Remembering Buzz Surwilo
by Sarah Semler
I worked with Buzz for 14 years through the Central Vermont Council on Aging’s Good Neighbor Volunteer Program. He volunteered for us for over 25 years, amazing in and of itself but also because during that time he was a busy husband and father of two, held down a full-time job, and created a warm and welcome place for people in his home. He has left us with so many memories and humorous stories, helping our older neighbors over the years. He was so willing to help out, especially where wood was concerned. He was a champion of supplying wood to those who could not afford it by finding wood that was being discarded, blocking it up, splitting it (with some help from his friends!) and delivering it to those most in need. He has stacked more wood than any human I know!
This kept him busy and outdoors and able to provide a much-needed service. Last year we had a client who was down to burning pallets in their wood stove. When I asked Buzz if he had any wood available, he said that everything he had at the stump dump was green and that it wouldn’t be safe to burn yet. He then offered to deliver 1/3 cord of his own dry wood! (We worked something else out, but still…the offer!)
Buzz helped so many people stay warm over the years through his volunteer service. Not only did Buzz provide a vital service through the firewood delivery, he was also a joy to work with and unfailingly jumped at the opportunity to help others.
Words can’t express how wonderful it was to have someone like Buzz as a volunteer. I deal with all kinds of people who want to help, well-meaning for sure, but Buzz uniquely understood our more hard-scrabble neighbors. Buzz was the man! Years ago he helped an older man who needed some skirting on his trailer replaced. I gave Buzz the directions and we talked a little about what he might need and then he was off. He liked to figure things out for himself. He got to the home and the client announced that he was going to help. Well, this was something new and also, not quite feasible. The health and frail nature of this person was apparent, the weather was lousy with blasting cold winds, but Buzz figured out how they could work together. Later on, after it took him two days to complete a job that could have been done in a few hours he laughed and said it was all worth it.
That was always his way. He had such a capacity for seeing what people needed and then made himself available for whatever it took to get things done.
Buzz passed away March of 2022 and is very much missed by all those who knew him. In his honor, we have started a fund for older Vermonters in need of wood, the Buzz Surwilo Wood for Warmth Fund.
We are incredibly grateful for all he did for older Vermonters and humbled to have been a part of his extraordinary life.
We are also incredibly grateful for all our volunteers here at CVCOA. It takes a special kind of person who wants to help older Vermonters to stay independent, engaged, and healthy. Volunteers make a direct and positive difference. Our direct service volunteers provide one-on-one support in the homes of our older population. By providing time and energy, our volunteers strengthen the community in which they live by providing companionship, rides to medical appointments, assisting with grocery shopping, helping to organize?papers, preparing garden beds, providing respite, helping with chores or simple home repairs, and more.
We hope this remembrance for Buzz’s volunteer service will honor his memory and encourage people to look around them and see what they can do for their neighbors in need. Our CVCOA team can point people in the right direction and identify an individual who can use some support. Special people like Buzz inspire us every day.
You can watch a video of this tribute from our annual meeting here.