Actor Paul Newman had numerous ties to Maine

Posted Sept. 27, 2008, at 4:21 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:18 a.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Although Paul Newman is being hailed around the world as a Hollywood legend after his death Friday, in Maine he is being remembered for his generosity to the College of the Atlantic and for the films he made in the southern half of the state.

People who knew Newman and his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, said over the weekend that they not only gave much to the college, but also to the country.

“In terms of all of the work that they have done for good causes, not just financially, but in really lending their name and really being out in front of social causes is pretty terrific,” former COA President Steve Katona said Saturday. “The world needs more of them.”

Newman, 83, died after a bout with cancer, surrounded by family and friends.

Over the weekend, Newman also was being remembered for the company that he had helped found.

According to the company’s Web site, “Newman’s Own Inc., founded on a lark by Newman and his buddy A.E. Hotchner in 1982, is now (to our own surprise!), a leading (and growing) premium food company that offers more than 150 varieties of delicious all-natural food and beverage products.

“Based in Westport, Conn., the charitable mission of Newman’s Own is expressed in its company motto: ‘Shameless exploitation in pursuit of the Common Good.’ Paul Newman and the Newman’s Own Foundation donate all profits and royalties after taxes for educational and charitable purposes. Paul Newman and the Newman’s Own Foundation have given more than $250 million to thousands of charities worldwide.”

Newman’s ties to COA began in the 1980s with his daughter Nell when she attended COA. She graduated in 1987. She now is president of Newman’s Own Organics.

“During the years that she was a student, they would come up and stay in Bar Harbor and visit her,” Katona said.

A coeducational liberal arts college, College of the Atlantic offers just one undergraduate degree — a Bachelor of Arts in Human Ecology.

Newman donated money to the campus after a fire in 1983 destroyed the library and administration building, along with many of the classrooms. “The fire gave rise to a construction program that included a new classroom building, campus center and dormitory,” The Associated Press wrote in 1997.

Katona said the Newmans also gave money for scientific research at the school. “Including money to buy a beautiful new microscope that at the time the college really needed,” the former college president said.

Since 1985, the Newmans have also provided scholarship support in the amount of $10,000 to COA for students with financial needs. “The college certainly wasn’t the center of their attention, it was one of many, many things that Newman’s Own foundation helped with,” Katona said.

Katona said he used to correspond with Paul Newman. “I always used to tell him how much I admired him and Joanne for all that they have done,” he said.

Although Newman’s connection to Maine starts in Bar Harbor, he also has a connection to Camden through author Richard Russo. Russo’s novel “Nobody’s Fool” was made into a movie in 1994 starring Newman.

Newman also starred in the film adaptation of Russo’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “Empire Falls,” which was shown on HBO.

In an HBO interview, Newman said he enjoyed filming in Maine. The film was shot in the Waterville and Skowhegan areas. He and his wife rented a cabin on a lake and Newman was able to spend his free time fishing.

As a result of that film connection, according to The Associated Press, Newman donated $10,000 to help build an 18-mile trail system in central Maine.

“Peter Garrett, president of Kennebec Messalonskee Trails Inc., said he wrote a letter to Newman in November [2004] explaining that the trial system would open up land along the Kennebec River and Messalonskee Stream for people to exercise and see wildlife,” the AP article said. Newman sent a check.

And there were other connections to the Pine Tree state.

In 2000, Georgia-Pacific Corp., which at the time owned the pulp and paper mill in Baileyville, donated a 39-foot straight pine log to a camp founded by Newman for children suffering from cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The log was used to create a totem pole for the camp in Ashford, Conn.

In 1992, Newman was invited to a public supper in Dexter to benefit the local high school’s trip to Williamsburg, Va. Although he was unable to attend, he sent enough of his spaghetti sauce to feed the hundreds who did.

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