John B. Durfee

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bethel, Vt. — John B. Durfee, 93, longtime owner of Bethel Mills, died at his home on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. 

John was born in Putnam, Conn. on March 29th, 1924 to Raymond Earl Durfee and Gladys Richmond Bard Durfee.   When John was nine, the family moved to Bethel where Raymond started working for Bethel Mills and subsequently purchased the business.  Following Raymond’s stewardship of Bethel Mills, the company was passed down to John.  John was never allowed to retire and remained the president of Bethel Mills until he passed away.

John graduated from Whitcomb High School in Bethel in 1942.   His undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont were interrupted by WWII when he was drafted into the United States Army.   When the war ended, John went back to UVM where he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 1947.   John returned to Bethel and started his lifelong career at Bethel Mills.  For years, John ran the grain business, Raymond ran the saw mill, and Gladys took care of the bookkeeping.  After John took over the business, the grain mill was sold and Bethel Mills concentrated on building materials. One of John’s sentimental labors of love was maintaining the hydroelectric plant that he helped his father build, requiring countless hours day and night.  John married Clover Breiling in 1952 and they were married for thirty-eight years. 

Always civic minded, John served on the Bethel School Board for 26 years, most of them as chairman.   He was on the Bethel Fire Department for twenty-three years, ten of them as co-chief.   John was a member in the local Masonic Lodge as well as a member of the Cairo Lodge in Rutland and the Shriners in Burlington.   John was a director of the Randolph National Bank for over forty years, and a Director of ENAP for nine years.  He was also a past president of the Vermont Lumber Dealers Association.   Over the years, John accumulated many service awards and lifetime achievement awards.  John was always willing to lend a hand and there are countless stories of the deeds that he did to help others. 

In his spare time, John enjoyed traveling, deer hunting, bird hunting, fishing, tennis, poker, time at the Lakota and Woodstock Clubs, trips to Fenway Park (legendary), and in the 1960s, his bowling team, the Grain Dusters.   He enjoyed going to his children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events.  In his later years, John enjoyed the simple things in life, like feeding the fish in his pond, watching birds, deer, and an occasional bear in his yard, and his beloved Yorkies, Corky and Sophie, were never far from his side.   He enjoyed interesting conversation with all that stopped in to visit.  John will be remembered for his sense of humor, quick thinking, always having something interesting to say, and someone that you could always count on. 

John is survived by his four children, Bobbie Durfee of Pittsfield, Vt., Eric Durfee and wife Helen of Incline Village, Nev., Tamara Durfee of Burlington, Vt., Lang Durfee and wife Lorraine of Bethel, Vt.   His seven grandchildren, Travis Durfee and wife Pamela of Yorba Linda, Calif., Nathan Durfee and wife Michelle of Charleston, S.C., Kress Reed and husband Clayton of Denver Colo., Jessica Bender and husband Jeffrey of West Point, N.Y., Andrew Durfee and wife Morgan of Quechee, Vt., Matthew Durfee of Bethel, Vt., and Emily Durfee of Boston, Mass.  His five great grandchildren, Emma, Logan, Calvin, Jeffrey, and Chase.   John also leaves behind his dear friend and companion, Deborah Phillips of Woodstock Vt.

John was predeceased by his sister, Priscilla Merriman. 

There are no calling hours. Funeral Services will be held Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at 3 p.m. at Whitcomb High School in Bethel.  A springtime burial is being planned. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Kurn Hattin Home, PO Box 127, Westminster, Vt. 05158 or to the Bethel Volunteer Fire Dept, C/O Town of Bethel, 134 South Main St, Bethel, Vt., 05032.   Online condolences may be made at www.dayfunerals.com.   Arrangements are by the Day Funeral Home in Randolph.