Burt Shavitz, the maverick beekeeper who became a pioneer in the natural-beauty industry as the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, died on Sunday in Bangor, Maine, reportedly due to respiratory issues. He was 80. The brand has released an official statement:
“Yesterday, our namesake and co-founder, Burt, passed away among family and friends in his home town in Maine.
He lived a full life, the way he wanted to live it and his 80 years on this Earth were an uncommon blessing to us all. We remember him as a wild-bearded and free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers, a reverent observer of nature, and the kind face that smiles back at us from our Hand Salve.
Above all, Burt was always Burt – an uncompromising individual of his own invention – shaped by the moment and his curiosities rather than his ambitions or someone else’s grand plan. Burt never set out to change the world, but he was a pioneer who found himself always on the precipice of progress.
As a photojournalist, he captured the essence of New York City in the 1960s – key figures in the civil rights movement, beat poets, artists, and images central to the burgeoning environmental movement. As a beekeeper, he connected intimately with the bees, whose profound relationship to humans, our food and our environment is only now being more fully understood while in peril.
As an icon and namesake, he was and still is the inspiration for Burt’s Bees – our natural products that many around the world have grown to love, the sustainability practices we all champion, and the offbeat, cheerful personality that shines through that ‘school bus’ yellow he loved so much. He defines this brand in immeasurable small and deep ways that we continue to discover.
Burt was a complex man who sought a simple life in pace with the seasons of nature on his land. If there is one thing we will remember from Burt’s life, in our fast-paced, hi-tech culture, it’s to never lose sight of our relationship with nature.
As we mourn his loss in the days and weeks to come, we will be exploring how to honor and celebrate his remarkable life, to ensure that his legacy and timely ethos are tangible in each of us as individuals, in the brand we so passionately steward, and in our collective impact on our shared home and future generations.”
Archival photos originally published in our sister magazine FLARE.