(HOST) Many Vermonters have surprising ties to the world beyond the Green Mountains, and according to commentator Edith Hunter, Bert Frothingham of Windsor was one of them.
(HUNTER) Bertha Perkins Frothingham, known to everyone as Bert, was fun to be with. She had a lively sense of humor, and an inquisitive and open mind. When she died recently on her 94th birthday, she was ready to go. As she told me, more than once over lunch, it was time to let someone else try to make this a better world.
She had certainly tried in her own dignified way.
I think Bert and I first met in Windsor at a protest against the invasion of Iraq on a frigid February day. There were only a handful of us, but our enthusiasm kept us warm. We soon discovered our mutual love of books and our shared liberal prejudices.
Bert was still living in the Evarts/Perkins family home on Main Street in Windsor, and after a cup of tea, she took me into her wonderful library with its walls of floor-to-ceiling book shelves. She told me that when she moved to Windsor permanently in 1972 and had the shelves built, the carpenter said: “You must have an awful lot of knick- knacks, Mrs. Frothingham.”
The library included books dating back to her great-grandfather, William Maxwell Evarts, statesman in the Civil War period, and books that had belonged to her father, the legendary Scribner’s editor, Max Perkins. She said that her mother, Louise Saunders Perkins, a writer herself, decided one day to reduce the clutter in the family library at their home in New Canaan, Connecticut. Not bothering to look inside the books, she sold any that were duplicates. When her husband came home he found that many that she had weeded out, were grateful gifts from the authors to their editor with personal messages written inside. Fortunately, she was able to retrieve most of the precious volumes.
Bert had many stories to tell about her famous father and authors with whom he worked – Thomas Wolfe, Marjorie Rawlings, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald. My writer-daughter, on a visit home from north of Asheville, North Carolina, joined Bert and me for lunch one day. When Bert learned that Elizabeth was going to be writing about the reopening of the Thomas Wolfe Homestead in Asheville, she loaded Elizabeth up with relevant books.
I only knew Bert briefly, at the end of her life. When I read her obituary I caught a glimpse of the many facets I hardly knew: doctor’s wife, mother, hostess to Fresh Air children, Red Cross volunteer, and in Windsor, advocate for the library and historic preservation.
Always stylishly dressed, especially when it came to her hats, by the time I knew her, she was blind. It was easy to forget this – she saw things so clearly – at least to my way of thinking.
This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.
Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center. She spoke from our studio in Norwich.