Friday, September 07, 2007

The Colonel

Allow me to tell you about Arthur Budd, my great-grand-uncle.

Budd grew up in Connecticut and joined the armed forces for World War I. He led a group of soldiers who practically liberated a town in France (Tannay) by themselves. The grateful town put up a statue to honor him, and named a street after him. Budd ended the war as the second-most decorated soldier on the American side, behind some guy named Pershing.

Returning home, he married the widow of a doctor and eventually retired to an estate east of Pittsfield. He apparently lived happily ever after, dying in 1965 and leaving his property to a land conservancy.

The fun part came when we paid a visit to the estate, Notchview. The place is now mostly used for cross-country skiing, and we found the Arthur Budd Visitor Center. The caretaker took good care of us, impressed that we were related and had come to see the place. We were given a book on the history of the estate, which included a lengthy biography of Budd. We read about the 24-room mansion that had been on the grounds (later torn down; too expensive to keep up), and how Arthur had left an estate of more than $2 million, including thousands of shares of Kodak stock.

After walking around, we were given instructions to the nearby cemetery. It didn't look like it had received a visitor lately, as the gate was rusted shut. So we hopped the fence and said hello to Arthur and Helen. The funny part was, Arthur had this small little headstone that reflected his military background. Helen, meanwhile, had a headstone the size of a small house. OK, I exaggerate, but not much. Helen also was 17 years older than Arthur, which might explain the lack of children.

My mother said the family used to brag about "The Colonel," but she wondered if everyone was blowing his accomplishments out of proportion. Apparently not. The best part of the genealogy stuff is finding out interesting stories about interesting people, and this was a good one.

Guess I'll have to go to Tanney now.