Yesterday, the world lost a special man: Burt Shavitz, co-founder of Burt’s Bees, the fabulous company that makes Earth-friendly, natural personal care and beauty products out of beeswax. A spokesperson for the company told the Associated Press that Shavitz passed away surrounded by his family and friends in Maine due to respiratory complications.
Obviously, Burt’s Bees is the namesake of Shavitz, but you may also recognize his face and signature beard, which appear on the labels of many of the company’s products. But Shavitz’s legacy extends far beyond that.
Shavitz grew up in New York, served in the Army, and took photos for TIME before moving to Maine. He then was making a living selling honey until he serendipitously met independent single mother and Earth-lover Roxanne Quimby while hitchhiking. He was impressed by her spirit and ingenuity, and when she began making products out of beeswax in the ’80s, they became partners.
Unfortunately, that partnership only lasted about 14 years when Quimby moved the company to North Carolina and Shavitz moved back to Maine. According to the AP, he said that he was forced out by Quimby.
“What I have in this situation is no regret,” he said last year, according to the AP. “The bottom line is she’s got her world and I’ve got mine, and we let it go at that.”
In 2007, the company was purchased by Clorox. Shavitz received a settlement and 37 acres in Maine; though he wasn’t technically a part of the company any longer, he still continued to make appearances on behalf of the company. He was also the subject of a 2014 documentary, Burt’s Buzz, which focused on the enigmatic brand ambassador’s life both in and out of the spotlight.
“Burt was an enigma; my mentor and my muse. I am deeply saddened,” Quimby told The AP in an email.
“It is with broken hearts that we must convey the saddest news: Burt Shavitz, our co-founder and namesake, has left for greener fields and wilder woods,” Burt’s Bees said in a statement. “We remember him as a bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers and his land. Above all, he taught us to never lose sight of our relationship with nature. Now it’s up to us, the brand he helped build—and you, his fans and advocates—to sustain his spirit and ideals. Thanks for everything, Burt. We’ll miss you.”
Shavitz has been described as a serene man, one who marveled at Maine’s wildlife, lived without running water in favor of natural resources, and despite any hardships, continued to keep his humor.
A slew of Instagram pictures posted by the company featuring his face with a quote made us smile. “I’m not a doctor. But once I played one on a package,” he is quoted as saying. “World famous. Adored for years. 100% natural. But enough about me,” he says in another.
We know you were joking, but you have been adored, and you’re certainly a man we’ll never forget, Burt. Rest in peace, and thank you for all you have given us.