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Ray Duckler

Ray Duckler: Jim Stone worked and gave, until the day he died

  • Jim Stone poses for a photo after cutting grass with his hand scythe in a competition at the North Haverill Fair on July 25, 2013. <br/><br/>Courtesy of the Stone Family

    Jim Stone poses for a photo after cutting grass with his hand scythe in a competition at the North Haverill Fair on July 25, 2013.

    Courtesy of the Stone Family

  • Jim Stone poses for a photo after cutting grass with his hand scythe in a competition at the North Haverill Fair on July 25, 2013. <br/><br/>Courtesy of the Stone Family

    Jim Stone poses for a photo after cutting grass with his hand scythe in a competition at the North Haverill Fair on July 25, 2013.

    Courtesy of the Stone Family

  • Jim Stone poses for a photo after cutting grass with his hand scythe in a competition at the North Haverill Fair on July 25, 2013. <br/><br/>Courtesy of the Stone Family
  • Jim Stone poses for a photo after cutting grass with his hand scythe in a competition at the North Haverill Fair on July 25, 2013. <br/><br/>Courtesy of the Stone Family

It’s quieter these days around the Stonehurst Farm in Dunbarton.

The noise that shaped Jim Stone’s world, noise from the mowing and the logging and the chain-sawing, has gone silent since the dairy farmer died suddenly Sept. 12.

Stone was one day shy of 76.

“You didn’t hear him talking out there,” said Stone’s 40-year-old daughter, Cindy Pinard, who lives within walking distance from the family farm. “But you could always hear him out there working.”

That’s what Stone did. He worked, then he helped people, then he worked some more.

In fact, those were the two things he was doing when he died after suffering a heart attack. He was with his fellow volunteers from the town’s conservation committee, mapping and cutting brush on a soon-to-be-opened hiking trail, getting it ready so others could one day enjoy it.

He and his party returned to the trailhead first, before the other group, so Stone went back to lead them out.

He fell to the ground as he and his friends walked along the trail. They performed CPR, then called 911. His family took him off a ventilator the next day.

“One minute he was living his life, and one moment he’s not,” said Brett St. Clair, chairman of the conservation committee. “It’s sad that he’s not here, but at least he went out with his boots on, working.”

Ah, there’s that word again. Working.

Stone’s family has owned the Dunbarton farm since the 18th century. Generation after generation awoke before sunup, tilled the soil, milked the cows.

But there was always one difference between those

previous family members and Stone.

He loved farming.

“Every generation had to come back to tend to the farm, take care of everything,” Pinard said. “My father was the only person who wanted to come back.”

Pinard, her 42-year-old brother Andy Stone of Hopkinton and their mother, Judy, form the nucleus for great American literature.

The quiet yet proud father, beloved around town, strong work ethic, up all night milking the cows, taken from his family too soon.

The daughter, who wanted to live elsewhere, do other things, but came home with mixed feelings after college to help her father milk those cows.

The son, as quiet as his dad, who took his engineering degree west, away from the long, hard days, to work for NASA and help build Spirit and Opportunity, the rovers that explored Mars.

And the wife, the backbone, the glue, the woman who greets you with a smile, despite the pain that remains inside, under a thick oak tree, which shades the picnic table and surrounding area.

“He was a happy person in life,” Judy said. “He always wanted to be a farmer and that’s what he did. He took pleasure in other people’s happiness. He didn’t look at people like a grump, like I did.”

Her smiling eyes tell you something else.

Her husband left the dairy business seven years ago, selling all but two of his 150 cows. Large-animal vets had become scarcer, as had sawdust for the barn as new wood-burning heating systems evolved.

Plus, the price of milk was dropping, forcing the couple to use their savings.

So in came the 18-wheel cattle truck, and out went the cows, each with a name, like Fat Freddy and Cricket, and each getting a pat on the nose from Stone while Cindy stood in the background, crying.

“It was hard to load them up like that,” Cindy said. “They were my friends.”

For Stone, though, there was no use crying over spilled milk. With the money from selling the cows, he bought a skidder and began logging, selling wood to family and friends, and he raised crops.

“He sold it all too cheaply,” Andy said. “If a farmer couldn’t afford something, he’d say no problem. . . . He’d say he knew what it was like to be a farmer and to not have money.”

Stone also joined the conservation commission, which is how he met St. Clair.

“A wonderful guy,” St. Clair said. “I feel fortunate I got a chance to know him. He was a real man, not this stuff some of the younger generation sees on TV as a man. He was a gentle man, always contributing; anytime you asked for help, he was always there, and he never made you feel like you were making him do you a favor.”

The favors ended unexpectedly. Stone had a stroke in 2005, part of the reason why he sold his herd.

But he chopped and stacked wood, hiked, climbed and cut hay with a hand scythe.

“He was in good shape from all the work,” Judy said.

The trail her husband had been mapping and clearing for public use will be named Jim Stone’s Trail sometime soon. The trail sits in the Bela Brook Conservation Area, off Grapevine Road, near Beaver Pond.

“We’re going to have a little dedication ceremony,” St. Clair said. “But we still have a work to do.”

More now than before.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or
rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

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