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Remembering Jocelyn Barrett

By Amanda Major

Grief is not linear. A few weeks ago, the Zoar Outdoor community lost one of our nearest and dearest community members. Many of us were shocked as our community began the process of collective and individual grieving.

Jocelyn Barrett started kayaking in her 60s. She saw her son, Jim, fall in love with the sport, and she knew she wanted to be part of something that seemed to be so life changing. She also alluded to the fact that she was thrilled to share this newfound activity with him. 

Her first class was at Zoar Outdoor with Heather and Di. She was quickly hooked and progressing. She paddled and continued to commit her time, energy, and enthusiasm to the sport. Jocelyn traveled near and far to kayak. It is a testament to Jocelyn’s fierce and athletic nature as well as how magical our paddlesport and river community really is – She paddled until she was 82!

We are honored and in awe of her. Proud and grateful that we could be her home on the river.

Even though she was from the eastern part of the state and would often be traveling to the Southwest to visit her family, she was always an active member of the Deerfield River paddling community, along with our Zoar Outdoor family. She would check in on us, keeping tabs on our kayaking adventures and personal lives, and letting us know what she thought about all of it. She influenced many of us through her years with her positive energy and enduring love.

Many of the folks who loved her missed her services a few weeks ago. We were at Zoar on the water. Teaching. Learning. Kayaking. We were teaching an Instructor Certification course and a Swiftwater Rescue Course to her paddling community peers and friends. During these courses, both groups took time to hold space on the river for Jocelyn. To speak to her importance to us and to our community.

At the riverside at a spot called “Christmas tree,” Katrina spoke to the Instructor Candidates about Jocelyn. She told the group that she had spoken with Jocelyn’s son Jim that morning, letting him know she would not be able to attend the services for Joc because she was instructing on a course. Katrina shared the text response from Jim. He said, “That is exactly where she would have wanted you to be. On the river she loved so much. Training more people how to teach kayaking and spreading the sport to more people.” 

At the end of ACA course, one of the newly certified instructors thanked us. Georgia said, “Thank you for being vulnerable and for sharing your stories about Joc. She sounded like such an important part of your community, and it is really valuable for me to see how strong this community is as a newer paddler.”

We hope you bring and share your memories of Jocelyn on the river with you so we can all take part in the continued celebration of her wonderful and full life that we were all so lucky to be a part of.

Words from the Paddlesports Staff

Ann Gillard:  Every time I was on Fife with new kayakers, we would always see Jocelyn. I made sure to catch up with her in an eddy so she could tell the newbies 1) how old she was and 2) how important it was to paddle efficiently and take care of yourself so you too could paddle at her age. Without fail, every single one was IMPRESSED with Jocelyn and motivated to be like her. Her love of the river, sense of community, and stoke were one of a kind. I will miss seeing Jocelyn in person, but will always feel her presence on Fife.

Amanda Major:  My time kayaking and instructing on the Deerfield was framed with a constant thread: the self-proclaimed “flora and fauna of the Deerfield” otherwise known as Jocelyn and Jim Barrett. As a new instructor at Zoar in 2017, Jocelyn paddled straight up to me and immediately asked, “Who are you?!” as though she owned the river. At times, it felt like she did, watching her and her crew paddling together and appreciating nature, week after week, year after year. That simple question opened up years of connection, appreciation, love, respect, and gratitude between us. Whenever I wanted new students to feel grounded in the community of kayaking and the river, I would look for Jocelyn on the river so I could introduce them to someone who bubbled over with excitement and love for the sport. Folks were always humbled and thankful to meet her, especially when she let them know how old she was. She would put folks at ease and offer encouragement to them if they weren’t starting the sport in their 20s and 30s: “This is for you, too. I started in my late 50s!” she would say. Jocelyn was the perfect example of grace, strength, enthusiasm, sass, and the fierceness that I will always try to embody in my paddling and interactions with others. It is hard not to feel the ache in my heart when I think of trying to find her on the river this summer. I will always bring my memories of her with me on Fife. 

Sara Dorsey:  Dear Joc, I don’t know that I will ever stop looking for your car and boat at the takeout. You would be proud to know that I associate your presence on the river with summer paddling season as much as the Fife brook releases themselves. Any time I was teaching on Fife I would look for you as a model to introduce my students to the truly lifelong sport – and love- of whitewater.  You welcomed everyone with enthusiasm and kindness to the river community regardless of where they were in their whitewater journey. I remember being nervous to instruct your clinic at a demo fest many years ago. What could I possibly teach someone who paddled so gracefully and boasted that they had attended every demo fest ever?  And yet you found something new to work on in the clinic and every year you would tell me about the wonderful new way of thinking or doing some whitewater skill that you had learned from various instructors.  You taught me there is always more to learn and you shared that passion for learning and paddling with everyone you met.  You are my inspiration for aging gracefully – stubbornly hanging on to what is most important (paddling with friends) and not worrying about the rest.  I loved carrying your boat for you down to the put in whenever I got the chance – insisting it was to enhance my river karma so that when I am 82 someone will do the same for me. I know you could and would carry the boat yourself, but I loved the excuse of spending a little more time with you (even if I was supposed to be teaching a clinic). I wish we had another day on the river together. I’ll still be looking for you on the Fife this summer.

Jocelyn Remembering Jocelyn Remembering Jocelyn


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