“Uncle Paul”

“Uncle Paul,” Paul Butterworth, owned a farm at Sunset Farms, West Hartford, Connecticut. It could easily have been photographed for a Currier and Ives calendar with its two-story house, pond down the hill and trees lined in orderly rows.

This man of Quaker faith was both generous and disciplined. Young George Trofimoff had been at his home only a couple of days, when Uncle Paul came to his room and told him that he could make himself useful by trimming branches from some of the trees. George was eager to get to work, but Uncle Paul said they must first prepare him for the work, which meant another shopping trip.

Uncle Paul and George got into the car and drove to West Hartford. There, at a sporting goods store, Uncle Paul proceeded to order a couple of heavy lumberjack shirts, a jacket, boots, heavy gloves, a heavy cap, and two pair of corduroy pants. George was surprised that cutting branches required so much clothing, but he felt sure he looked the part.

On the way back to Sunset Farms, as they drove up the road to the farmhouse and past the pond, there were people ice skating on the pond. Uncle Paul could see the gleam in George’s eye as he watched the skaters. He asked George if he could ice skate, and George nodded affirmatively.

They parked the car, and Uncle Paul took George through the woods, pointing out branches that needed to be trimmed. He wanted them sawed at the trunk, not broken off in some haphazard fashion. Then, he gave George a stepladder and hand saw and told him to go to work.

About three hours later, Uncle Paul returned and inspected George’s work. He declared it “excellent.” Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he reached into a sack and pulled out a shiny new pair of ice skates and gave them to George. “This is your Christmas present,” he said. George was near tears. He had always wanted a pair of such skates, but his parents could never afford them.

Uncle Paul explained that many people came on Sundays to skate on his pond, and perhaps George should go down now and join in the fun. George did just that. He hadn’t skated since 1944, and even then, it was with some borrowed, worn out skates. Nevertheless, he remembered the basics. Uncle Paul put on his skates and skated around introducing George as, “This is George from Europe.” Soon, George was skating with the best of them.

I write of George’s life and the trial that ruined his life in my book:  “Observer: The Colonel George Trofimoff Story, the tale of America’s highest ranking military officer convicted of spying”.

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