September 21, 1950 ~ July 28, 2017
Scott Bertram lived courageously, with dignity and decidedly on his own terms. He died at sunrise on his favorite day of the week with a smile on his face four years after a terminal cancer diagnosis. He laid next to his one true love, my mother. He died without regrets for he lived each day as his last, always finding wonder in the world around him, creating beauty everywhere he went, and inspiring all those he encountered to live more fully and love more deeply.
My father grew up on a farm in Hendersonville N.C., raised by his mother, Kate Bertram, with his siblings Gretchen, Kim, and Charlotte. There he learned the art of bread baking, of canning raspberry jam and apple sauce, of gardening, and of generosity. From a young age, Kate instilled in him a love of trees and plants, and of creatures great and small.
He survived six years at Christ School in Asheville where he masterminded pranks of great measure that the school credited to "the known Bertram ring." He then headed down to Chapel Hill to attend the University of North Carolina. After graduation, he went off the grid and bought a track of undeveloped land in an environmental land group known as the E.L.G.
In E.L.G., he built Efland's first Art Park - a collection of eccentric studios and cabins made entirely from recycled materials. He created trail systems through the woods, connecting different parts of the neighborhood that would one day lead him to my mom, Audrey Townsend. He knew from the first moment he met her that she was the one.
Thirty years ago they married in the mountains under a double rainbow. He moved into her Baer Hill Road cabin, where they created a ten-acre patch of heaven, cultivating a physical representation of their love with a huge garden, salt water swimming pool, rope swings, and ponds with fountains that sound like mountain streams. The next year my parents opened Townsend Bertram & Company, Adventure Outfitters, which would become an integral part of the community. My dad found his true calling in 1991 when I was born, followed soon after by my sister, Ella, in 1994.
He was one of the first, and by far the most fun, stay-at-home dads. Tree house building, rope swinging, bread baking, fairy home creating, pond swimming, and wild dancing were just a few of the incredible activities he would plan daily. He and my mom took us on many adventures to islands around the globe, chasing the wind kitesurfing.
He also taught us how to be a good friend, neighbor, and community member. We often abandoned projects to help friends in need of tractor work, fence building, and woodworking. He showed us how to home bake loaves of bread for new neighbors, which we delivered on our mountain bikes. He created Carrboro's twinkling constellation each November when he put over a mile of lights on the ancient Post Oak tree in front of Townsend Bertram & Company. He picked up trash wherever he went, and he was famous for doing everything "like a fireball." He taught all his nieces and nephews to love the beach and read the waves, and he would always have a parade of other people's kids following him around the beach by the end of the week.
He was a man who traveled the world, built arbors and ponds, helped people make their gardens beautiful, saved three people from drowning, fed hundreds his incredible Scott B bread, hand-wrote thousands of letters to people he loved, and raised two courageous and daring daughters with his beloved wife. He always had canine companions who he spoiled with delectable leftovers and took on twice daily walks to the neighborhood pond. He is buried on the land he loved, under a Triple Birch next to his treasured dogs Homer, June and Brownie.
At the end of his life, he inscribed a book to a friend in his beautiful cursive lettering. He wrote "look for me in the smooth bark of the Beech tree and in the springtime wild flowers." Though Scott has returned to the earth in the rough-hewn coffin he built himself, he remains ever so alive in the trees and wind and sweet bird songs.
Please join us under the trees on August 27th at 10:00 AM at the Inn at Bingham School to celebrate Scott B. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Learning Outside, a local outdoor learning non-profit that provides children with outdoor learning and exploring. Select the Scott B Scholarship fund when you make your donation. Every dollar will go towards a scholarship in Scott's honor for underprivileged children to attend Learning Outside. If you have a Scott B memory to share, please post it in the comments section on the "As Father's Go" blog post on the Townsend Bertram & Company Glass Top Counter blog.
- by Betsy Bertram
Published in The Chapel Hill News on Aug. 16, 2017.