Barbara Comfort is a great writer. Her characters are interesting and well-thought out. We are fans of her work and wish to share that with her other fans as well. These pages are dedicated to her and her work as a writer. We have added a Bookstore Page for you to get Books from the author and much more!
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COMFORT–Barbara. Barbara Comfort, 95, died peacefully on April 22, 2012. Known to all as Bobby, she was the sister of Carol Comfort Felker of Mountain Lake, Florida, and the late Walter Rockefeller Comfort III of Tampa, and beloved Auntie Mame to nieces and nephews John Comfort of New York City, Jane F. Matz and Charles J. Felker of Washington, DC, and Stephen C. Felker of Chicago. Bobby lived in New York City, Landgrove, VT, and North Branford, CT. She was born in Nyack, NY, grew up in Engelwood, NJ, and studied painting at the National Academy of Design and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts at Fountainebleau in Paris. A landscape and portrait painter, Bobby also engaged in many other enterprises: during WWII, she ran a welding factory for Electrons, Inc. that made electronic tubes for the Navy; in the 70’s, having started a lucite design company, she invented the first Cuisinart blade holder; in the 80’s she became a mystery writer, creating a series of murder mysteries based in Vermont that are still sold throughout the state. Bobby built the first modern house in Landgrove, which was on the cover of American Home in 1949. A bon vivant and world traveler, she would occasionally burst into French songs after dinner. She will be missed greatly by her family and many friends.
HERE IS A GREAT ARTICLE ABOUT BARBARA COMFORT:
by Beth Kanell
If you’ve browsed for mysteries in New England, you’ve seen her books: two series set in the fictional town of “Lofton, Vermont,” one featuring Liz Bell as she settles into town in her mid 30s, and the other Tish McWhinney, of retirement age but far from ever contemplating it, as she paints and sleuths. The author’s name is “B. Comfort” and the book jackets let you know she divides her time between Landgrove, a real village in Vermont, and New York City.
What fun to meet in person Barbara Comfort, who began writing her mysteries when she was 65, tightening up her first plot during a long drive to Florida to visit her mother. Artist, inventor, businesswoman, and author, she now resides in a community of older residents just outside New Haven, Connecticut, except for the summer months, when she’s still an active citizen of Landgrove. This year, on September 4, the town will salute her 90th birthday. The town hall is full of her landscapes and portraits, as well as narrative sections of the personal history she documented (“A Good Time: A Scrap Book”), samples of the electronic tubes she crafted during World War II, and examples of her inventions since then – some in clear acrylic plastic, some more whimsical, like her gaily boxed “edible toothpicks.”
Born in 1916 in Nyack, New York, Barbara Comfort moved to Boston as a child, then at age eight to Englewood, New Jersey. But her real center was Greenwich Village, where she lived for a while in her parents’ home on Washington Square, then her own place on Charlton Street. As a landscape and portrait painter, she attended the National Academy of Arts, and in France the Ecole des Beaux Arts at Fontainebleu. When World War II began, she was back in the States, and established a business welding electronic tubes for the Navy, devices that helped cannons to stay on target as the ships pitched and rolled.
At the end of the war, she spent $100 on five acres of land in Landgrove, where with the help of a local architect she soon built a house. It was shockingly modern at the time, and made the cover of American Home magazine in 1949. Today the exposed interior beams and barn board have a familiar warm Vermont look to them, and the massive central fieldstone chimney is still more than adequate for snug comfort.
Her Vermont residence enabled her to also join an acrylic factory in Londonderry, Vermont, where she designed ice buckets, plastic eyeglasses (“oggles”), and more. (The eyeglasses were used by many readers at the New York Public Library!)
In 1963 she began her literary career with a cookbook – one that would tap her artistic skills. She sketched each of 63 houses in Landgrove, to go with recipes from the people who lived in them. A road map illustrated where the houses stood, and facts about Landgrove were scattered among the pages. This “Vermont Village Cookbook” was a huge hit. Making it even more noticed was a clever marketing angle: Using a suggestion from a friend, Comfort sent a copy of the cookbook to the wife of each senator of the 50 states. The resulting publicity was priceless. Noted television personalities Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs loved the cookbook and featured Comfort, the book, and the town on their TV program.
In 1981 Comfort started her own press, Landgrove Press, with several friends. They offered a series of limited edition linoleum prints and also the first of Comfort’s mystery books, quickly becoming a series that was picked up by Foul Play Press and is still in print via Norton, which now owns Foul Play. This first mystery was “The Vermont Village Murder,” introducing Liz Bell, a newcomer in a Vermont town threatened by a developer (a timeless plot!). “The Green Mountain Murder” followed a similar thread and settled Liz into the state.
With “Phoebe’s Knee,” in 1986, Comfort developed a senior character, about 65 years old, Tish McWhinney, an artist and generally inquisitive friend. “Grave Consequences” (1989), “The Cashmere Kid” (1993), “Elusive Quarry” (1995), and “A Pair for the Queen” (1998) took Tish through more adventures. The latest in the series, “At Loggerheads,” came out as a print-on-demand book through XLibris in 2002. Of all the books, only the first printing of “Grave Consequences” featured artwork by the author on the cover; she was busy writing, and let others take over some of the publication details.
Although it’s tempting to confuse Comfort with Tish McWhinney, Comfort in person is even more energetic and determined than her sleuth, and at least three times more sophisticated. Her New York City life and travels contributed to this, as have her many friendships with artists. One tale she tells is of “Bobby” (Robert) McCloskey when he was writing and illustrating his classic “Make Way for Ducklings.” McCloskey kept ducklings in his home bathtub during the weeks of the project, and each day after work in her painting studio, Comfort would stop in to play with the downy yellow fluff-balls.
Delighted with McCloskey’s books, Comfort painted his mother and baby bear (from “Blueberries for Sal”) in a life-size version onto the car shed at her Vermont home. She adds more animal-related art as the urge strikes: a silhouette of a goat against the house exterior (see “The Cashmere Kid”), and most recently a wooden outline of a bat in flight, pinned against an illusory window over the living room doorway. In the back yard is a Statue of Liberty – “It was quite something when we were moving her in the car!” Comfort recalls with a grin.
Will she write another mystery? Not right now. Tuned in to strong friendships, Comfort has noticed that “when you’re writing, you’re someplace else, always thinking, Now how can I use this, or Is that what my character is like?” For the time being, she’d rather be fully present. After all, her birthday bash in Landgrove is coming up soon, and there are a lot of friends stopping by to see the exhibit in the town hall.
The only damper on her spirits is this summer’s death of her pug Fred, who lived with her for many years. But determination and vigor apply here too, for when the question posed is, “Will you consider another dog?” her eyebrows fly up in surprise and she crisply replies, “Of course!”