Famed herbal­ist’s wid­ower or­dered off farm

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - News -

COVENTRY — Since the death of famed herbal­ist Adelma Gre­nier Sim­mons, her Connecticut farm that once drew vis­i­tors by the bus­load has fallen into dis­re­pair, with green tarps cov­er­ing parts of the roof on the 18th cen­tury house and the peren­nial gar­dens over­grown.

Her es­tate faults her wid­ower, Ed­ward Cook, who is now fight­ing a judge’s or­der to va­cate the farm in Coventry.

“I think it’s a tragedy,” said Cook, an 81- year- old sci­ence pro­fes­sor who de­nies the al­le­ga­tions against him.

Sim­mons, who was cred­ited with rein­tro­duc­ing and pop­u­lar­iz­ing the use of herbs in Amer­i­can cook­ing in the mid- 20th cen­tury, died in 1997 at age 93. A pro­lific au­thor, Sim­mons pub­lished more than 50 books and pam­phlets. Her “Herb Gar­den­ing in Five Sea­sons,” first pub­lished in 1964, is still con­sid­ered to be the stan­dard ref­er­ence for herb farm­ing.

Vis­i­tors to her gar­dens were treated to “mys­tery” lunches made with herbs and ed­i­ble flow­ers that she iden­ti­fied only af­ter ev­ery­one was done eat­ing. She en­vi­sioned her 62- acre “Capri­lands” farm in Coventry would be main­tained af­ter her death for the en­joy­ment of gen­er­a­tions to come.

A lawyer over­see­ing the es­tate ar­gues that Cook has failed to main­tain the farm and ad­here to the con­di­tions in Sim­mons’ will, which called for the es­tab­lish­ment of a char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion to main­tain it and run ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams for the pub­lic there.

Cook had been or­dered to leave the farm by Sun­day. But a state judge in Rockville on Fri­day ex­tended the evic­tion date by two weeks to al­low Cook to find suit­able homes for the flock of Scot­tish black­face sheep and a horse that still live there. Cook con­tin­ues to ap­peal the evic­tion or­der to the state Ap­pel­late Court, but it is not clear when the court will rule.

Cook, who was mar­ried to Sim­mons for about four years when she died, bought a house in New Bri­tain last year, so he is not in dan­ger of be­ing left home­less. He said he is at the farm daily to feed the an­i­mals.

The farm­house is filled with Sim­mons’ be­long­ings, in­clud­ing sets of china, fur­ni­ture and books. There’s also wa­ter and ceil­ing dam­age in an ad­join­ing green­house, which is now clut­tered with car seats, wooden benches, tools and other items.

Out­side, some fenc­ing has fallen. But Cook said the peren­nial herb gar­dens, although over­grown, re­main in­tact.

Cook’s cur­rent le­gal bat­tles be­gan in 2017 af­ter a lawyer, Ge­orge Pur­till, was ap­pointed to over­see Sim­mons’ es­tate. Since Pur­till’s ap­point­ment, court rul­ings have re­moved Cook as ex­ecu­tor of Sim­mons’ es­tate, ter­mi­nated his life­time ten­ancy rights, frozen $ 400,000 of his as­sets and or­dered him evicted. Cook is ap­peal­ing those de­ci­sions.

Court records show Cook faces more than $ 300,000 in con­tempt- of- court fines for fail­ing to al­low town of­fi­cials to in­spect the prop­erty. The fines are $ 1,000 per day and date back to De­cem­ber 2017.

Cook said he did set up a non­profit group, Capri­lands In­sti­tute, in 2007, but an agree­ment be­tween it and trustees for the prop­erty has been elu­sive be­cause of lia- bil­ity con­cerns among some of the group’s di­rec­tors.

He be­lieves his le­gal prob­lems are part of a con­spir­acy to oust him and sell the prop­erty for a mul­ti­mil­lion­dol­lar de­vel­op­ment, which Pur­till de­nies. Cook said if he loses his ap­peals, he may file a law­suit seek­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in dam­ages.

“The in­tent is to de­stroy me so that they can get the prop­erty,” said Cook, who only de­scribed “they” as “any num­ber of peo­ple.”

Sim­mons’ grand­son, Nel­son Sim­mons, who lives in up­state New York, said he is hope­ful the prop­erty can be re­stored af­ter the court cases are set­tled.

“Her legacy was the herb gar­dens, the lec­ture hall, pro­mot­ing the leg­ends and the sto­ries of the herbs,” he said. “That’s what’s been lost is her legacy. I think ev­ery­body’s hearts are in the right place. Ev­ery­one I talk to speaks highly of Capri­lands and restor­ing its grandeur. Just get­ting to that point seems to be a dif­fi­cult path.”

Dave Collins / As­so­ci­ated Press

Ed­ward Cook, wid­ower of the late herbal­ist Adelma Gre­nier Sim­mons, poses Thurs­day at the Capri­lands herb farm in Coventry. Sim­mons, who died in 1997 at age 93, is cred­ited with rein­tro­duc­ing and pop­u­lar­iz­ing the use of herbs in Amer­i­can cook­ing. Cook, ac­cused of fail­ing to main­tain the prop­erty, is fight­ing an evic­tion or­der.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.