Honor To The Hills: An Appreciation of Tony Borton’s Life

Tony Borton with family

The life of Tony Borton, a trustee of Franklin Land Trust and an active community leader in Conway, was remembered at a service held at his home on July 24, 2021.  His conservation advocacy-on-the-ground was legendary, and his life and soul inspired a harvest of remembrances, including the following:

Tony Borton was an easy guy to love.  He seemed to always be on an even keel; there seemed to be a spirit level abiding in his heart.  His personal sense of equilibrium was transmissible, you always came away from a meeting with Tony with your vision elevated and your feet planted more firmly on the ground.  Through his presence and through his actions, he made the world a better place.  As we are learning, that’s not always an easy thing for human beings to do.  He was a master at it.

We knew Tony as a hiker, a host, a confidante, a partner in fundraising, a trustee, and a leader.  In all the paths he walked, he was literally a force of nature. His chosen role in the part of his life that the Franklin Land Trust knew best was that of a conservationist in Conway.  Tony was among the absolute best volunteers in the business. There was a consistent lifeline between his beliefs, his management of his own land, his life on the trail and in the paddock, his outdoor fellowship in the community, and his leadership in his county and his region.  His life was a masterpiece in the key of conservation.

In our American system, business functions on behalf of profit, government functions on behalf of laws and regulations, and the non-profit organization functions on behalf of its mission.  The success of most non-profits depends a good deal on leadership, and leadership evolves around character, conviction, goals, and accomplishments.  Tony was a master of principled persuasiveness.  In a discussion, he always came prepared, he always listened intently to the viewpoints of others, and then, if the spirit moved him (as befitted a good Quaker) he would begin to make his point with a statement that combined conviction and qualifier: “It seems to me that…” What followed consisted of good sense delivered with strength, insight, and humility.

Memories of Tony Borton now outlive him in the hearts of his loved ones, his friends, his students, his community, and throughout the heart of the land he loved.  Once, on a hike he led on an old range road leading towards Ashfield, he pointed out a gigantic, sprawling patriarch of a black birch tree and he said, speaking almost in italics: “That tree was here during the French and Indian War!  Think of it!” And so, we all did.  And so, in our time, at least, we always will.

“Bring me men to match my mountains,” called out the poet Sam Walter Foss in 1894, and today we can answer: “Here was such a one.”  If we had to sum up our thoughts on our friend, we might use a Yankee phrase that, back in the old days, they applied to the very best of the crop or the livestock:

“Oh, now, that Tony Borton…he was a keeper!