What a loss.

  • Avram Patt

    Alan was a thorough and fair reporter on Vermont energy issues, and as far as matters he called or buttonholed me about, he got the facts right better than most. Condolences to his family. friends and colleagues.

  • Steve West

    A great loss. So sorry for all of you at VT Digger and Alan’s family. There are too few good reporters in this world to lose any, including Alan.

  • Jason Tucker

    Alan was the type of guy who’s enthusiasm for whatever he was doing right then and there was infectious. He made you quickly realize how good the present was and how much fun there was to be had. Though I was only able to spend time with Alan for one year at VLS, I’ll always remember what a good nature he had as a ski buddy or just a cool guy to kick it with. My condolences to him family, partner, and dog.

  • Ken Russell

    I’m so sorry to hear this!! My condolences to his family and to all who knew him. Oh my God!

  • Patti Komline

    I was so fond of Alan and appreciated his thorough and balanced journalism. I was sorry when I heard he was leaving Digger and am heartsick at this news. Anne, thank you for enabling us to get to know Alan during his time in the State House. To Alan’s partner, friends and family – my heart goes out to you in this most difficult time. And to you too Anne…

  • Judy MacIsaac Robertson

    Such a tragic loss. I did not know Alan, only read his work. Another reminder to live each moment and love deeply. My family sends their condolences to Alan’s partner, their families, co-workers, neighbors and friends.

  • suzanne schipper

    I am so sorry to hear this. Sincere condolences to all who know and loved Alan.

  • kevin ellis

    Hey Alan – I know you are up there, bugging me about PR flacking, seeing through the smokescreen, calling the question, and driving the politicians. The first amendment had you in mind. And the best thing was that you “put it in the paper!” (or on line) when too many reporters know a lot but don’t write it.

    You made the world a better place. Thank you for gracing us.

  • vince illuzzi

    Alan quickly became part of the extended family at the State House. We all loved him and missed him when he left. We will miss him forever.

  • Claudia Pringles

    When no one was really paying attention or had an interest in our story, Alan came along and saved the day. He took a genuine interest in kids with autism and wrote a great article that got the attention of the legislators and the state. The last time I spoke with him was at the State House, he was interviewing a high ranking state official when he saw me walk by. He then dropped the interview and ran up to catch up with me. He wanted to check on the progress of our autism bill.
    He was a good man and made a positive difference in other people’s lives. RIP, Alan.

  • I was so sorry to hear this. Alan was always thorough, fair, and friendly. His articles were excellent, and I always enjoyed saying hello to him at a hearing. My deepest condolences to those who knew and loved him personally. Even from my limited knowledge of Alan, I can feel that his passing is a great loss.

  • Nick Monsarrat

    Very sad news. Alan was a hardworking reporter and a kind soul; it was a privilege to have briefly known him. My condolences to both his and the VTDigger family.

  • Cynthia Browning

    I don’t know what I can say to add to what others have already said, but I, too, am so sad and shocked to hear of this loss.

    The fact that the picture chosen shows him smiling and laughing is wonderful. He had a great sense of humor and an appreciation for all the absurdities and ironies of the legislative process.

    Rep. Cynthia Browning

  • William Driscoll

    I am very sad to learn of Alan’s passing. He was a truly good person, and it was as enjoyable to talk to him about a story he was working on as it was about just how things were going. I am sure he will be missed by many. My thoughts go out to all of his loved ones and friends.

  • Words cannot express my sorrow in hearing this news. He was an amazing person, dedicated reporter, and a true friend. Thank you Alan Panebaker, for your positive energy, glowing spirit, and for all of the laughs we shared in the statehouse. The world was brighter with you in it. My heart goes out to his family, colleagues, and friends as we all try to comprehend this devastating loss.

  • Don Turner

    My sincere condolences to both the Panebaker and the VTdigger families, colleagues and friends on this tragic loss.

  • Sheryl Rapee-Adams

    I’m terribly sorry to learn of Alan’s death, a bright light extinguished. My heart goes out to his partner Magdalena, to Buddy, to all who knew and cared about him.

  • So sorry to hear this terrible news. He was a talented journalist and will be deeply missed. Thinking of you, Anne, and everyone at VT Digger – he had a big impact in a much too short life.

  • Eric Davis

    I was terribly saddened to read of Alan’s passing. He was a fine reporter, and a fine person, with a whole range of opportunities awaiting him in life. My sincerest condolences to his partner, family, friends, and colleagues.

    Perhaps Dylan Thomas’ poem, “And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” can be of comfort at this time of loss.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Dead men naked they shall be one
    With the man in the wind and the west moon;
    When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
    They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
    Though they go mad they shall be sane,
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
    Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Under the windings of the sea
    They lying long shall not die windily;
    Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
    Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
    Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
    And the unicorn evils run them through;
    Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    No more may gulls cry at their ears
    Or waves break loud on the seashores;
    Where blew a flower may a flower no more
    Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
    Though they be mad and dead as nails,
    Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
    Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
    And death shall have no dominion.

  • Matt Cota

    Alan’s work for VT digger was always in depth, accurate, and fair. He had a wonderful sense of humor, incredible intelligence, and had a bright outlook on life. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

  • Bob Houghton

    Thank you for that wonderfully charming and smiling photo of Alan. I needed that even more than the story. Such a devastating loss.

  • Jordan Gonda

    Alan was a fellow VLS grad that I only wish I would have gotten to know better. We ran into each other quite frequently, both having chosen to remain in Vermont after law school. He was a passionate individual and always making somebody laugh. I admired him a lot and I am so sorry that Vermont has lost such a talented young professional and adventurer. My sincere condolences to his girlfriend, his family, friends, and our fellow VLS colleagues. You will be missed, Alan.

  • thatcher moats

    Such a terrible thing to hear. Alan was such a good guy.

  • Donald Kreis

    I didn’t know Alan well, but I felt such a kinship with him because we had a particular connection at the macro level (journalism and law) and at the micro level (vtdigger and Vermont Law School). I was so pleased to see someone use his VLS training to pursue the cause of excellence in Vermont journalism through vtdigger, I have such good memories of Alan nodding politely when I would stop by the newsroom in Montpelier to impose my latest harangue on him about what to cover on the energy beat, and I wish I had tried harder to persuade him not to leave the newsroom for the river. On the other hand, if we don’t have rivers, we won’t need newsrooms …

  • Heidi Tringe

    I am so saddened to learn of Alan’s passing. He was a stellar reporter and always a positive presence in the State House. My heart goes out to his partner, family, close friends and all of you at vtdigger.

  • Nancy Remsen

    I have been stunned for several hours after hearing of this tragedy. I remember Alan’s excitement earlier this summer as he spoke about his new job. I appreciated his professionalism as a journalist, and as everyone has noted, his smile. What potential he had, no matter what he would have done.

  • Raymond Large

    Alan was a dear friend. I grew up with him in the mountains of western North Carolina. We spent many weekends together with our brothers and fathers in the wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains. BSA Troop 914 has lost a very amazing alumnus.

    His family is one of honor and integrity. Thank you for such a touching article and tribute to Alan. We are all better people because Alan Panebaker was in our lives.

  • Ben Walsh

    I’m going to miss you man.

  • tony klein

    Oh Alan! I will miss you! You covered the energy field so fairly and thoroughly! I was sad when you left Digger but happy to know you left to pursue your passion! I will think of you often whenever I am in the State House or in my Kayak!!

  • Jeff Coy

    My condolences. This is a loss for all Vermonters.

  • Christopher Curtis

    This is really tragic news. I did not know Alan well, but the few times I met him I was impressed with his intelligence, inquisitiveness, and his irreverent sense of humor. It’s a sad day for Vermont when we lose someone of Alan’s obvious caliber.

  • Joe Choquette

    Alan’s work was proof that you can be a good reporter who uncovers all of the facts and tells it like it is, but be respected by your news sources and a friend away from the job. We were all sorry that he left vtdigger, and we are saddened by his death.

  • The world has lost a bright star. I helped introduce Alan to whitewater canoeing and kayaking through scouting and Troop 914. He showed great ability and enthusiasm as he developed his skill.His dad Dave and I taught swiftwater rescue a few times, so Alan was aware of the risks.
    I am very sad for the family and send my sincerest sympathy, they are a great adventuresome group, very unique.Alan’s career in paddlesport was significant, we will miss his spirited intellect and humorous attitude.
    Alan’s passing brings home the delicate nature of life and the risks associated with high adventure. I trust Alan is already finding the heavenly surf runs and showing the angels just how it is done.

  • Too soon, way too soon. I was disappointed when Alan announced that he was leaving journalism – something he was obviously very good at. But he was so excited and happy that he was off to do something he loved all the more. A professional and a very nice guy. A horrible tragedy.

  • Dotty Schnure

    Alan was a great reporter — interested, fair and careful to get it right. And he was always professional and personable. Very nice guy with a great sense of humor and warm smile. I was so sorry to see him leave VTDigger, but glad he was off to do something he loved. Very, very sad to lose him. My heart goes out to his family and everyone who loved him.

  • Walter Carpenter

    God, I feel so sad. Alan and I are both avid kayakers. We often talked about going kayaking together when things were hot at the statehouse and we needed something to laugh about. This is awful. I am going to take a paddle in his honor and memory. It is so sad.

  • Tommy Gardner

    Damn. My condolences to everyone who knew him as more than a really talented byline.

  • Losing such a talented, spirited, smart and humble young man is a tragedy. Although I didn’t know Alan well — and only worked on a couple of stories with him — he had an inquisitive and skeptical mind. He wrote about often dry and complicated topics in an engaging and conversational way. I was sorry to see him leave journalism, but happy for him in his new job. My heart goes out to Magdalena, his parents and all who knew him. You will be missed, Alan.

  • I’ll announce this on the radio program. We appreciated his articles on the autism bill and interest! So sorry, ANNE

  • Josh Fitzhugh

    This is an awful shock, such a talented fellow. I am sorry I never met him but I certainly enjoyed his articles.

    His death reminds me of another years and years ago. A very talented reporter left the Washington Post and moved with his family to Claremont NH where he bought (or began editing) the Claremont Eagle, then the major daily in that part of the world. (I don’t think the Valley News had yet begun.) The Sugar River flooded and he decided to go out for a canoe, but did not return. I think this story was written up in a book called, “Journal of a Johnny Come Lately,” if I am not mistaken.

    Swollen rivers are very, very dangerous and unpredictable.

    My condolences to Alan’s family.

  • Jake Sorich

    I knew Alan when he attended the University of Montana. We worked at the student newspaper together.

    He was ALWAYS in a good mood, no matter what he was working on, what was going on in his personal life. He always knew how to lift up the newsroom. We’d joke together and play pranks on our fellow staffers…things like that. He was a great writer and had a bright career in front of him.

    I haven’t heard from him much since we both left school, but this is such heartbreaking to hear. I considered Alan my friend and this is a tragedy to lose him at such a young age.

  • Nancy Lynch

    I am stunned and so very sad to hear this. My heart goes out to Alan’s loved ones. Vermont just lost a wonderful man and reporter. Such a huge loss.

  • brian buckley

    Alan, we love and miss you here at rainbow, man. Give em hell out there.

  • Alan did a solid job covering two of the most difficult beats in the state — Vermont Yankee and health care reform — and we at The Commons deeply appreciated the work he did and welcomed any chance to reprint his stories in our paper. The news of Alan’s death is a kick in the gut, as it is whenever someone dies before their time. On behalf of my colleagues, I offer my deepest condolences to the VTDigger family.

  • Elise, Elena, Haidee Reynolds/ Wilson

    Alan was loved for many things and to hear of this tragedy brings such acute sadness but to know that he was doing exactly what he loved…just LIVING life, is to be honored and celebrated!!!
    Much much love to all the family

  • Mari Cordes,

    Really really sorry to hear this! Condolences to family and friends – especially at VT Digger.

  • Margo Howland

    So very sorry to learn of this loss via WCAX this evening. I didn’t know Alan personally, but read his bylines in VtDigger. As a former journalist (Rutland Herald, Eagle Times) and fellow VLS grad (Class of 1986) I am especially sorry. My condolences to his partner and family.

    Margo Howland

  • Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup

    Anne and everyone – I’m so sad to hear of Alan’s passing. I know how much he meant to you and how much he added to Digger over the last year. Much love to you all. I’ll be thinking of you.

  • Michele Bartlett

    I didn’t know Alan at all, but my colleague Chris Skagen, Alan’s VLS ski-buddy, spoke very highly of his integrity and humility, as well as his adventuresome spirit. He sounds like a wonderful young man who will be greatly missed; many blessings to his family and loved ones.

  • Oliver Olsen

    Alan was a great reporter and an even better friend. I feel terrible about the loss of such a wonderful person and a talented individual – especially at such a young age. Alan called me recently and left a message that I had not yet returned, which makes it all the more tragic for me. I wish I could call him back, but I will forever hold fond memories of the eve of the last day of the legislative session this year, when the two of us (along with a few other un-named legislators) closed down Charlie-O’s in grand style.

    To Alan’s friends and family – know that he made his mark and helped make Vermont a better place. He was truly a special person, who will be missed by all.

  • Ben Maniscalco

    Alan was an extremely talented, witty, and caring man whose contributions to this planet were infinite in their level of positive impact. I will miss his kind welcoming nature and his highly intellectual critiques of the world around us. I can’t remember any expression on his face other than that constant grin..Hannah and I miss you so much….

  • Sarah Buxton

    Alan was my classmate, my colleague, my critic, and my friend. I mourn his passing on a personal and professional level. These posts demonstrate his talent for connecting people and principles – in life and in death. Peace to your soul, Alan, and peace to the loved ones you left here on earth.

  • Margaret Cheney

    I was devastated to hear about Alan’s tragic death. He was a superb journalist, always going the extra mile to get it right. He was a bright spot in the Statehouse, someone I always enjoyed talking with — smart, funny, committed, charming in the best sense of the word. It’s a terrible loss to us all.

  • Alan was such a good, talented and witty guy. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go his loved ones.

  • Telly Halkias

    I didn’t know Alan well personally, but read his pieces in Digger every day. As a fellow journalist I appreciated and admired the thorough nature of his work. Accuracy, fairness, objectivity and transparency: Alan’s stories had them all. I can’t think of a higher professional compliment. Godspeed.

  • Joe Hoppe

    Our hearts ache; our minds are numb. We are stunned to learn of the accident that took Alan’s life. My wife Alice and myself “hosted” Alan for several weeks when he made the move from Montana to the Rouge Valley in southern Oregon to work for the Medford Mail Tribune and Ashland Daily Tidings. He shared our house for several weeks during this time and we got to know him very well. What a wonderful young man he was; one we enjoyed immensely while living with us. We came to know him initially because our son Peter and he were good friends at the University of Montana. During this period we also met Alan’s parents, Dave and Janet. They too are outstanding people and Alan incorporated so many of their qualities. Alice and I feel so deeply for their loss and send our thoughts and prayers to his family. Alan you are missed, Godspeed.

  • Peter White-Hoppe

    Alan was always a great friend with a great sense of humor and top-notch on the Foosball table as I learned having spent 2 years as his roommate at the University of Montana. He always would let me tag along with him and go kayaking out to the gorge, he was impressive to watch in a boat and always had a big smile on and off the water. Fried chicken and beer got us home safely more times than I can remember from skiing or kayaking. Sir Alan Thomas, you will be missed.

  • Chris Pearson

    How sad to think his smiling face isn’t out there somewhere.

  • Dave and Janet Panebaker

    Reading all the heart felt comments about our son are helping us cope with this tragedy. He grew up in some of the nation’s greatest national parks – Glacier, Wrangell-St.Elias, Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains. We believe some of the NPS conservation/preservation ethics rubbed off on him. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout in troop 914 in Culowhee, NC. He started whitewater canoeing with the troop and kept advancing his whole life. We can’t come close to naming all the rivers he’s run with his friends. We are proud of how both of our sons grew up. Alan was an in depth reporter who got into the meat of issues. We couldn’t have been prouder when he passed the bar last fall. He studied all summer to pass it. He enjoyed working with Vermont Digger, living in VT with Mags and Buddy, and running rivers. He was on top of the world when he was hired as the Northeast Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. We’re leaving Colorado tomorrow to drive to Montpelier to be with Mags and meet some of his friends to celebrate Alan’s Life. Alan left this world doing something that he loved and it doesn’t get any better than that! It was just too soon. Thanks

  • Bob Stannard

    A real good guy. A very tough/smart reporter. Very sad news.

  • Nolan Langweil

    Too soon indeed! He was a very personable guy who left a lasting impression. I will miss him. My heart goes out to Mags, his family, and his dog Buddy.

  • Kerrick Johnson

    Alan was just a good man, something that is all too rare. Fair, honest, funny and smart. he was the type of guy you want to introduce to your sister. Prayers and solace to you Janet, Mags and David; and you, Anne, I can only imagine how difficult this was to write.

  • David Zuckerman

    So very sad. He was always a pleasure to chat with about the issues and wanted as much information as possible. A reminder of how things can change in the blink of an eye. He will be missed.

  • Alan contributed so much to the growth and success of and, by his commitment to journalistic excellence, to our community at large. I cannot adequately express our sense of loss at his untimely death.

    Our sincere sympathies go out to his family and the many friends he made during his short time with us.

    Bill Schubart is Chair of the Vermont Journalism Trust and

  • Angela Timpone

    I am sadden to hear about the loss of Alan. Alan was an exceptional reporter and advocate for his community. Not only did Alan write an important article about the struggles of families affected by autism, but personally, he also advocated for Montpelier to build the district heating plant. I will truly miss chatting with Alan on the sidewalk about issues that really mattered to him. My thoughts are with his family and our community. We lost an exceptional person.

  • Paul Harrington

    Alan’s premature death is a great lose for his family and our community. With his aense of inquiry and his personal integrity, he exemplified the best values of humanity and journalism.

  • Michele Kupersmith

    I remember well the first time Alan and I met at the state house. I could say that the VLS connection was what grabbed me – but really, it was much simpler than that; Alan was just a charming and totally delightful person. He questioned whether he was off-track – continuing to report vs practicing law. I laughed at him — are you kidding (?)– reporting is what you do well AND it will make you a great lawyer. Alan was such a beautiful person; I am so very sorry.

  • Chris MacDonald

    So saddened to hear of the loss of such a great guy. He was truly a light at the state house. Alan was witty, energetic, and always reported the facts. I enjoyed getting to know Alan for the short period of time that I did. My thoughts and heart are out to his family and friends.

  • Mike Noble

    Like Nancy, I remember Alan’s excitement as he spoke about his new job. Even though I enjoyed working with him during his time at VT Digger and was sorry to see him go, it was clear that the new job was what he wanted to be doing. Yes, what potential and what a loss for all of us.

  • Steve Wright

    Alan was a real pro with a great love for things natural, wild and free. An interaction with him seemed always to lead to a better understanding of the world rushing past.
    My deepest condolences to his family and friends. What a loss.

  • Bruce Post

    My words of condolence are insufficient compared to the loss of Alan and what he means to his loved ones. I thought perhaps that this excerpt from the letter Sullivan Ballou wrote to his wife, Sarah, on the eve of the First Battle of Bull Run might be of some solace:

    “But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night — amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours — always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

    Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.”

  • Being a reporter is not easy. Being a good reporter is really hard. It pulls more out of you than is often acknowledged. Alan was a good reporter, and I didn’t understand at first how he could leave VtDigger. If you had gotten to know the guy at the Statehouse or elsewhere news is made, you loved to chat with him. You felt abandoned when he left. But now I understand better what wild rivers meant to him, and I respect that. I just wish so very, very hard that his passion hadn’t ended in this tragedy. It just doesn’t seem fair – to anyone.

  • David Goodman

    I’m so sorry to learn of Alan’s passing. He touched and enlightened us all with his words and his humanity. Condolences and gratitude to his Vtdigger family for sharing him with the wider community, and to his friends & family.

  • Bill Lawrence

    I enjoyed watching him on Friday nights on VPT when he was a panelist on Vermont This Week.It is a terrible thing when a young life like his is lost, but the world does become a better place for he has touched it and left his mark for all to remember him by, and we see that by all of the special words written about him today. God Bless.

  • SAndra Dale

    The world has lost a truly talented ,spirited ,unique, fun loving young man. Alan was the best in all he did in life. Our whole family shall miss him deeply and our heartfelt sympathies to his family Dave and Janet and brother Eric. Magdalena holding you in our hearts and prayers. The DAle Family from Pa.

  • Richard Cassidy

    The outpouring of condolences on the news of Alan’s death is a demonstration of the power of words, both in general, and of his words in particular.
    Many of us who did not really know him, knew him by his writing in an important way.
    My condolences to his loved ones.

  • Our collective hearts at VEC are with Alan and his loved ones. We really enjoyed working with him as he was an intelligent, ethical and thoughtful person. Another great Vermonter that will be remembered for all of those things that make us proud of our state. Thank you, Alan.

  • Randy Pratt

    Such a loss. “Doing what he loved” seems like it could have been so many things. We could always count on passion, depth, and accuracy in his Statehouse work. Even knowing him peripherally, this hurts. Condolences to all.

  • Traci Thompson

    Anne, Thanks for writing such a thoughtful piece about our loss of a dear friend. Alan (or “Panebaker” as one of our law professors called him) was in my section 1L year at Vermont Law. I remember being a little surprised to find him at the top of our class – he was so fun and outgoing – he couldn’t be one of those law nerds! Panebaker was one of the most fun, light-hearted and adventurous people I know and at the same time one of the smartest. Rare combination. Panebaker was a very special person and he will never be forgotten.

  • Charles Douthitt

    It was Alan that served as my guide and took me on my first kayaking trip. We were both in High School, and after a bit of nagging he reluctantly agreed to “borrow” one of his brother’s kayaks for a trip down the Tuck. Not knowing how to roll a kayak I ended up swimming at every rapid, but when I surfaced he was always there to help me to shore and to drain the boat. Naturally, this process repeated and repeated and repeated…the rest of the afternoon. The trip stands out for me because it was my first trip away from the safety of 914 and parents. While I’m sure he was bored, I was thrilled to have the feeling of being on my own. Looking back I had all the training and skill from years of scouting to take a trip like that sooner, but it was Alan that made it possible. It is obvious to from all his trips he possessed a strong adventurous spirit, but what is less obvious was that he was also a tremendous friend.

    He will be greatly missed.

  • Con Hogan

    I just learned of Alan’s death today (Friday) at 1pm. I am absolutely shocked. I got to know him as he covered the health care board. His way of doing his job would often be just simply sitting down with us…and learning. His reporting approach was very different than other journalists. Alan was simply a good person with such a positive outlook on life. We will miss him greatly.

  • John Morale

    I became friends with Mags because of our mutual passion for mountain biking. She finally got Alan to join us one day on a very technical trail. He said he didn’t ride much but blew me away on the up hill, struggled a bit on the technical downhill but throughout the ride he had a huge smile on his face. My heart goes out to Mags, Buddy and all of Alan’s family.

  • Cate Chant

    I so appreciated Alan’s intelligence, kindness and wit here in the VTDigger newsroom. But as excellent he was as a journalist, I always knew his heart and soul were in the outdoors, and especially with the river. His death is sad, indeed, yet I can’t help but see him plunging into that last rapid, surrounded by whitewater, blue skies and sunshine, with a big smile on his face.

  • Did not know you personally Alan – but from everything I can tell he you are a giant! Terrible tragedy to a young intelligent guy.

  • Matthew Valerio

    Very sad. He was a good reporter, and more importantly a good guy. We need more good guys. Condolences to his family and friends.

  • This is so tragic. He was an outstanding reporter and a sensitive and caring person. He will be greatly missed.

  • Alan’s thoughtful reporting on legislation that impacted Vermont families seeking healthcare for autism treatment brought attention to the issue at exactly the right time and in exactly the right tone. Words can’t convey how saddened I am to hear of his sudden loss. He was a light .. Sending thoughts and prayers to those who loved him. He truly made a difference for so many …

  • Ralph and Jackie Matzner

    We are so sad to hear of your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Carol Van Valkenburg

    We at the University of Montana School of Journalism are crushed by the news of Alan’s death. He was whip smart, engaging, sensitive, a fine reporter and writer and much admired. He embodied the ideals of journalism. It’s comforting to know he was able to follow his passion, yet also integrate his journalism and legal skills into his love of the outdoors. Our heartfelt sympathy is extended to his parents, brother and partner.

  • Sue Fraser Frankewicz

    While there was no mention of Alan’s parents in the articles I’ve read I would like to offer words of comfort to them. I am the mother of another fully alive young man passionate about his love of wild nature and of the human community who lost his life doing what he loved, canyoneering in Zion National Park. The shock of loss is almost unbearable, to go from so vitally engaged in life to so suddenly dead and gone was unthinkable. Yet we heal and life goes on and we carry our loved one in our hearts forever. May you be surrounded by those who love you and those who loved Alan while the process of healing takes as long as it takes.

  • Steven Farnham

    I never met the man, but of course have read a lot of his work at Vt Digger. How regrettable for his life and career to be cut so short. At least he did what he loved, and did it well. My condolences to his family, friends, and to Anne and the crew at ‘Digger.

  • Sid Goodrich

    What can I say, I jus’t don’t have the words to express the sorry I feel for this loss. It is difficult to understand things when this gifted young man could be gone from us.
    Alan had such great promise to do so much for his country and humanity. He would have contributed so much to his fellow man.
    I have known and been friends of the family since Alan’s father, Dave, came to be ranger at Walton Station in Glacier Nationl Park
    My heart aches for all of us that ever had a contact with Alan.

  • Peter Galbraith

    What sad news. I liked talking to Alan when he covered the legislature. He focused on finding out what was important and wrote honestly without being snide. He kept Vermonters informed without denigrating public service, as happens too much in politics and journalism outside our very special state. And, in his love for the outdoors he was also a Vermonter. My condolences to Mags, his parents, his brother and his friends.

  • George Twigg

    Awful news. Alan was a great person and a fantastic journalist.

  • Christian Noll

    I was shocked by this.

    Such an unexpected loss of such a gifted young man.

  • Kirby Keeton

    I knew Alan from law school. He was truly one of the warmest people I have met in the last five years. He could have a conversation with anyone and brighten their day. He was a rare person to say the least.

  • Carl Etnier

    I last saw Alan two weeks or so ago at the feed store, and he was jazzed to get down to a kayaking event in the southeast. I enjoyed working with him when covering the Statehouse. So saddened to lose the vivacious spirit that he was.

  • What a tremendous loss to us all.