‘He left impossible shoes to fill’: Friends, family remember late Yankee Candle founder

  • People gather to remember Yankee Candle Co. founder Michael J. Kittredge II throughout the day on Saturday during an open house memorial at the Country Barn of Kringle Candle Company in Bernardston. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • People gather to remember Yankee Candle Co. founder Michael J. Kittredge II throughout the day on Saturday during an open house memorial at the Country Barn of Kringle Candle Company in Bernardston. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • People view a slide show display showing Yankee Candle Co. founder Michael J. Kittredge II doing what he loved, including traveling and playing musical instruments, during an open house memorial at the Country Barn of Kringle Candle Company on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • People gather to remember Yankee Candle Co. founder Michael J. Kittredge II throughout the day on Saturday during an open house memorial at the Country Barn of Kringle Candle Company in Bernardston. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • People gather to remember Yankee Candle Co. founder Michael J. Kittredge II throughout the day on Saturday during an open house memorial at the Country Barn of Kringle Candle Company in Bernardston. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • People view a slide show display showing Yankee Candle Co. founder Michael J. Kittredge II doing what he loved, including traveling and playing musical instruments, during an open house memorial at the Country Barn of Kringle Candle Company on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2019 11:08:56 AM

BERNARDSTON — Family and friends, employees and acquaintances — the scores of people who honored Michael J. Kittredge II over the weekend recalled a man who always thought of others first.

On Saturday, an open house memorial was held for the late Yankee Candle Co. founder at Kringle Candle Company, owned by Kittredge’s 29-year-old son, Michael J. “Mick” Kittredge III. Michael Kittredge died unexpectedly of liver failure in July at age 67.

According to Mick Kittredge, his father represented the American Dream, having grown Yankee Candle from a small business at his family’s South Hadley home to a “household name” brand that employed thousands of people. However, to Mick Kittredge and the many others who attended the memorial Saturday, Michael Kittredge should be remembered for much more than his success.

“Yankee Candle is the story that most people want to hear about — Yankee Candle is a household name now,” Mick Kittredge said. “But the thing that I keep hearing from people is, whether they knew him or were security at his company or workers, he made them feel like the most important person in the room.”

Mick Kittredge said his father’s deep care for his workers drove his success as a businessman, and Mick Kittredge hopes to emulate that trait. He recalled his father doing things like anonymously funding a “make-a-wish” for an employee’s sick child.

“The company could not have grown as much as it did without motivated employees,” Mick Kittredge said. “I try to be like Dad as much as I can, but no one can be like him. He left impossible shoes to fill.”

With about 100 people gathered at Kringle Candle’s Country Barn Saturday afternoon, Mick Kittredge said many people came who he didn’t even know, and others who came said they didn’t know his father. Throughout the day, crowds gathered in front of a slide show display of Michael Kittredge doing what he loved, including traveling and playing musical instruments — at one end of the room was a floral display with a photo of Michael Kittredge happily playing a slick blue electric guitar.

“He had the most wonderful sense of humor,” said Susan Clopton, who met Michael Kittredge in 2000 when they began serving on the Bement School board of trustees in Deerfield.

Clopton said she will remember Michael Kittredge as having a strong collaborative nature when it came to getting things done. He was easy to work with, felt responsible for the school’s children and valued others’ work and input, she said.

Upstairs at the Country Barn, others stood in front of a camera and recorded short video clips of thoughts and memories of Michael Kittredge — the video clips will not be published or released, but will be made into a video for the family, including Mick Kittredge and Michael Kittredge’s two other children, Kylie, 15, and Casey, 13.

“Not many people say things like, ‘I love my boss,’” Kylie Kittredge said. “I think that’s what made him unique. I get to say, ‘That’s my dad.’”

Kylie added that while the occasion was a sad one, it was inspiring to see how many people came to recount nice memories of her father.

“All of them have in common that they all loved my dad,” she said.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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