BeekeeperBurt Shavitz

After working as a photographer for the U.S. Army and for Time and Life magazines, Shavitz gave it all up in the 1960s to live a simpler life. He moved from New York City to rural Maine and converted a turkey coop to be his house, not bothering with running water or electricity, and raised bees. In 1984, he picked up a woman who was hitchhiking, and one thing led to another: she started to sell the honey his bees produced, and made candles from the beeswax. In 1988, the woman, Roxanne Quimby, mixed beeswax with clover for a new product: lip balm. It was such a hit that they incorporated a new company, Burt’s Bees, in 1989. The two partners (Shavitz had 70 percent ownership, Quimby had 30 percent) had a falling out, but stayed on with the company as an advisor — and his picture was on company packaging. Quimby bought him out for a reported $4 million, and Shavitz returned to his turkey coop, where he lived the rest of his life. “He’s everything you want him to be, but nothing you think he should be,” said Jody Shapiro, who made a documentary about Shavitz. “If you looked at the logo, you’d think he’s probably not a real guy, but OK, maybe he’s a farmer who raises bees and lives naturally. Then you find out he’s a real person and he really is like that.” Quimby kept building the business, and later sold the company …for a reported $925 million. Shavitz died July 5, from respiratory problems. He was 80.

From This is True for 5 July 2015