A graduate of Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn., Waltham resident Chris Kravitt attended Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt. “I was at loose ends” afterward, he recalled, and then the Milford, Conn., owner of Mud Mill Pottery on the Bar Harbor Road in Trenton offered Chris a summer job in 1976.
Expecting to stay only a few months, Chris moved to Maine. “I met Lin Sullivan here. She was just passing through on vacation,” he said. They fell in love, and they later married.
That same summer Chris met Rick Cegelis, who owned Tree Stump Leather on Main Street in Ellsworth, “right next door to the Grand Theatre, on the uphill side.” Cegelis hired Chris to run the business that winter, and the next summer, “I bought into the business and became partners with Rick.”
In 1978, Chris and Lin purchased a house and two acres on the Cave Hill Road in Waltham for “an eight-year, $94-a-month mortgage,” Chris recalled. “Even in ’78 that was cheap.”
“The house needed a lot of work … had been sitting vacant for three years,” and became “the quintessential handyman’s special,” he said. “We replaced the roof immediately before we could move in” and also rebuilt the house’s cement-block foundation.
“We found this property we could afford in a town” where they knew no one, Chris said. “We wondered if we would be accepted.”
To their pleasant surprise, Chris and Lin, who are Jewish, soon felt right at home in Waltham, where “you were accepted for the kind of person you were,” he said “That impressed me.”
“We’ve been well accepted. It’s a town where people help each other out,” Chris noted. “I’ve seen it over and over here,” such as when he injured his back and could not drive his vehicle, a stickshift. Neighbors lent him a car with an automatic transmission, and several local men put up for firewood for him.
Chris bought out Cegelis’s share in Tree Stump Leather in 1981 and moved the business around the corner to State Street in 1985. Tree Stump Leather is now located next to his home.
Knowing that Chris “did leather work,” Norma Hardison asked him to teach that skill to 4-H youngsters. He did so for so long that “I was into the third generation I was teaching” as a 4-H volunteer. He has taught archery and rifle shooting for the 4-H for the last 20 years, and for at least the past decade he has taught archery at Camp Discovery on Webb Pond in Eastbrook.
When he and Lin first moved to Waltham, “it seemed like a long drive, the 15 miles to downtown Ellsworth.” The drive seems routine now, and “in the summer I drive … every chance I get … a kit car, a reproduction of a 1929 Mercedes SSK” that was built in 1984 and equipped with a Ford Pinto engine.
Chris and Lin “both read a lot,” and “Saturday mornings in the summer we go yard-saling.” Every Sunday “I get together with a group of guys and go out and shoot for a sport,” he said.
He took up archery 15 years ago “to extend my hunting season.” Chris shoots “traditional, with a recurve bow,” shooting at deer from “15 to 20 yards. I’ve only had one shot. I missed, and the doe took off.”
“Shooting a compound bow is a science,” Chris said. “Shooting with a traditional bow is an art, and I consider myself an artist.”
Chris crafts exquisite leather knife sheaths. “I’ve got them in every state in the country and about a dozen foreign countries,” he said. Chris also makes leather holsters, and “I sold custom knives to Dave Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash.”