Emmett Moffitt Van Buskirk, 81, of Bristol


BRISTOL — Emmett Van Buskirk passed away peacefully on March 1, 2022, after a long battle with heart disease. The son of Dr. Frederick W. Van Buskirk and Margaret Moffit Van Buskirk, Emmett was born on Oct. 31, 1940, in Fort Monroe, Va. In 1946 the family moved to Burlington, Vt., and purchased the Main Street home known today as the Lang House Bed & Breakfast, where Emmett spent the majority of his childhood.

A lifelong artist and teacher, Emmett graduated from Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pa., in 1959, and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Fine Arts degree from Middlebury College in 1963. After receiving his Master of Arts in Teaching from Oberlin College in 1964, Emmett taught art in Ohio and Indiana public schools before becoming Professor of Art at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa in 1968, where he received numerous teaching awards and was bestowed with an honorary Doctor of Arts degree in 2000.

In 2000, Professor Van Buskirk retired to Bristol, Vt., where he spent the final decades of his life.

Emmett was an extraordinary man of many talents. A lifelong realist painter, he worked predominantly in watercolors and throughout his artistic career produced an impressive variety of illuminative landscape and portrait works. Though Emmett was far too humble to say so, the evocative depth of his art recalled his beloved Andrew Wyeth even as they firmly established his own singular aesthetic voice in the Brandywine School tradition. He leaves behind a rich legacy of remarkable beauty and creative expression that will allow him to remain forever here with us in treasured ways.

In addition to his love of art and its creation, Emmett was a grand collector with a variety of avid acquisitional interests. He maintained impressive collections of Native American pottery, Inuit soapstone sculpture, art books, collectible toys, and antiquities. In every case, these respective hoards displayed his discerning eye for not only rarity but for memory and delight. Indeed, for Emmett, what was most important was that a piece spoke to one in some crucial way. The rest was just a bonus, and his collections were driven by this essential wisdom.

Emmett’s fondness for gardening reflected his love for the glories of the Vermont summer. He loved to summon colors from the soil as well as tomatoes and other perfect things. When not working in the yard, one could often find him sitting in the sun in his favorite spot on the porch soaking up its embrace. It was a place he’d head to as soon as spring’s capricious whims would allow and give up only when November insisted. And when it was unavailable, Emmett would tune in to golf tournaments not for the game but for the deep green grass and warm sunshine that enveloped every hole. As part of this eternal quest for sun, he maintained an avid interest in the weather and could always be counted on to know the forecast’s minutiae in great detail.

Though Emmett had many skills and countless interests, he will be remembered most for his kindness and for the deep well of generosity from which it flowed. He was always eager to lend a hand, whether it was simply to help set a table or move a piece of ponderous furniture from one impossible place to another. When life’s truly heavy lifting was required, Emmett always rose to the challenge without complaint, placing his own needs behind all others and selflessly dedicating himself, his home, and his heart to whatever was needed whether it was solace, sustenance, or something else.

Emmett appreciated a good joke and was always quick with a grin. He had nothing negative to say about anyone and could always be counted upon to offer a compliment and encouragement. He carried himself through this world with a peaceful grace that, while not always manifested physically, could always be found in his soft-spoken ways and gentle presence. He was the thing that has grown most rare in our world. He was a lovely man. And he will be deeply and profoundly missed.

Emmett is survived by his wife Jo; his son Duncan; his son Cameron, daughter-in-law Lorena and grandson, Anderson; stepson Geoff Davis, stepdaughter-in-law LuAnn Chiola, and granddaughter Genevieve; honorary son Jim Pugh and his wife Leah; sister Anna Little and brother George; a large contingent of much loved nieces and nephews, and many dear friends, all of whom he cherished.

All are invited to share their memories of Emmett at a celebration of his life on Saturday, July 23, at 2 p.m., at his residence in Bristol.◊

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