Tribute to Gordon Oakes by Bill Mares
Gordon H. Oakes, one of the giants of Northeast Kingdom beekeeping, died on Oct. 18, 2010 at the age of 85.
Gordon was a man of many talents. He was an Army veteran. He worked on Comerford Dam during its construction and as road commissioner for the Town of Concord. He was a gunsmith and mechanic and even owned a furniture store. But aside from his family, his real love was his hobby of beekeeping, which he did for over 50 years.
Scores of beekeepers came to his place on Old Center Rd. in St. Johnsbury to learn about bees and just talk about them. Until the end, he made hive calls at the drop of a hat. At VBA meetings he and Lucille would come and sit right up at the front, and participate. He kept up with changes in the industry.
He had this wonderful way of asking a question, then launching into a statement that answered his own question.
There’s an English folk tradition of telling the bees when their keeper has died. Before his funeral, I performed this mission at his hives. But I also told them that Gordon’s spirit lives on in the practices of countless beekeepers in the Northeast Kingdom who were his students.
As St. Ambrose, the patron saint of beekeeping said 1600 years ago, “The fruit of bees is desired by all, and is equally sweet to kings and beggars and it is not only pleasing but profitable and helpful; it sweetens their mouths and cures their wounds…”
Gordon’s family asked that donations be made in his honor to the Vermont Beekeepers Association (Att: Rick Stoner, Treasurer, PO Box 764, Burlington, VT 05402-0764).