UA-8412995-1 The Southport Globe: Howard and Barbara: The Burrs of “Ye Yacht Yard”

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Howard and Barbara: The Burrs of “Ye Yacht Yard”

By Michael Hoffman
When Barbara Burr graduated from Wellesley in 1945, the only jobs to be had were in defense plants. So she and five of her friends packed their degrees and travelled to Fairfield County, CT. Finding a job in Stratford, she and this ambitious group of women rented the Burr Barn on Burr Street in Fairfield. It was not too many months later that the friends were forced to split up — the barn was not winterized. She and her roommate found lodging and decided to purchase a sailboat. Southport Harbor was where they decided to launch it; and, as some would say, the rest is history.
Howard Burr had been hauling and tooling with boats at “Ye Yacht Yard” since approximately 1930. He and Barbara struck up a friendship from the very beginning, and would spend hours together bass fishing. When the war ended, and the defense plant where she was employed relocated to Texas, Howard hired her. And they have been working together ever since.
Up until a few years ago, boats were still being hauled and the boatyard functioned in a full-service capacity — from general boat repairs to painting. There were also the moorings to tend to and the building to maintain; and, of course, the many times Mrs. Burr would don scuba gear and mask to retrieve some frantic boater’s wallet or eyeglasses that happened to fall overboard.
Mrs. Burr’s fondest memory is actually living on a boat in the harbor for seventeen years.
“We had everything we ever needed, right here. We would have our meals on a card table at “the yard,” and people would always stop in for a cup of coffee and some conversation,” Mrs. Burr reminisced.
On Sundays, boaters would stop by for Mr. Burr’s “Sunday Sermon” — where he would offer his cures for the world while puffing on his legendary pipe — and sample the cookies Mrs. Burr had baked on the coal-burning stove.
“It was good here,” the articulate Mrs. Burr recalled.
Anyone who ever visited “Ye Yacht Yard” remembers the Burrs. They have made a countless number of friends over the past five decades. This past July, Mr. Burr celebrated his 93rd birthday with a party given in his honor at “the Yard”. Friends, relatives, and dignitaries were on hand when he was presented with a gold key to the Town of Fairfield.
Over the past few months, Mrs. Burr has been doing “the work that needs to be done.” (Mr. Burr hasn’t been to “the Yard” much since his party.) She tends to the moorings, making new mushroom eyes on the forge when necessary and splicing new mooring lines. And after she replaces the building’s chimney pipe, she plans on doing some welding on the anchors.
Barbara Burr has no plans of retiring. “I can’t think of any other place that I would rather be.” She would like to get her sailboard and kayak in the water one more time before winter; but tending to Mr. Burr and “the Yard” doesn’t leave much time for recreation.
The Burrs of “Ye Yacht Yard” have become synonymous with Southport Harbor. They have shared a life many people long for. They live simply, yet fully — knowing they have been privileged to be where they are living and doing what they want to do.
And those who know Howard and Barbara Burr also have to consider themselves privileged to have met these two remarkable Sound People.
Editor’s Note: Howard Burr died shortly after this article appeared in Sound People Magazine in October, 1993. A memorial service to honor his life was held at Ye Yacht Yard on a cold, drizzly Saturday morning, with friend Jason Robards reading the eulogy, and the tossing of a wreath into the Harbor and the firing of a cannon. Barbara died in May, 2004; and as had Howard’s life been memorialized at the Yard, so too was her life celebrated at this special place – the only place she ever wanted to be.

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