Art Trimble’s Story

Editor’s Note: St. John’s lost our dear friend Art Trimble in 2016. This Faces of St. John’s story serves as a touching tribute of his spirit and the impact he made on his friends and family. 

In excellent health at the age of 96, Arthur Trimble has a certain joie de vivre. And while the mass of men may lead lives of quiet desperation, Art has long been intent on living more deliberately, if not in the woods then at least near them, among the gardens and the flowers, and on many other paths during his long, happy life.

One of three brothers born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1918, Art has been interested in nature since first learning about it at a young age. He visited Phipps Conservatory often and met noted herpetologist M. Graham Netting at the age of 16.  His father, who lived to be 102, owned AG Trimble Company, which advertised specialties. It is still in business, run by a third generation of Trimbles.

Art graduated from South Hills High School in 1936. It was there that he met his future wife, Roberta. Tired of studying after high school, he decided against going to college and worked for the next four years at two photography studios.

“I received so much help and education there,” Art said from his home on Songbird Lane in St. John’s Meadows on a cold late January day in 2015. Conversant on many topics, he spoke clearly and concisely on aspects of his life.

Art and his high school sweetheart Roberta married in 1941. And, knowing he would be drafted, he voluntarily joined the Army the same year. He served as a combat navigator, flying seven missions aboard a B-17 bomber in the European theater. He took flak through his hand, which compelled the flight surgeon to recommend reassignment. His crew went on to fly 28 more missions.

Art left the Army as a First Lieutenant in 1945. Following a reunion in Washington, DC after the crew’s final mission at the end of the war, he kept in touch with his fellow servicemen for 38 years. Art is now one of only three surviving members of the original 9-man team that once served in such close and dangerous quarters high above the ground. He said the movie 12 o’clock High best portrayed his role in the war.

It was during his Army service that Art decided he wanted to work at Kodak. Through an untraditional route, he was hired a lab assistant in Paper Service at Kodak Park in 1945, starting at $45 a week. He and Roberta first lived at the Fitzhugh Hotel and then an apartment on Rutger Street.

“I had one of the most interesting jobs there,” said Art, who later went on to work in photo finishing sales. All told, he worked at Kodak for 32 years, retiring in 1978. Along with three other partners, Art then started his own company called Seneca Photo Systems in which he was active until 2005.

After more than 60 years of marriage, during which time he and Roberta adopted and raised two daughters in Rochester, Roberta passed away in 2001. The couple moved to St. John’s Meadows in 1998 from their home in Webster when Art could no longer care for his beloved wife on his own.

During all this time, Art was active in the Rochester Civic Garden Center, a 70-year-old educational institution whose mission is to teach people about horticulture and gardening. “I’m a nature nerd more than anything else,” he said.

And it was nature, with some help from the Meadows that changed Art’s life in his mid-80s. Sometime after Roberta passed away, he met Barbara, who had moved in to the house next to his. The two found they had a lot in common and soon fell in love. They held a commitment ceremony attended by some 150 of their friends. Art moved into Barb’s house and the two have now been together for 11 years. Their house is bordered by the woods and birds come and go from the feeder all day long.

“Meeting Barb changed my life,” Art said. “If not for her I wouldn’t be going the way I am.” His health may also have something to do with good genes, keeping busy, being happy, and walking many miles in and around the Meadows over the past 17 years.

“I love being part of this community and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” he said. “I stay busy and that’s the way I keep out of trouble.”

In addition to his role in the Garden Center, about which he is writing a book, Art is also an avid reader, a staunch environmentalist, a member of the Rochester Computer Society and the Borrows Audubon Nature Club. He said the only thing on his Bucket List is to see the new World Trade Center, hopefully sometime in the next year and preferably going to NYC by train.