Remembering those we lost in 2019

ELLSWORTH — Among the notable Hancock County residents who passed in 2019 was Ellsworth’s former library director and longtime Rotary Club secretary.

Charlene Churchill died Sunday at her sister’s residence in Heath, Mass., after a battle with pancreatic cancer, according to the Ellsworth Rotary Club.

“I don’t think she was ready to not continue,” said Rotary Club President Jo Cooper.

“She came and told me she hadn’t been feeling well,” Cooper said. “Then she came and told me when she’d been diagnosed.”

“When I became the president, she did really try to help me,” Cooper said. “I’m not a detail person, but she was.

“She was the secretary and she continued to be the secretary even though she tried not to be. She was really good at it. She was a very hardworking and loyal Rotarian.”

“No matter what we did, Charlene always participated,” said Cooper.

“She was a kind, gentle soul,” said retired City Councilor Gary Fortier.

Fortier worked with Churchill during budget season for his five years as council chairman.

The Massachusetts native was Ellsworth’s librarian from 2006 to 2015.

“She was passionate about the library but understood the overall financial constraints of the city,” Fortier said.

“I was fortunate enough to receive a Paul Harris Fellow honor from the Rotary,” Fortier said. “I would see her every year at the Paul Harris banquet, so we kept in touch.”

Debra Ehrlenbach of Hancock was a close friend.

“Charlene was a wonderful, loving, caring individual who touched the lives of many in various ways, as Ellsworth librarian, member of the Ellsworth Rotary Club, volunteer at The Grand and Heart of Ellsworth and most importantly a friend,” Ehrlenbach said.

“A true friend who would give of herself unselfishly, always there when needed, even though you didn’t know the need was there,” said Ehrlenbach. “Her smile, sense of humor and quick wit will be greatly missed.

“She was always eager to assist in any way she could. An avid reader and sports enthusiast, one could find her quietly curled up with a good book or cheering on her favorite team. She enjoyed theater and music and regularly attended productions at The Grand or area high schools.”

“She loved the Ellsworth community and would support it in many ways, some visible like participating in a Rotary service project or attending events at the library, or quietly and secretly giving pancake breakfast tickets to emergency responders,” Ehrlenbach said.

The Rotary had held a benefit supper for her on Dec. 15 at the Moore Community Center. Thanks to the benefit, Churchill was able to travel from Texas, where she’d gone for cancer treatment, to her sister in Massachusetts, Cooper said.

John Gardner, Castine

Maine’s maritime and arts communities experienced a major loss last month with the Nov. 21 death of John Gardner.

He was 90 years old and lived in Castine, where he raised his family with his wife, Elaine, built exquisitely detailed models of yachts and working boats and was a fiercely competitive sailor.

Gardner won the Maine Retired Skippers Race with the Sparkman & Stephens-designed New York 32 sloop Falcon three times — in 2008, 2009 and 2014.

In 2015, at the age of 86, he sailed the L.F. Herreshoff-designed Rozinante ketch in his final go-round in the race.

Gardner spent part of his childhood in Castine, with his roots in town dating back to the mid-18th century. Still, he was “from away.”

Gardner was born in Paterson, N.J., near New York Harbor, from which his father, deep sea shipmaster Captain Henry Gardner II, frequently sailed.

The Captain and his family returned to Castine in John’s first year. He lived there until the age of 9, when the family returned to New Jersey, where Gardner was exposed to drawing and portraiture through a family friend.

In 1973, Gardner returned to Castine with his family after experiencing enough adventure on the water — and along its shores — to fill a lifetime.

Gardner joined the Navy just after the end of World War II and served aboard landing ships as a Seabee (seagoing engineer). After the war, he studied at the Art Students League in New York City and began his own career on the water.

For a few years, Gardner worked as a deckhand aboard tugboats in New York Harbor. Then he headed for Alaska where, among other things, he fought wildfires.

After a year and a half or so in the wilds, Gardner returned to New York where, with the help of his father, he got his first job working on the docks, but not before sailing on — and leaving — an ill-fated circumnavigation aboard an elderly 75-foot ketch. Rising through the ranks of the city’s tough, racket-controlled longshoreman’s industry, Gardner eventually became a terminal manager on the Brooklyn docks.

Along the way, he met and married his wife, Elaine. She, along with his children William, Juliane and Annie, a daughter- and son-in-law and several grandchildren survive him.

Also while in New York, Gardner acquired the O’Day Outlaw sloop he named Julie and raced competitively for many years, both in the New York area and in Castine after he returned in 1973.

After he sold the boat, he still competed regularly and successfully for many years in the Maine Retired Skippers Race, as crew and, after reaching the qualifying age of 65, as a skipper.

Living on the shores of Penoboscot Bay, Gardner and two friends bought a scallop dragger, which they fished for a few seasons, and he also worked on supply boats that serviced oil rigs out of Rhode Island and New York.

Around 1975, Gardner began to build the highly detailed boat models that would eventually wind up in numerous museums and private collections.

Among the vessels modeled — many displayed in realistic settings rather than simply on a base — are several Castine Class sloops, schooners, motor yachts and working boats and sailing yachts. Gardner also was a prolific graphic artist who produced many maritime and other drawings in a variety of media.

Bill Thayer, Gouldsboro

The Schoodic Peninsula lost an icon April 1.

“Farmer Bill” Thayer, 82, who owned Darthia Farm with his wife, Cynthia, died April 1, just a few weeks after being severely injured in an accident on the farm.

“We’re still reeling,” said Ernie West, who served on the Gouldsboro Board of Selectmen with Thayer. “It leaves a great hole in the town.”

Mary Laury, executive director of Schoodic Arts for All, described Thayer as the “grandfather” of the region. The Thayers regularly offered tours, hayrides and hot chocolate at the organic farm on West Bay Road to area schoolchildren.

“I think of Bill Thayer as the grandfather to every schoolchild in the Schoodic area,” Laury said.

In 2012, when fire destroyed a barn at Darthia Farm, the community rallied to raise money to build a new one.

“The community just felt the farm was such a part of their lives,” Laury said. “There’s such a warm feeling toward Bill and the farm.”

In 1998, the Thayers’ granddaughter, Melissa, 18 months, was killed in an accident there. As a way to cope, the Thayers organized an arts festival, eventually being among those who founded Schoodic Arts for All, she said.

“Bill and Cindy have been the longtime rudder that steered the course,” Laury said.

Thayer, who moved to Maine from Massachusetts in 1976, was active in the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association since its beginnings.

“He had deep roots in MOFGA’s history,” said Heather Spalding, the organization’s deputy director.

Thayer helped coordinate the organization’s apprentice program, through which those wanting to learn organic farming were connected with experienced farmers, and he coordinated the annual Common Ground Country Fair.

Every year for decades, he gave horse-drawn wagon rides for which he collected donations for the group’s apprenticeship program.

West said it was never obvious that Thayer wasn’t born and raised in Downeast Maine.

“He fit right in,” West said. “He always seemed like he really belonged here.”

Both West and Selectman Dana Rice described Thayer as “one of the fairest” people they knew.

Rice said Thayer always made decisions based on what was best for the community rather than on special interests.

“He showed absolutely no personal bias,” Rice said. “He always thought it over and weighed both sides.”

Rice also said Thayer did a lot of good behind the scenes.

Steve Lane, Sullivan

Quite a number of people have stories to tell about Steve Lane, a longtime Sullivan teacher who died at home March 16.

Here’s one from 1985:

It was spring. Mountain View School’s baseball season had just ended. Dan Rayner, a young student, walked into Lane’s class.

“I remember coming into his classroom after baseball season my eighth-grade year to receive a special gift from him. In a wrapped box, there was the game ball from every game I pitched that season. On each baseball he had written the date, the team we played, the score, and all the stats (hits, walks and strikeouts) I had. At that time, being 14 years old, I felt on top of the world. That’s just how he would make you feel. He would do these kinds of things that no other teacher would do.”

Gordon Harrington’s story goes back even farther. He and Lane went to kindergarten together.

“He was quite a good friend of mine,” Harrington said. Lane and Harrington attended Sumner Memorial High School together. They were co-captains in 1969 when Sumner won its first Eastern Maine Basketball Championship.

Even back then, Lane’s career path was well known.

“There was no question in high school,” Harrington said. “You could tell that’s where he was headed. He always had it in mind that he wanted to teach.”

Lane began his teaching career in 1973 right out of the University of Maine. He was 21. He started at the former Sullivan Grammar School, then moved to Mountain View School. He taught middle school for 41 years.

“There are teachers who really do make a difference and have an impact on the lives of their students,” Rayner continued. “Mr. Steve Lane was one of those teachers. I know this because I’m a person who was influenced and affected by his teaching. I truly believe if you were to ask 100 former students of his, 99 would say he was their favorite teacher.

“During recess at school, he would gather all the girls who wanted to play football and play against the boys. I don’t ever remember the boys winning.”

Rayner, who is now 48 years old, still has those baseballs Mr. Lane gave him.

“Oh, and did I forget to say that he was my favorite teacher?”

Miles Maiden, Blue Hill

Miles Maiden, a Parker Point resident who died Feb. 5, was an innovator with a sense of whimsy.

In 1997, he founded Hydro-Photon Inc. and developed the SteriPEN, a pocket-sized device that uses UV technology to destroy viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms to purify water and make it safe for campers and hikers relying on natural sources for drinking.

The first SteriPEN went on the market in 2001. By 2011, Time named the SteriPEN one of the “Top 100 All-Time Gadgets.”

Two years ago, in 2017, Maiden sold the company to the Swiss outdoor products company Katadyn Group.

Maiden had grown the company from a handful of employees working in a small building in Blue Hill to one with more than a dozen employees based at the Ellsworth business incubator, aided by a $3-million capital infusion from Japanese investors.

Maiden lived with his wife, Meg, and their daughters, Haley and Hannah, in a house on the shore of a secluded cove deep in Blue Hill Harbor overlooking the mooring for his handsome wooden motorboat Malachi Mudge. The boat was built at the Newbert & Wallace yard in Thomaston in 1958 — the year of Maiden’s birth.

The boat was named for a children’s book title character, “a lonely mole [who] looks for a companion but doesn’t find anyone who needs him until the sky blue bird helps out.” The children’s book was written by Maiden’s father — a screenwriter and prolific author of children’s literature.

Jeremy Kane, Hancock

Jeremy Kane wasn’t expected to survive his first day of life. Thirty-eight years later, hundreds of his loved ones gathered to celebrate a life fully lived.

Kane died of unknown causes Jan. 11 at his Hancock home.

The celebration of his life at the Masonic Lodge in Ellsworth “was just like he would’ve wanted it — live music, free beer and food,” said his mother, Lori. “It wasn’t a funeral, it was a party.”

Jeremy was born “sunny side up” after a week’s labor on Nov. 8, 1980, in Blue Hill.

The unusual delivery position meant hospital staff didn’t immediately notice the lesion on his back. Lori later awoke to a doctor at her bedside delivering devastating news: her son had spina bifida and was not expected to survive an ambulance ride to the hospital in Bangor.

Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.

His parents later met the ambulance driver who took Jeremy to Bangor. She recalled how wrenching it was to watch Bobby Kane say what he thought was his final goodbye to his newborn son.

But Jeremy survived surgery that day and more than 30 others to come over the years. Many involved the shunt in his head needed to drain cerebrospinal fluid that built up around his brain. Expected to be paralyzed or brain-damaged if he did make it, Jeremy defied all odds and expectations. Every limit set for him became a challenge to overcome. Spina bifida was not the story of Jeremy’s life, it was a footnote.

“He wanted more than anything to just be like the other kids,” Lori said. “If his friends were doing it, he’d do it too. His friends were riding bikes, so he rode a bike. He couldn’t get off, so he just crashed it.”

Never expected to walk, he did so at age 3 1/2. Usually only able to cover short distances in his leg braces, Jeremy was determined to walk across the stage for his graduation from Ellsworth High School in 2000. His doctor fashioned leg casts to stretch his legs at night. The casts caused Jeremy to wake screaming in pain. But the next night he would insist on putting them on again. His determination paid off on graduation night.

Another milestone was getting his driver’s license at age 18. His vanity plates said “Yoda,” a nickname from co-workers at Friend & Friend, where he worked for many years as a receptionist.

“His head was on a swivel waiting for someone to walk by so he could make a smart ass remark,” said lifelong friend Shawn Day. “They called him Yoda because of his ‘words of wisdom.’”

Jeremy’s love of music, beer and people made him a regular at local night spots, including Tag’s, Chummies and China Hill. He was a Thursday night fixture at Finn’s Irish Pub. He taught himself to play bass and enjoyed open mic nights and sitting in with whatever bands would have him.

His charismatic personality earned him friends everywhere he went, according to loved ones.

Trisha Mason of the Trisha Mason Band penned a song in his honor titled “Fly High Jeremy.”

The lyrics include the lines “You always had a smile/a big boyish grin. Always a joke to share with a friend. Ya touched the hearts of many/This world is gonna miss your light in everyone’s life.”

Jeremy also loved travel. He and his friends took a three-week road trip across the country. He went parasailing on a family trip to Key West.

“This kid who was never even supposed to live, was up there flying,” said Lori. “He was up there above the boat just floating, so free. It was the happiest he ever was.”

Jeremy’s favorite place was the family’s camp on Abram’s Pond in Franklin, where he would take his camper. It’s there that his planned to spread his ashes.

“I don’t know what it was about him, but everywhere he went, he left a mark,” Lori said.

News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.