WESTON, Vt. – Maddie would often say, “The key is to enter the pain cave and get comfortable there.” This was her response when asked how she could stand the grueling training, wind sprints, weight lifting, and endless miles of practice required to be a Division I cross-country skier for the University of Utah. This was Maddie’s philosophy and testimony to her immense strength of character. The ability to confront and co-exist with challenge – whatever that challenge may be.
A summer solstice baby, June 21, Madeleine Harris Talkington was born in Springfield, Vt. in 1989 to parents Nancy Mullen and John Wesley Talkington. Her childhood was spent climbing pine trees with her siblings, playing soccer, riding horses owned by a family friend, and desperately wanting a dog. Instead she received a Siberian dwarf hamster. According to family lore, Maddie was so strong as a 3-year-old that she was placed in the “big kids” ski group and was seen later shredding down the mountain at Smuggler’s Notch.
In high school, she decided that she would train full-time to become an elite cross-country skier and enrolled at Stratton Mountain School. While there, she adored her teammates, skied her butt off, and cultivated a love for country music. Though quiet by nature, her kindness always drew people to her and, once you were in, she was an extremely devoted and loving friend.
In 2007 she headed west to ski for the University of Utah and graduated with honors in 2011. She lived in Park City, Utah to work for the National Ability Center, an organization that assists veterans and individuals with disabilities to access outdoors recreation. It was a job that meant a lot to her and was her inspiration for later becoming a physical therapist. In Park City, she also met and fell head over heels for her partner of eight years, Hayden Keisling. Soon after, they adopted a border collie pup named “Kai” and her childhood dreams were fulfilled.
Though notoriously difficult, Maddie sailed through physical therapy school and graduated with a doctorate in 2020 from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz. She was diagnosed with advanced melanoma in October 2019 and fought like a champ until finally succumbing to complications Dec. 22, 2020 at 31 years old. She was surrounded by family and friends, who sang her into the spiritual world with favorite songs.
Maddie is survived by her parents Nancy and John of Weston, Vt., elder sister Nora, younger brother Dale, and partner Hayden of Page, Ariz. She is predeceased by maternal grandparents Madeleine and James Mullen of Rockingham, Vt. and paternal grandparents Jack and Annabelle Talkington of Springfield, Vt.
A celebration of life service will be held on the summer solstice 2021 in Rockingham, Vt. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, www.donorbox.org/snow-angels, or the Honor Health Research Institute in Scottsdale, Ariz., www.honorhealth.com/community/honorhealth-foundation/donate.