Library display a tribute to Kings of Leverett

  • Footbridge to the Blueberry Patch Submitted Photo

  • Memorial bench on the footbridge to the Blueberry Patch —Submitted Photo

  • Gordon and Frances King. Submitted Photo

Staff Writer
Thursday, April 27, 2017

LEVERETT — For decades, Gordon and Frances King were at the center of civic life in Leverett, from his serving as fire chief and Boy Scout leader and running a Christmas tree farm to her giving dedicated attention to special needs students and having appreciation for the town’s natural habitat.

In memory of their contributions, which began when they arrived in the community in 1951, volunteers with the Rattlesnake Gutter Trust — a land trust the Kings helped to found and fund — have created an extensive display that is on view at the Leverett Library at 75 Montague Rd.

“Kings of Leverett: A Family Who Made a Community” profiles the lives of Frances King, who was 86 when she died in 1999, and Gordon King, who passed away at 98 in October, and takes people from their meeting and marriage on a rubber plantation in Liberia during World War II to their numerous local accomplishments over 56 years of married life.

“The exhibit has some remarkable stories,” said Rocky Adriance, a resident and member of the Rattlesnake Gutter Trust and Leverett Trails Committee.

A reception for the exhibit will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The exhibit has nine panels of text and photos centered around their major contributions. One is an account of Gordon King founding the Leverett Recycling Program and being awarded “The Royal Odor of the Dump” at a ceremony at the former landfill, now the town’s transfer station, in 1996, where he received a crown made from a milk jug and decorated with ribbons and assorted bits of recycling.

Another account is of Frances King being a teacher-missionary for the Episcopal Church from 1935 to 1942 in Liberia, where she helped develop country schools and assisted at a leper colony.

Supplementing the words and graphics are artifacts, such as snowshoes Gordon King made with local Boy Scouts in 1958 and the steel fire chief helmet he wore during the beginning of his tenure helming the volunteer department in 1968.

Outside of Leverett, Gordon King may be best known as faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and leading the arboriculture and park management program at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture until his retirement in 1985. He also helped to build the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, the popular path that runs through a portion of Leverett.

In addition to Adriance, the display was put together by Mary Alice Wilson, Peter Marvin, Joan Godsey and R. Brooke Thomas.

Meanwhile, the exhibit is not the only way townspeople are remembering Gordon King. Recently, there was a dedication ceremony for a memorial bench to King on the covered footbridge that leads to a portion of the 67-acre King Life Estate, also known as the Blueberry Patch, the Shutesbury Road property that he deeded to the town.

Portions of the site are open to the public and Thomas said the blueberry bushes were recently pruned and the fruit will be ready for the public to pick later this year.

King argued that the blueberries were good for his health, and may have helped him survive a gas explosion at the Amherst home where he was living in 2006.

“(He) maintained his blueberries, mixed with Gallo jug wine, was the elixir that kept him going,” Thomas said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.