Herbalist’s belongings auctioned despite widower’s protest
COVENTRY, Conn. (AP) — The estate of famed Connecticut herbalist Adelma Grenier Simmons has auctioned off many of her belongings, over the protest of her widower.
George Purtill, the court-appointed administrator of Simmons estate, tells the Journal Inquirer newspaper that the July 27 auction at Simmons’ Caprilands Herb Farm in Coventry resulted in the sale of about 500 items, including tea sets, books, farm implements and other items.
The auction included 135 bidders and brought in about $20,000, about half of which will go to the auctioneer and the other half to the rehabilitation of the farm, Purtill said. That will include putting a temporary protective covering on the roof of the farmhouse and cleaning its interior, he said.
The auction was held a day after Vernon Superior Court Judge John Farley denied a motion from Simmons’ 81-year-old widower, Edward Cook, to stop it. Cook argued that many of the items in the auction were his property.
Farley ruled that if Cook can prove that the items sold at auction are his he can sue the estate for damages.
Cook, in a court filing Monday, asked the judge to reconsider. He said submitting a list of items that belonged to him would be impossible because he is no longer allowed on the property.
Simmons was credited with helping popularize the use of herbs in American cooking and 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 raising herbs.
Simmons and Cook had been married for about four years when she died in 1997 at age 93.
Cook and the estate have been in a legal battle over Caprilands since 2017, when Purtill accused the widower of allowing the 62-acre (25-hectare) property to fall into disrepair and failing to adhere to the conditions in Simmons’ will. She had envisioned her farm would be maintained after her death for the enjoyment of generations to come.
Since then, court rulings have removed Cook as executor of Simmons’ estate, terminated his lifetime tenancy rights on the farm, frozen $400,000 of his assets and ordered him evicted.
Cook currently lives in New Britain.
Purtill said since the auction several people have expressed interest in purchasing Caprilands, which was once a popular tourist destination, where Simmons would give lectures and host teas.
He said it will be up to the probate court, the state and the town of Coventry to determine the best use of the property.
Information from: Journal Inquirer, http://www.journalinquirer.com