Bob Fichtel is looking to sell the MainFare Bed & Breakfast in Ashburnham, which he opened with his late wife, who was killed in a car accident last
Bob Fichtel is looking to sell the MainFare Bed & Breakfast in Ashburnham, which he opened with his late wife, who was killed in a car accident last summer. Fichtel and his dog Maggie are shown in front of the inn. For a slide show of photos go to sentinelandenterprise.com. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE

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ASHBURNHAM -- The George F. Hardy room at MainFare Bed & Breakfast faces east within the formidable stone home that man built more than a century ago.

On a recent afternoon it was filled with sunlight, lending a glow to starched white sheets on the bed beside an old wooden writing desk. Owner Bob Fichtel scanned the space, pausing to marvel at the attention to detail his late wife, Dianne Mayo Fichtel, maintained while designing the room.

"She could be in a room for an hour, and I'm going, 'what is she doing?' But she would be making sure the pillows were just right, things were folded, everything was done just as it should be," he said.

Dianne spent hours "tweaking" that bedroom and three others at MainFare before guests arrived.

Bob Fichtel, owner of the MainFare Bed & Breakfast on Main Street in  Ashburnham, holds a framed photo of his late wife Dianne, who was killed in a tragic
Bob Fichtel, owner of the MainFare Bed & Breakfast on Main Street in Ashburnham, holds a framed photo of his late wife Dianne, who was killed in a tragic accident last summer. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE

Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
She swiped a lint roller across bedding to collect any errant lint the washing machine may have missed, and ironed every pillowcases twice.

At night, the Fitchburg native could be found reading cookbooks instead of novels, ingesting recipes so vividly that ingredients printed on the page turned to flavors she could taste.

Her husband Bob Fichtel now runs MainFare on his own. Dianne was killed last year when she was struck by a car in the parking lot of her second workplace, Trader Joe's supermarket in Acton. The 62-year-old left behind family and the bed & breakfast that was her lifelong dream to own.

On Thursday, Bob Fichtel said he has decided to put the property up for sale.


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He hopes to find a buyer that will take over the "turn-key business" and continue running it with the same rigor and delight as did Dianne.

"My dream is that somebody would want to continue on with Dianne's dream," he said.

Guests from around the world have stayed at MainFare over the past 13 years. The Minister of Education of Bhutan gave the Fichtels a white silk shawl meant to encourage good luck after his stay. The shawl is still draped above MainFare's front doorway.

A fitting venue

It was not the first time the residence at 82 Main St. hosted such a dignified guest.

George Hardy of Ashburnham commissioned the house built in 1907 to ensure his daughter, Blanche, had a venue fitting for a wedding reception with her groom, German philosopher Moritz Schlick, Fichtel said.

The two wed before hundreds of people in an elaborate ceremony in October of 1909. Schlick's writings would go on to inform the basis for the philosophical discipline known as Logical Positivism. In his 1927 essay, "On the Meaning of Life," released a decade before Schlick was assassinated by a former student, he wrote:

"It is the joy of sheer creation, the dedication to the activity, the absorption in the movement, which transforms work into play."

The property was sold to Mary Weeks in 1948, after whom the Fichtels named a second-floor apartment the "Mary Weeks Suite."

The Foley family bought the house in 1970 and lived there for more than three decades. Then, one early autumn afternoon in 2003, Bob and Dianne Fichtel spotted moving trucks outside the home.

They put in an offer, and several months later closed on the property.

Raised by a Fitchburg firefighter who spent shifts cooking meals for the department, Dianne's penchant for cuisine and entertaining was so acute her friends joked about being too afraid to invite her over for dinner. Their cooking skills, they feared, were no match for Dianne's, said Fichtel.

She worked at the Interface Holistic Education Center in Boston, where she met spiritual teacher Ram Dass and political activist Abbie Hoffman.

In the late 1990s Dianne was employed as a vegetarian chef at Merriam Hill Holistic Retreat in Greenville, N.H., and later at Springhill Retreat in Ashby. When her son, Lucas, was born, Dianne ran a daycare from her Ashburnham home.

When it came time to renovate 82 Main St., Dianne lay awake at night mulling over colors to paint the interior walls, said Fichtel. She scoured antique markets for home furnishings, and found ornate pieces built in Gardner, where she lived before moving in with Fichtel.

MainFare opened in 2005. When a guest from oversees came to stay Dianne would research the types of breakfast dishes typically be served in their home country, and awoke daily at 6 a.m. to prepare them.

After Dianne's death, Fichtel began preparing breakfast. He vacuums, sets up the bedrooms, and works in the garden, which Dianne designed so a new crop of flowers blooms with each changing season. He makes sure to iron the pillowcases twice.

"Me doing all this," he said, seated under a portrait of Moritz Schlick in the parlor. "It's kind of like Dianne's with me, it's kind of like she's sitting on my shoulder. So, it will be bittersweet to sell it, because her spirit is here."