In Memoriam: Burt “The Bee Man” Shavitz

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The founder and the man behind the name of Burt’s Bees, Burt Shavitz, passed away on Sunday, July 5 at the age of 80.

“Burt Shavitz, our co-founder and namesake, has left the greener fields and wilder woods,” the company has written on their homepage. “We remember him as a bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers and his land.”

Shavitz was born on May 15, 1935 in Manhattan and started his professional career as a photographer for Time-Life in the 1960s, covering John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, the civil rights movement and the first Earth Day in 1970. Shavitz started beekeeping as an hobby while working as a caretaker in Ulster County.

He eventually moved to Maine and picked up a hitchhiker named Roxanne Quimby, who would eventually become his business partner. Quimby started using Shavitz’s leftover beeswax to create candles, a business that was turning a profit. That was the start of Burt’s Bees.

Their most popular product, Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, was not created until 1991 when the company began focusing on health and beauty care products.

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

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, September 2015,(online 7/7/2015)