Obituary: Bertrand Muzzy, 1937-2022 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Bertrand Muzzy, 1937-2022

Bakersfield master carpenter, cabinet maker, forester, gardener and storyteller lived fully on his own contrarian terms

Published January 23, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
Updated January 23, 2023 at 11:32 a.m.


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Bertrand Muzzy - COURTESY
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  • Bertrand Muzzy

Bertrand Muzzy, master carpenter, cabinet maker, forester, gardener and storyteller, died on Oct. 3, 2022, at the age of 85. He was buried sort of according to his wishes, in a plain pine coffin built for the occasion by friends and gently lowered into the ground on the land he loved and nurtured in Bakersfield’s Lost Nation Valley. His preferred method of disposal was to have been “thrown over a bank,” left for the crows to pick him apart. The town fathers demurred, so he settled reluctantly on the next best thing.

Life was rarely a matter of settling for Bert, aka "Uncle Grumpy," who lived fully on his own contrarian terms. He was always generous with his formidable forestry, horticultural, woodworking, engineering and carpentry skills; with his time; and with his love — all in equal measure. His circle of friends was wide and eclectic, as was evident at any of his yearly June solstice gatherings, which attracted farmers, preachers, photographers, hipsters, bikers, sailors, lefty polemicists, loggers, plumbers, senators, electricians, writers, mechanics, nuclear engineers, roofers, carpenters, professors, the occasional recidivistic Trotskyite, musicians, artists, doctors, lawyers and some possibly on the other side of the legal fence. They were all dear to him through many decades.

Bert was strong in his likes and dislikes, as anyone who knew him could attest. Among his most rabid dislikes were low-flying aircraft, which Vermont governor Richard Snelling discovered on a helicopter tour of flood-ravaged Franklin County in July 1984. Gazing down upon the sad remains of Bert’s legendary gardens, he noticed an obviously livid man, shaking a fist, long wild hair and beard blowing in the wind like an Old Testament prophet. This apparition then dropped his pants and in a remarkable display of agility, presented his bare ass straight-up for the chief executive of Vermont’s edification. According to a reliable witness aboard the copter, the governor immediately “cracked up.”

Included among his many strong likes were ribald stories, good beer, fine bud, eccentrics of all manner and form, smart women, cats, music and elaborate cussing. If there were an Olympic cussing competition, Bert would have been in line for the gold. The moments of epic profanity were usually inspired during his work as a master carpenter, and one associate timed him at more than three minutes of uninterrupted cursing, embracing every manner of human deviance, bodily functions, assorted orifices, and theological damnation — all while barely taking a breath. Such episodes are well documented but unfortunately never recorded for posterity.

As unlikely as it may seem to those who knew Bert, he came into this world the customary way, born on January 12, 1937, in Chittenden, Vt., to Bertrand and Marjorie (Perry) Muzzy. He graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in forestry, which he put to excellent use throughout his long life. Of his years at the university, Bert said, “The best thing I learned was how to learn.” And for the rest of his life, learn he did, about everything: astrophysics, metaphysics, nuclear physics, architecture, horses, poultry, philosophy, engineering, history, literature, agriculture, the occult, arcane ancient civilizations and so much more. His knowledge was vast, broad and deep, as was his library.

He leaves behind a brother, Robert; a niece, Wilberta; a nephew, Terry; his cat, Barney; and many others who loved him. He improved everything he touched, which has made his exit all the sadder for us privileged to have shared so many years with this essential, irreplaceable man.

A celebration in Bert’s honor will take place in June at his former residence in Bakersfield on Sunday, June 18, two days before the solstice. No doubt many a glass will be hoisted over his gravesite. There might even be an unveiling of a headstone, a suitable design and epitaph for which are yet to be determined.

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