Tragedy struck Gardiner recently when “The Yellow House” went up in flames on the morning of Dec. 24. Like many, we were without power. At 6:45, I ventured out to seek coffees to go. Stepping out on the porch, I witnessed the side of the structure aflame, the result of a faulty generator. We called 911. Soon thereafter, the Gardiner Fire Department arrived, followed by seven area fire departments.

“The Yellow House” was built in 1814. It became the summer home of Julia Ward Howe, who’d written “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Her daughter, author Laura Richards — the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for biography — and her husband, Henry Richards, subsequently resided there. The local grammar school bears her name. Henry Richards designed The Gardiner Library. We’d spent many a merry Christmas party there, each guest leaving with a dated jar of grape jelly from the backyard arbor.

It was clear by midday she was going to go. Soon, the outer walls and chimneys succumbed to an excavator’s claw. It was heartbreaking. Fittingly, along with flames and smoke, her ashes were scattered over the city of Gardiner. I was able to rescue the fanciful “Yellow House” sturgeon (a remnant of the Bicentennial in 2003) affixed to the picket fence. He’ll go to the family.

We watched an episode of “Yellowstone” recently. In the aftermath of a Native American memorial service, the tribal chairman, Rainwater, says to Kevin Costner’s character, “Grief is not to be shared; comfort is.” I’m not sure this letter will bring anyone any comfort. It certainly won’t bring the Yellow House back. We needn’t grieve her. But rather, strive to be kind.

Forgiving. Moreover, comfort and love one another in this new year. Somehow I think she’d want that.


Buddy Doyle


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