Berkshire land preservationist Scheffey dies

Friday November 9, 2012

Whether it was in his paintings, or with his service as chairman and president of the Berkshire Natural Resource Council, Lewis "Lew" Scheffey dedicated his life to honoring and preserving the Berkshire landscape.

Scheffey, who died at the age of 88 Tuesday, was a painter, investment advisor and advocate for the preservation of pristine and historic Berkshire lands, particularly the family-owned 500-acre plot in Monterey where his family often spent vacation time.

Born Jan. 31, 1924 in Philadelphia, Scheffey would often retreat to the scenic Berkshires during the summer. He was an avid horseback rider in his youth, according to his son, Tom Scheffey. At 16, Lewis Scheffey designed a cabin on the land that still stands tall, which is "kind of remarkable," his son said.

"The land is a unique family trust in that it's self-perpetuating," Scheffey said.

After graduating from Williams College in 1946, Scheffey enlisted in the Marine Corps. He bounced from coast to coast, marrying a woman he met in San Francisco, Velma DeBoer, and taking painting lessons in Philadelphia from renowned artist Violette de Mazia. And yet, Scheffey found himself constantly returning to the Berkshires.

"He traveled many places, but the Berkshires are unbeatable," Scheffey's son said. "He wanted to be somewhere he loved."

In addition the 500 acres the the family owned, Scheffey also purchased a small farmhouse on Wellman Road in the 1970s, around the time he married DeBoer.

Scheffey's paintings ranged from still-life and nudes to landscape portraits of the Berkshire backyards. At the same time, he served on the resources council board.

"He was basically preserving the landscape through his art and through his philanthropy," Scheffey said.

Scheffey became the third president of the board in 1992. Before that, he served while George S. Wislocki was the board's president. Wislocki, now the board's president emeritus, said Scheffey was a "strong artist," and that it was obvious how important his farmland was to him.

Wislocki said when Scheffey was chairman protecting land was still an evolving venture.

"The transactions had become increasingly more complex," he said. "Lew was someone who understood the numbers. He was an investment man, and saw the worth of the transactions."

While chairman, Scheffey's second wife, Joyce Skeyhill Brown, also served as a board member. She, like her husband, was an advocate of rural land preservation.

"I think it was the only case where the wife was on the board with their husband," Wislocki said. "They seemed to work as a partnership. They were both dynamos."

Wislocki sad Sheffey's "very wise council" and generosity with resources helped propel into into the president's seat.

"You could see he would be a strong but quiet leader," said Tad Ames, the organization's president since 2002. "We're lucky he took up the job."

The council underwent "organizational growth and maturation," Ames said, in expanding it's role in land conservation.

"During his tenure we began the process we've continued ever since ... creating hiking trails and making our lands more inviting to the public."

He is survived by his third wife Joyce, a sister, three sons, a stepdaughter and a stepson. He is also survived by his first wife, Lynn Cox Scheffey, the mother of all three three sons. His second wife, Velma DeBoer, died in 1980.

To reach Adam Poulisse:,
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