Special to The Eagle
RICHMOND -- Francis A. Bartlett, a leading Berkshire apple grower for 65 years, died at his home Saturday after a long battle with cancer. He was 83 years old.
Bartlett bought his apple orchard in 1947 when he was 18, newly graduated from high school in Wallingford, Conn. The previous owner, Arthur Howard, had planted his trees on a Richmond slope in 1925 and 1926, and some of those elderly specimens still exist today.
The business began with a small wooden stand on Yokun Road, but it was only a few years before Bartlett expanded with the well-known building on Swamp Road, a popular destination for fresh apples, cider and, in recent years, cider doughnuts.
Expansion also included adoption of new ideas. Technology and concern for the environment reduced the amount of spraying, dwarf trees replaced some of the older trees, and new varieties of apples were added. The Bartletts’ farm market now includes fresh vegetables and is open year-round.
Bartlett’s apple business revolved around family. His wife Betty, who survives him, was for years at the cash register on busy Saturdays and Sundays, and when his parents retired, they joined the work force. Today, sons Richard and Ronald operate the farm where they first worked as youngsters. Daugh ter-in-law Cindy Bartlett manages the store.
Despite the demands of farming, including his great capacity for worrying about frost, rain or drought and hail, Bartlett became active in town affairs. He served as a selectman in the 1960s and ‘70s and as a Board of Health member in an era when Richmond was dealing with a series of housing developments. Known for his decisive, but fair, approach to government, he was involved in septic field planning, water testing at Richmond Pond and conversion of the rubbish disposal system from a landfill to roadside pickup.
He and his wife were constant donors of apples to church, school and community events. When the Anita Chapman Scholarship was established, they gave bushels of apples to a candy-apple fundraising project that got the new fund off the ground.
In 2009, Bartlett’s contributions to Richmond were recognized when he and Betty received the Charles and Mary Kusik Citizenship Award. It was the first time a couple had been so honored.
In addition to his wife and sons, Bartlett is survived by his daughter Linda Bartlett-Dorangrichia of Clifton Park, N.Y., daughters-in-law Joan and Cindy, and seven grandchildren.