Peter E. Barrett, 79, of Keene, passed away on Saturday, May 29, 2021, at his home after a courageous battle with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) that eventually turned into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He passed peacefully with family close by.
He was born in Keene on June 13, 1941, the son of Dorothy (White) and Evans H. Barrett. He was educated locally and graduated from Keene High School with the class of 1959. While at Keene High he was a star player for the football team. He helped the team win their first-ever state football championship his senior year. He went on to further his studies at the University of New Hampshire, where he earned a bachelor of science in agriculture in 1963. While at UNH he played lacrosse and was captain of the team his senior year. He was also a brother of the ATO fraternity. He had many close friendships with his “brothers,” many of whom were still in touch with him right up until his final days.
After graduating college he returned home to help run the family farm with his father, which was known by many as Stoneholm Farm at the intersection of Park Avenue, Maple Avenue, Hastings Avenue and Summit Road in West Keene.
On July 31, 1965, he married the love of his life, Willy A. VanGuilder, whom he met in Brattleboro while he was in college. They were married in Ludlow, Vt., at the Methodist Church with family and friends in attendance. They had two children who Peter was very proud of. He was also very proud of his six grandchildren.
When his father passed away in 1968, Peter and his brother, David, ran the family farm together. After a few years they went their separate ways and Peter became the sole owner of Stoneholm Farm. In 1991, after graduating from Cornell University, Peter’s son, Mike, wanted to help run the farm. In order for both to make a living they needed a farm with more land, as Peter had lost much of it that he had rented through the years. So they eventually sold the farm in Keene and bought a farm along the Connecticut River in Putney, Vt. All of the cattle and equipment they had in Keene were trucked over to Putney.
Peter served on several different boards in his lifetime in Keene and in Westminster, Vt., where he and Willy resided when they bought the farm in Putney. He was on the board of directors of New England Feeds and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, N.H. He also served on the Keene school board, the Westminster select board and the Westminster Aquaduck Society. He was also a longtime member of the N.H. Farm Bureau.
During late winter/early spring, when the work was slower on the farm, Peter loved to sugar in the Old Brick Sugarhouse, an old converted brick schoolhouse that still stands today at the end of Summit Road. He loved sugaring so much that he decided he wanted to sugar one last time this year. With the permission of some local folks he tapped some of the trees from his old sugar orchard and collected sap the old fashioned way — with buckets and the help of a couple of longtime friends.
Peter loved farming. It was his life. He always said there was never a day that he did not look forward to going to work.
After retiring from farming (if you can even say farmers retire. Lol!), he and Willy spent winters in Fort Myers, Fla., where Peter learned to play pickleball and fell in love with the sport. He was playing it long before it started in the Keene area. He was very excited to come back home when Keene started having the sport so he could play year round. Peter and Willy spent summers relaxing at their lake house on Maidstone Lake in northern Vermont, where he also found out he could play pickleball close by. After selling the farm in Putney and the house in Westminster, Peter and Willy moved back to Keene in 2019.
Peter was a lifetime member of the Elks Club. He loved hunting and fishing. He played softball in the Keene men’s league and the early years of the men’s senior league. He enjoyed watching sports when he could. He was an avid Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins fan. He also enjoyed watching all his grandchildren play in many sporting events.
Survivors include his wife, Willy, of Keene; a daughter, Lisa Bunce, of Marlborough; a son, Michael Barrett, and his wife, Oanh Nguyen, of Santa Anna, Calif.; a sister, Margaret Barrett, of Keene; six grandchildren: Kyle, Megan and Erin Bunce of Marlborough; and Ethan, Zachary and Nathan Barrett of Santa Anna, Calif. In addition, Peter leaves several cousins, nieces, nephews, extended family and friends.
Peter was predeceased by his mother and father, Dorothy (White) Barrett and Evans H. Barrett; and his brother, David A. Barrett.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Peter E. Barrett to: The N.H. Farm Bureau, 295 Sheep Davis Road, Concord NH 03301, on memo line please put Peter Barrett Memorial; the University of N.H. Foundation, 9 Edgewood Road, Durham NH 03824, along with Peter’s name please put “Food and Agriculture” on the memo line (extension.UNH.edu); or the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, 580 Court St., Keene NH 03431.
A Celebration of Peter’s Life will be held on Sunday, June 27, 2021, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Stonewall Farm, 242 Chesterfield Road in Keene. All are welcome to come celebrate with us and share your stories. We ask that those attending please wear facemasks.