By Katy Savage
LUDLOW— Howard Barton Jr., an active community member who always put his family first, died June 2. He was 55.
Barton was chair of the Ludlow Select Board, a position he held for 15 years. He previously served as captain on the fire department. He was on the cemetery commission and he was a trustee for the Fletcher Farm Foundation.
Barton was known for his leadership ability. He had strong opinions, but he focused on what needed to be done for the town.
“Howard had a strong sense of giving back to the community,” said Frank Heald, who was Ludlow’s town manager for 15 years until stepping down last month.
Barton ran Select Board meetings like a business, not prone to anything other than getting the job done, said Heald.
“He was a great believer in consensus building,” Heald added. “I don’t think in 15 years we had more than one or two issues that were anything but unanimous — that speaks to his leadership.”
Barton was born Jan. 25, 1963. He grew up in Ludlow and graduated from Black River High School in 1981. He completed four years of electrical school through the state of Vermont and had completed a program at the University of New Hampshire for management.
Barton was a lineman and assistant superintendent for the Village of Ludlow Electric Light Department for 35 years, following in his father Howard Barton Sr.’s footsteps, who is superintendent of the light department.
Barton was also a skilled carpenter who had a reputation as a perfectionist.
“Anytime you lose an individual at that age, it creates a hole,” Heald said. “There’s no question. But that hole will be filled in. We have to go on. The town has to go on but he will be sorely missed.”
Barton stepped down from the fire department after more than 20 years to spend more time with his family — the people he was happiest with. Barton, his wife and two daughters went out to dinner together and regularly traveled to Maine.
“They were his whole world,” his mother, Mary Barton, said.
Some said he was passionate about serving and volunteering because he was a born Vermonter who wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to him. He cared about keeping things as they were, but was also open to new ideas.
Barton was on the hiring committee that picked Town Manager Scott Murphy.
Murphy met with Barton before every Select Board meeting. He had seen him the day before he died. “He was in such good shape,” Murphy said. “It’s impacting a lot of people — not just town employees.”
Preliminary autopsy reports show Barton had a heart attack, Ludlow Police Chief Jeff Billings said.
Brett Sanderson, who served on the Select Board with Barton for the past eight or nine years and worked with Barton at Village Electric, had known Barton his whole life.
“He pretty much stuck to his family life with his wife and girls and pets,” Sanderson said.
Barton had a Dalmatian when he first started serving on the fire department and has had one ever since.
Barton liked biking, weightlifting and kayaking. He also liked the holidays. He spent hours decorating his home each Christmas.
“He cared for the community,” said Ludlow Fire Department Chief Peter Kolenda. “He had a deep love for the town.