EASTPORT — He was the city’s most notable ambassador.
John Pike Grady, 82, died Wednesday at the Eastport Memorial Nursing Home.
For a few years he owned and operated a small newspaper in the city.
Grady was a familiar fixture on Washington County streets and roads as he loved to bum rides and tell stories.
Friends on Thursday mourned his death.
“The passing of John Pike Grady marks the end of an era for Eastport,” state Sen. Kevin Raye, R-Perry, said Thursday. “With his trademark flowing [white] beard, John was one of Eastport’s most recognizable and best-loved citizens.”
Raye recalled Grady’s annual appearance in the Fourth of July parade dressed in yellow slickers.
“For years, John has been the icon of the city and the bay area as a whole,” Eastport City Manager George “Bud” Finch added. “He was a friend to all, possessing a keen ability to set aside the differences of the battle to break bread and toast the future.”
Finch called him a crusader for Eastport and the Down East area.
Grady also was the driving force behind the founding of the Boat School, said Boat School-Husson administrator John Miller. “As a friend, member of the Friends of the Boat School, a story teller, a community leader and especially as a muse, John will be missed,” Miller said.
Boat School instructor Dean Pike agreed. Thirty years ago, Pike said, Grady was one of the driving forces behind the start of the Boat School. “This town owes him an immense debt of gratitude,” he said.
Chris Gardner, director of the Eastport Port Authority and chairman of the Washington County Commission, called Grady the cornerstone of the Down East community. “In these times as some look to ‘rediscover’ and oftentimes ‘redefine’ the identities of our communities here in Washington County, John Pike Grady stood as the definition for a city, region and a generation.”
Grady, according to his obituary, was born in Rochester, N.Y, and graduated from Shead High School in Eastport.
He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served in World War II with the 505 Aerial Bombardment Group, flying B-29s from North Field, Tinian Island, his obituary said.
In a 2003 story in the Bangor Daily News about the city’s efforts to support those serving in the Iraq war, Grady said that when he returned home from WWII there were brass bands and cheering crowds, unlike when soldiers would return later from the Vietnam War. Grady was a staunch advocate for the men and women who served in the military.
In 2001, Grady made a national television appearance in the short-lived, made-for-television series “Murder in Small Town X.”
On the night of the premier, Grady, who participated in the Founder’s Day Parade that marked the first few minutes of the series, described his part —“I was a stander-arounder.”
Funeral services will be held at the Boat School at 1 p.m. Monday.