The past year’s pandemic has many of us thinking about what a Life Well Lived means. At the end of each of her daily shows, “Deadline White House,” Nicolle Wallace has a segment called “Lives Well Lived,” remembering some of the half-million Americans who have died from COVID in the past year. Wallace now has a one-hour documentary of the same name on MSNBC you can link to here. It is touching in many ways, with its descriptions of how ordinary people extraordinarily affected the lives of others. These are glimpses of how extraordinary people among us truly are.
And then there are the people who are so extraordinary that there isn’t an adjective grand enough to describe them. A few weeks ago my friend Clint sent me the obituary of a woman in our summer community and it’s a wowser. Gertrude Trumbull Burr’s life was lived fully and well. I wish I had known her. I usually do not use the full names of non-public figures in this blog without permission, but because this obituary was published in the Boston Globe, Burr’s life is a matter of public record. This is a slightly shortened version:
BURR, Gertrude Trumbull Of Mattapoisett, died peacefully at home in her sleep, on Friday, February 12th, age 97, after a life well lived….She attended Meadowbrook School, and in a harbinger of things to come, was the quarterback of the boys’ football team. She graduated from Vassar College, majoring in Math and Engineering Physics. After graduation in 1944, in the wartime accelerated academic program, she worked at M.I.T. in the aerospace effort, focused on calculating rocket trajectories. She was the only woman amongst 600 other mathematicians, engineers, and physicists. In 1949, she married and moved to Mattapoisett, MA. Building community and strengthening family were their lifelong passions. She was an inspiration to her four children and a multitude of family members and friends, all the while being instrumental in developing the family business, Burr Brothers Boats. The business was a fitting continuation of her lifelong love of “messing about in boats,” which she had done since childhood sailing her Herreshoff 12, “Rosebud.” With her indefatigable energy and can-do attitude she helped steer the business into novel endeavors, such as becoming one of the first boatyards in the country to develop a computer system tracking all accounting and operations. For her mentally disabled daughter, Gertrude co-founded a non-profit community home, which became LifeStream, Inc. Today Lifestream is an organization with a staff of over 500, and it has served thousands of developmentally disabled people and others facing personal challenges. Gertrude loved working with people and was especially good at using her skills to help organizations in which she believed. Over the years, Gertrude was also a member of numerous Clubs, which made for an active sporting and social life. She helped run various USTA tennis tournaments and managed to collect a closet full of trophies herself. Playing well into her 80s, she left opponents impressed not only with her play but also with her sportsmanship. She was a very elegant skier, refusing to permanently come down off the mountains until nearly ninety years old. Her enthusiasm for hopping on board to go sailing continued into her 90s, while her rowing prowess lasted nearly to the end.
And now, if you will excuse me, I am going to feed the cat while I wonder what I have been doing with my life all these years.
HAVE A GOOD WEEK!