Renaissance Man

Quick update: Righthaven loses another one.

My parents’ friend and neighbor, Frank Burton, died in 2007. I wrote this tribute based on notes that Ann Petry left in her journals and read it at his memorial service, which was held in his beautiful garden as the roses bloomed. He christened his extensive acreage Pennywise Farm, for the lane around the corner.

 Our whole family adored the produce from Pennywise Farm. When Mother was expecting company she made special dishes. Her homemade applesauce came from “gorgeous” apples from Pennywise Farm.

Every winter we looked forward to a delivery of containers of frozen fruit. The bounty of fall in the midst of winter! Before Christmas one year she made a peach torte from the large containers he brought us. She incorporated the juice into a Christmas Day fruit compote. The following week my parents celebrated New Years Day with a torte of peaches and pears from Pennywise Farm.

Mother and Mr. Burton shared a passion for antiques. As my Mother’s sister and cousin became disabled or died, Mr. Burton helped Mother so much by buying items, moving furniture and trunks and china and lots and lots of other stuff from my grandparents’ house and from the house next door that belonged to my great aunt and uncle.

Mr. Burton also kept track of my mother’s doings. When The New York Times published an interview with her, she called Kim Meadows at James’ Pharmacy to reserve extra copies of the paper. Kim said she was out – Mr. Burton had bought every copy she had!

Mother spent several years trying to convince the local papers to run an article about Mr. Burton and made extensive notes.

Here is some of what she wrote:  Renaissance man: peaches – apples – cucumbers – onions – green peppers – in season;  expert gardener – practically a farmer; photographer – was the official photographer for the National African Violet Association; antiques dealer – specializes in old glass; a great cook – freezes quantities of fruit and vegetables makes jams + jellies.

Later, she wrote: carpenter + builder – appraiser of real estate – antiques dealer – and a gardener – grower of vegetables + flowers – retail seller of them – a buyer for the drugstore. She added, “Lover of cats.”

She approached The New York Times, Northeast (former Hartford Courant Sunday magazine). I asked a friend who worked at the Middletown Press and The Day of New London. We thought we had everything set up and Mr. Burton said, “No!” I think he was far too modest and preferred to devote his energies to gardening and antiquing and photographing, rather than answering questions from a nosy reporter.

Some of Mother’s most enjoyable times were visiting Pennywise Farm to look at the roses and later in the year the fruit ripening on the trees. We always went in for a visit to view the latest antiques and the resident cats that draped themselves in around the people and the furniture.

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2 Responses to “Renaissance Man”

  1. florag18@gmail.com Says:

    What a beautiful tribute to Mr.Frank Burton, Liz! Obviously he was a man of many talents. His life could never have been boring with so many diverse interests!

    • lizr128 Says:

      Thanks, Flora! He really was a terrific person. I left out a bunch of stuff — how he cared for an ailing wife for years, raised several children and helped take care of one of his grandchildren.

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