Not many people can claim to be a real rocket scientist. Dick Boynton of Middlefield can make such a claim.
Boynton, who lives in Rockfall in the winter and at Lake Beseck in the summer, has made Middlefield his home for more than 25 years.
Originally from Barrington, Rhode Island, Boynton has lived a remarkable life. When he and his twin brother submitted a robot to his school’s science fair, it garnered national coverage through a story in the New York Times. The article caught the attention of the Choate admission office and led to a full scholarship to Choate Rosemary Hall for the two boys starting in 1948.
This type of good fortuned seems to follow Boynton around. During his senior year, he was crossing Choate’s campus and noticed an adult waiting near the main building. Being the friendly and helpful guy that he is, Boynton stopped and offered his assistance. After learning that the stranger was waiting for the Headmaster to be available, Boynton showed the man around campus and took him to lunch. It was only after several hours together that Boynton discovered the stranger was a representative from the admission office at Yale University. It wasn’t long before Boynton was offered a place in the freshman class with another full scholarship.
After finishing his doctorate at Yale, Boynton opened Space Electronics, an aerospace business, in Berlin, Connecticut. His company designed and made secret military devices used in the Korean War. Boynton explained that one of them “replicated the sound of submarines to throw off the enemy,” which our military “threw in the ocean everywhere.”
Among its many projects, Space Electronics developed instruments for the United States space program, including instruments for flight dynamics, which involved vehicle altitude, the angles of the space vehicle and its changes in speed. These astronomic instruments helped Space Electronics become an industry leader. Several other companies have entered the field, but Boynton’s company “outlived all of its competitors.”
Boynton sold the business in 2005 after 46 years, but he remains a very active rocket scientist. He lectures at Yale on occasion and offers his expertise to schools and organizations. This spring, Boynton will lead a lecture series on astronomy at Mercy High School in Middletown.
Then there are the houses and his hobbies.
Boynton’s wife, the former Nancy Hogan, lived in Middlefield with her family in 1935, and her fond memories of the small town led the couple to settle down here. When Boynton was given the task of finding the couple a home, he found one on Lake Beseck that he thought was perfect. When his wife’s family came to visit during that first year, they discovered that they were living in the same house she’d occupied as a young girl.
Over the years, the couple had driven by the old Smith pistol factory on the Coginchaug River in Rockfall on numerous occasions. Like many of us, they went inside the mill when it was used as an antique store, Early Attic, and they loved the old place. In 1974, Boynton put in offer in to buy it for his business, but his offer was two hours too late to snatch it up.
By the time they had another chance to purchase the mill in 1994, it was barely standing. The windows were almost all missing and holes in the roof left the place vulnerable to the elements.
“It was going to ruin. This way I could save it for the next generation,” Boynton explained.
So they set about to make it their home. It took four years to fix the place up, but the final outcome is glorious. The couple added a three-story chimney that has stone fireplaces in the living room and master bedroom. Windows overlook the dam, millpond, and railroad bridge over the river.
Boynton’s wife died last year and his four children are all grown and living on their own. He admits that he only uses about 5,000 of the house’s 13,000 square feet. This includes the office, where he writes and the studio that he uses to paint.
His painting skills are not those of an ordinary amateur. He has a beautiful eye for detail and a folksy style for landscapes. (See photos)
There are five bedrooms, five baths, and two kitchens. A large meeting room, which can seat up to 100 people, is used by local organizations and for entertaining. He uses the game room when family comes to visit. He stores a 1932 vintage Packard in one bay of the interior garage. A well-equipped machine shop would be the envy of all who work in metals, with two lathes and plenty of room for projects.
The showpiece of the house, however, is its setting. One needs to catch one’s breath at the beauty of the site. Clarence Wadsworth wanted to buy the place when he was purchasing the land that is now associated with the state park and his mansion property, but it was still a working mill at the time. The benefit, of course, is that Boynton's property is now surrounded by state park land.
Middlefield is blessed to have its own “rocket scientist” who values the town’s history and appreciates the beauty of its landscape. He preserved a cherished piece of town history and calls the community his home.
Next week, stay tuned for a history of his house, the Otis Smith Pistol Factory.