‘She was a genuine selfless soul’
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | November 29,2012
Donna Arnado didn’t take her relationships with people for granted.
Days after the 43-year-old Rutland woman died in a crash on an ice-coated bridge on Route 7 in Rutland Town, friends, family and co-workers preparing for her funeral service on Wednesday all recalled a woman devoted to the people in her life.
“She had love for anyone who needed it,” her husband, Paul Arnado said while sitting with family members at his Hopkins Street home.
On Monday morning, Donna Arnado was on her way to Middlebury where she worked with developmentally and physically disabled individuals when her 2002 Chevrolet Tracker struck a patch of ice on a bridge just south of Williams Farm. Arnado’s car spun into the southbound lane and was struck broadside by an oncoming pickup. Rescue workers pronounced Arnado dead at the scene.
Vermont State Police say they ruled out drugs, alcohol and excessive speed as factors in the crash.
Her death sent a shock wave through her family, whose members say Arnado had been an extremely cautious driver since her mother was killed in a Rutland car crash in 1992.
“She didn’t go three miles over the speed limit,” her 23-year-old daughter Heather Arnado said. “She was scared after what happened to her mother.”
Arnado was also wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash police said.
“I’m still in disbelief,” Paul Arnado said. “She was always so cautious.”
The 43-year-old was also careful when it came to protecting her family, which included three children, two grandchildren and her three siblings.
“She was an amazing mom,” 27-year-old Ashley Arnado said.
Family members described Arnado as the glue that held the family together through domestic squabbles.
But she was also described as a person ready to defend her family against anyone she perceived as a threat.
“Her son-in-law called her ‘Ma Dukes’ for a reason,” Paul Arnado said.
“She was fierce when it came to her family,” her brother Louis “Tom” Austin added.
Arnado also devoted herself to others — particularly people in need of assistance.
During her career she worked with disabled individuals at the Community Access Program in Rutland and at Specialized Community Care in Middlebury. On her days off, she volunteered at Rutland’s homeless shelter, the Open Door Mission.
“She was a lady of the first class,” said Sharon Russell, executive director at the homeless shelter. “She said ‘I love doing this. I love helping you guys.’ She was just a nice person.”
Her supervisor at SCC, Trudy Booska, said Arnado did an outstanding job helping her clients overcome physical and mental obstacles to obtain jobs and have access to the community.
“She was absolutely one in a million,” Booska said. “It takes a special person to do this work. She was a genuine selfless soul.”
Sherry Arnold, a friend who worked with Arnold in Rutland and Middlebury, said she was struggling with the loss of a person who meant so much to so many.
“To know that woman was to love her,” she said. “I’m going to miss her with all my heart and I know I’m not alone.”