- J. Brooks Buxton
On Monday, July 9, Vermont lost one of its beloved sons — an ardent and loyal defender of the state’s material culture and historical record, as well as a generous and resourceful benefactor who routinely gifted Vermont institutions with the treasures he collected. Born in 1934, J. Brooks Buxton was a seventh-generation Vermonter who grew up with his older brothers, Freeman and Ronnie, and his younger sister, Carlynn, in the old millhouse at Chittenden Mills on the Browns River in the village of Jericho, where his father was once employed with the E.W. Bailey Grain Company.
An avid skier, Buxton was a member of the University of Vermont Alpine Ski Team and graduated in 1956 with a bachelor of arts degree. He then attended the University of Virginia School of Law before embarking on his career, first in New York and then overseas. For more than four decades, he lived in Beirut, London, Riyadh, Tripoli, Tunis and Dubai while working in finance and then, later, in the international oil and gas industry.
Buxton became deeply engaged in the history of each place in which he has made his home and was fascinated by the art and artifacts that reflected their culture. With his extensive knowledge of history and multifaceted interest in the arts, he began collecting fine and decorative arts, as well as early 19th-century photographs of the regions in which he lived and traveled.
In addition to Buxton’s extensive Middle East acquisitions, when living in London he built a distinguished collection of modern British art. But that was not his sole extracurricular pursuit in the United Kingdom. After a rare non-traumatic spinal cord injury in the 1990s left his lower body paralyzed, Buxton grew aware of the challenges of public access and became an advocate for accessibility, lobbying Parliament and contributing to spinal-cord-injury research during his time in London.
When he retired as president of Conoco Arabia Inc. and director of Conoco Middle East Ltd. in 2003, Buxton returned to his beloved Jericho in a beautiful home designed by his niece, Lori Buxton Myrick, with vistas of the Winooski River and the hills beyond. Since his return to Vermont, he focused assiduously on assembling an extensive collection of paintings depicting the agricultural and built landscape of Vermont from the 18th to 20th century, as well as select pieces by contemporary Vermont artists. It is an invaluable record of the Vermont landscape and considered to be the most extensive artistic representation of Vermont’s pastoral heritage in existence. In 2015, Buxton generously bequeathed the collection to the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum of Art.
Buxton was an active member of many boards during the last 15 years, including the Vermont Historical Society, Shelburne Museum, the Friends of the Statehouse and the Jericho Historical Society, and he was chair of the Fleming Museum’s Board of Advisors. He is a retired advisor of the University of Vermont College of Engineering; the Middle East Center for Arabic Studies in Oxford, England; and the H.R.H. Prince Salman Center for Disability Research in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, among others.
This past May, Buxton was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from his alma mater, the University of Vermont, during its 217th commencement ceremony, in which he was honored as “exemplifying the engagement with and dedication to learning that the University of Vermont endeavors to instill in all its students. Through his dedication to high-quality historic preservation, his passion for art and beauty, and his generosity — for UVM, for Vermont, and for the larger world community — J. Brooks Buxton is forging a lasting legacy that will benefit UVM students and Vermonters for generations to come.”
Buxton passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends after a brief stay at the hospital. He is survived by his brother Ronald and wife Milly of Jericho; sister Carlynn Farr and husband Bill of Burlington, Vt.; sister-in-law Pat Buxton of Bridgeport, W.V.; nieces Lori Buxton and husband Kip Myrick of Essex, Vt., Vicki Farr of Fairfax, Vt., and Jennifer Lohman and husband David of Terra Alta, W.V.; nephews Ken Buxton of Falmouth, Mass., and Bill Farr and wife Suzanne of Elmhurst, Ill.; three grandnieces; three grandnephews; three great-grandnieces; and many surrounding cousins. He is predeceased by his parents, Kenneth and Anita Buxton of Jericho, and brother Freeman Buxton of Clarksburg, Va.
A graveside memorial will be held on Sunday, July 22, at 1 p.m. at the Pleasant View Cemetery in Jericho. A celebration of Buxton's life will immediately follow at the the Essex Resort & Spa (70 Essex Way, Essex Junction).
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Jericho Historical Society (4A Red Mill Dr., Jericho, VT 05465) and at Green Up Vermont (14 Baldwin St., Suite 16, Montpelier, VT 05602 or greenupvermont.org).