Long-time Acton resident, Brewster Conant, passed away on March 18, 2018, at home. A preliminary obituary was published on March 20th; this more detailed account of his life is being offered along with an invitation to join the family in celebrating his life on June 16, 2018.
Brewster Conant was born in Marblehead, MA on June 29, 1928, the sixth of seven siblings born to Gwendolyn Moulton Conant (nee Holden) and Augustine Bradford Conant. Brewster grew up in Brookline, MA at the corner of Kent and Colchester Streets. He attended the Lawrence School in Brookline from grades 1-6, and from there attended the Bement School in Deerfield.
After Bement, Brewster went to study at Phillips Academy in Andover. As a younger-than-average student (and by his own admission not particularly athletically inclined), he studied hard, graduating cum laude in 1945.
From Andover, Brewster went out west to study at the Colorado School of Mines. His undergraduate degree was in Petroleum Engineering and Refining, but the stories he told of those years centered more around what we now recognize as his love of adventure. He owned a motorcycle, became an avid skier, and compiled numerous amusing anecdotes about the use of dynamite in both academic and non- academic settings. He shared his zest for life with friends in the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, of which he was a member.
After graduating from the School of Mines in 1950, Brewster went to work for the Dow Chemical Company for four years before going to Northwestern University, where he obtained his MBA in Finance. He worked for many years as a financial analyst in the Chicago area, but continued to enjoy a range of pastimes including hunting, skiing, fishing, and stunt flying.
It was while he was in Chicagoland that he met his wife Elizabeth Strehlow, who predeceased him in 2013. Brewster and Betsy were married in her home town of Peoria, Illinois in August 1959, and settled in Evanston, Illinois. In 1961 they welcomed daughter Faith Robins Conant, followed by son Brewster Conant Jr. in 1962.
In 1967, the family left Evanston to take up residence in the Conant family home in Acton, Massachusetts. Daughter Phoebe Moulton Conant arrived in 1968.
Although Brewster continued his work as a financial analyst, particularly for Tucker, Anthony &. Co., his attentions turned more and more toward the Acton community. He served on the Conservation Commission, the Investment Advisory Committee, and the Cemetery Commission, and was a Trustee of the Acton Memorial Library, (and several other shorter-term committees), for a combined total of 101 years of service to the town.
In 1986, together with his neighbor John Whitter, Brewster successfully campaigned for the creation of an Arboretum on a parcel of conservation land near the center of town. He joined the Friends of the Acton Arboretum as a volunteer soon after that organization was founded, and he was still serving on the Board at the time of his passing.
As part of his commitment to preserving Acton’s natural resources, Brewster volunteered his services to the Acton Water District, and received the Distinguished Steward for Acton Water award as part of the District’s centennial celebrations in 2012. As a long-time board member for the Acton Conservation Trust, he was honored in 2017 as the ACT’s Holley Conservation Volunteer of the Year, because “Brewster is the epitome of what this award represents. He is a shining example of getting involved in one’s community in general, and in particular to protect the environment.”
He (and wife Betsy) were actively involved with the Acton Historical Society for decades. While Betsy wrote and acted as librarian for the Jenks Library, Brewster held just about every office, both in the society and on the Board of Directors. Over the years he gave presentations on many topics (powder mills, the ice industry in New England), handed out scrolls to Patriot’s Day marchers, and was invariably on site for the society’s many Open Houses and clean-up days. He was still serving as a Trustee of the Hosmer House (the Society’s home and base of operations) at the time of his death.
Even with his many commitments, Brewster continued to pursue his diverse interests. For many years he traveled out west with friends to ski in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and California. He continued skiing into his mid-80s (and only a year or two after his doctor advised him to stop) in Killington, VT, on Wachusett Mountain, and with his grandchildren in North Conway, NH. For many years he enjoyed fishing with friends in Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard, often competing in the annual Bluefish Derby. He went on many canoe trips, including down the San Juan, Rio Grande, and Soper Rivers. He learned to iceboat. He pursued his love of flying, expanding his repertoire to hot air balloons, gliders and ultralights.
In the large garden across the street from the house, Brewster raised fruits and vegetables, but gradually became more interested in flowers. He took great pleasure not only in raising, but in giving away his asters, peonies, gladiola, and prize-winning dahlias. He became involved in forestry, and planted Christmas trees in his fields which he gladly gave to friends and family. Over the course of his 50 years in the house in Acton, he found himself at turns taking care of Labradors, geese, sheep, pheasant and honeybees.
Throughout his life, and even as his health declined, Brewster kept in touch the friends he had met in all stages of his life with visits, cards, and phone calls. Friends, neighbors, and family members remember his kindness, good humor and generosity. Brewster will always be remembered as a gentleman, in the finest sense of the word.
He is survived by: daughter Faith Conant, her husband Krishna Kumar and their children Lizzie and Raj (of Amherst, MA); son Brewster Conant Jr., his wife Bernadette and their children Gwynne, Amory and Colin (of Waterloo, Ontario); daughter Phoebe Conant, her husband Ted Pyne and their children Ted and Emily (of Acton, MA). In addition to children and grandchildren, Brewster is survived by a sister, Susan Conant Holden, of Rockport, MA, as well as many nieces and nephews. Predeceased by Elizabeth “Betsy” [Strehlow] Conant, his wife of 53 years, and by his five siblings: Augustine B. Conant Jr, Emily Conant Hoeffel, Faith Conant Plumb, Anne Conant Weaver and Richard D. Conant.
Friends, family and community members are invited to join in a celebration of Brewster’s life on June 16, 2018. Services will be held at the Congregational Church in Acton Center at 11:00am, with a reception to follow in the Acton Town Hall. Anyone not able to attend the service is welcome to stop in for refreshments in Room 204 of the Town Hall from 12:30 to 3:30pm. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Acton Historical Society, the Friends of the Acton Arboretum, or the Acton Conservation Trust. Memorial page www.actonfuneralhome.com