The co-founder and namesake of Burt’s Bees, who was affectionately called “The Bee Man,” died Sunday at a Bangor hospital after a brief illness.

Burt Shavitz, a beekeeper who lived in Guilford, was 80, according to an announcement posted Sunday on the Burt’s Bees website.

In 1984, Shavitz co-founded the company in Dover-Foxcroft with Roxanne Quimby. Together, the business partners built a reputation for selling some of the nation’s leading natural health and beauty care products.

They relocated the business to North Carolina in 1994. In the late 1990s, they split up, and in 2003, Quimby sold the company to AEA Investors.

Shavitz moved back to Maine and became less involved in the company, said a company spokeswoman, Christina Calbi.

“Burt was an enigma, my mentor and my muse. I am deeply saddened,” Quimby told The Associated Press in an email Sunday.

Over the years, Shavitz was recognized for his bushy beard, which led to a woodcut of his image being placed at the center of the brand’s logo.

“He lived a full life, the way he wanted to live it and his 80 years on this Earth were an uncommon blessing to us all. We remember him as a wild-bearded and free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers, a reverent observer of nature, and the kind face that smiles back at us from our Hand Salve,” a statement posted on the company’s website read Sunday.

“Above all, Burt was always Burt – an uncompromising individual of his own invention – shaped by the moment and his curiosities rather than his ambitions or someone else’s grand plan. Burt never set out to change the world, but he was a pioneer who found himself always on the precipice of progress.”

According to a brief history posted on the company’s website, Quimby met Shavitz while hitchhiking. He gave Quimby a ride in his Datsun pickup truck. They hit it off and began making candles with unused wax from Shavitz’s beehives.

At the time, Quimby was a graphic designer and single mother who had migrated to Maine from San Francisco. The pair made $200 at their first craft fair, and within a year they had earned $20,000.

According to his biography, which Calbi provided Sunday evening, Shavitz joined the Army after college and went to Germany, where he became an Army photographer.

Upon returning to New York City in the 1960s, he began a career as a photojournalist and became a frequent contributor to Time Life. He photographed Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy and the March on Washington and attended the first Earth Day celebration in Central Park in 1970.

He became a beekeeper in the early 1970s and later moved to rural Maine, where he took up beekeeping. He lived without electricity in a turkey coop that he had restored.

He sold honey out of the back of a truck, which he painted school-bus yellow to attract customers.

“Burt was a complex man who sought a simple life in pace with the seasons of nature on his land. If there is one thing we will remember from Burt’s life, in our fast-paced, high-tech culture, it’s to never lose sight of our relationship with nature,” the company said in its statement remembering Shavitz.

Anyone who would like to share a story or memory of Shavitz can do so by sending a message to [email protected]

 


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