The reclusive beekeeper who co-founded Burt's Bees, and whose face and wild beard appeared on labels for the natural cosmetics, died yesterday. Burt Shavitz was 80. A company spokeswoman says he died of respiratory complications in Bangor, Maine, surrounded by family and friends. Shavitz was a hippie making a living by selling honey when his life was altered by a chance encounter with hitchhiker Roxanne Quimby. She was a single mother and a back-to-the-lander who impressed Shavitz with her ingenuity and self-sufficiency. In the 1980s she began making products from his beeswax, and they became business partners. The partnership ended in 1994, and when Clorox purchased Burt's Bees for $925 million in 2007, Shavitz received an undisclosed settlement—and 37 acres in a remote corner of Maine.
"What I have in this situation is no regret," he said last year. Though he's known for being a character from the backwoods of Maine, Shavitz grew up around New York, served in the Army in Germany, and shot photos for Time Life before leaving the city. "Burt was a complex man who sought a simple life in pace with the seasons of nature on his land," the company said in a statement. "If there is one thing we will remember from Burt's life, in our fast-paced, high-tech culture, it's to never lose sight of our relationship with nature." On its website, the company says Shavitz has left for "greener fields and wilder woods" and will be remembered as a "bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers and his land."