The most beautiful hands belong to old farmers.
My grandfather's hands were so veined, so knotted,
It was like shaking hands with a block of yellow pine.
His fingers were crooked, as light is by massive things.
Those leather hands swung leather harness
Gracefully as nets, and schooled the shark muscles
That stroked under the gray waves of his immense Belgians.
The surgeon's fingers riffle quick as gamblers'.
Rip. Stitch. Next.
Farmers' thick paws move slowly about their caring.
Export of ash trees, milk, and children is a long term trade.
Hands that have wrestled the four seasons
Earnestly, as with angels, know earth so well
Death is only homecoming.
The most beautiful hands belong to old farmers,
Old sidehill farmers like my grandfather. Like me.
- “Bradford County Handsong,” by Ron Saxton
Ronald L. Saxton passed away in his home in West Grove, PA at the age of 92. Born in Granville Summit, PA, Ron came of age during the Great Depression. His parents, Luther (1900-1988) and Florence Irene (1900-1984), taught school throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, then settled in Canton, PA. Ron was raised on the family dairy farm and helped with the chores. He graduated valedictorian of his high school class.
Ron and first wife Patricia settled in West Grove, PA and raised nine children, two of whom were lovingly adopted. They were active with the Quaker communities at the Kennett and London Grove Friends Meetings, volunteering with the Friends’ Committee on Race Relations. They played significant roles in the establishment of the Tick Tock Early Learning Center, which has served children in Southeastern Chester County for over fifty years. Ron also participated in Self-Help Housing, a project of the American Friends Service Committee. He learned carpentry and helped build affordable housing for low-income community members.
In 1981, Ron married Vera E. Kaminski Saxton and they raised 3 children. He built their home outside of Chatham, PA utilizing green building techniques long before the issue of climate change came to the fore. Along with his garden-to-table lifestyle and participation in recycling programs as early as 1970, Ron exhibited the foresight and wisdom of a true friend of the Earth. He took pride in caring for the land, participating in programs to reforest unused farmland, growing his own fruits and vegetables for family and neighbors, and tending to his home on his own, until arthritis made this too difficult.
In retirement, Ron’s skill and artistry as a woodworker and whittler blossomed. He created one of a kind wooden bowls, trays, sculptures, and unique handcrafted baskets made of recycled clementine boxes. He really enjoyed solving problems—from crosswords to making his own tools. He possessed a witty and sometimes dark sense of humor and prose, freely sharing jokes with his family and sometimes springing them onto unsuspecting auto mechanics, receptionists, grocery clerks, or phlebotomists. For example: “What did the dietician’s Macaw say when she was thirsty? Squak, polly unsaturated!”
Of all of his accomplishments, Ron took the most pride in raising his twelve children. He is survived by his wife, Vera E. Kaminski Saxton, and their children Dvera, Elena, and Ron E. He is also survived by his first wife, Patricia McMillin Wixom, and their children Bradley, Linda, Arnold, Laura, Bart, Walter, Elna, Cora, and Charles, as well as his younger sister, Nancy Saxton Schowalter, five grandchildren Brian, Evan, Christopher, Crystal, and Charles, and many nieces and nephews.
True to form, Ron donated his body to science. In lieu of a memorial service, the Saxton family asks that those wishing to honor Ron’s life make a contribution to the Avon Grove Library (117 Rosehill Ave., West Grove, PA 19390, 610-869-2004), the Green Free Library of Canton (8 N. Center St., Canton, PA 17724, 570-673-5744), and/or plant a native tree species (or an acre, or two) in a location of their choice.