Bob Northrop devoted his life to support a variety of Vermont institutions. He was best known for his efforts to protect the Long Trail. Northrop hiked the trail end to end many times over the years, most notably in 2001 at the age of 80.
Northrop died this weekend at his home in Underhill. He was 92.
Northrop was born in Massachusetts. He went to Middlebury College in the early 1940s and after enlisting in the Army during the Second World War, attended college in New York and at the University of Vermont.
Northrop taught junior high in Burlington and he and his wife Julia ran a farm, but his real legacy is his public service.
He followed his teaching career by guiding the Vermont Electric Cooperative through perilous financial times.
Northrop went through a significant part of life putting one foot in front of the other. He hiked Vermont’s Long Trail from end to end seven times. The first was in 1937 as a teenager. He made his last end to ender at the age of 80.
For Northrop the hike was as much about the people you met along the way as it was about the outdoor experience.
In 2001, as he made his last end to end hike he recalled hiking with his son Steven.
"Steve finally said, ‘Are we hiking the Long Trail or are we talking to people?’ He finally got the idea we’re doing both,"Northrop recalled.
Northrop was a fundraiser as well as a hiker. He used his end-to-enders to publicize the trail and raise money to protect it.
Ben Rose is a former executive director of the Green Mountain Club which manages the Long Trail.
"He helped protect many acres of beautiful high elevation land," says Rose. "He raised the profile and he think he made a lot of gifts possible."
Northrop had other passions. He was one of the first board presidents of the Vermont Mozart Festival.
Melvin Kaplan co-founded the festival. Kaplan says Northrop brought a level business head to the job of running the festival, but he also had an understanding of how music can enrich the lives of those who listen to it.
"I think Robert inherently knew that from the very beginning. He always had a passion for the music. He loved it," says Kaplan.
Northrop was also instrumental in VPR’s growth. He served on VPR’s board for 12 years and was part of a group that helped the station relocate to Colchester.
In Melvin Kaplan’s view it is people like Northrop who, through their civic spirit and their service, give Vermont its unique character.
"He’s one of the most remarkable people that I know, anywhere," Kaplan says. " That he did those Long Trail things even when he was 80 years old is phenomenal."
Northrop’s last end to end hike wasn’t easy. He injured himself in a fall partway through, but kept walking.
By the time he reached the Canadian border and a welcoming party of family and friends, he had been reflecting on his years on the trail and the fact that this would be his last long hike.
"You get kind of overcome emotionally," he said as he stepped off the trail. "It’s been such a wonderful family, loving experience."
Bob Northrop is survived by his wife Julia, their children, 16 grandchildren, 11 Great Grandchildren.
A celebration of Bob Northrop’s life will be held this Saturday at 1 p.m. the Underhill Town Hall.