Remembering John O’Brien

When we’re in the woods in the northern part of UVLT’s service area, odds are that we will walk on a forest road or cross a bridge built by John O’Brien, a forester who managed woodlots for many Upper Valley landowners. John’s roads, bridges and ponds are made to last. His forestry and land stewardship shapes this landscape for the better, and for a long time to come.

His handiwork is in hearts and minds as well. He and his wife Deb opened up their tree farm to visits by children in the Rivendell Schools and sold Christmas trees to families all over the Valley. Cutting a tree and standing by the fire on their hillside overlooking the river is a tradition for many of us.

John died last week, in the woods. When I learned of this, I remembered walking with John and Lee Larson and Karen Tullar west from the Lyme Town Forest, through the ridges and drainages toward Clay Brook, finding a path for the Clay Brook Trail. What a joy to be with someone who loved being outside and knew the land so well. Uphill and down, scrambling and scouting.

Jason Berard, UVLT’s Vice President of Stewardship, recalled the warmth of conversation by the fire just a few days ago when his family chose a Christmas tree. Andy Boyce, UVLT’s Conservation Mapping and Field Specialist, told us of the gracious welcome to kids who learned about ponds and trees at the O Brien’s. John was kind and funny. He helped David Bischoff restore the historic farmland at Mountain View Farm, now owned by UVLT in Quinttown. He did many good works quietly, served his community generously and taught many of us gently. We are thankful for the gifts he shared.