AUGUSTA, Maine— Victor A. McKusick, the key architect of the Human Genome Project and a winner of the National Medal of Science, was among the prominent Mainers who died during 2008. The year also saw the passing of Thurlow “Coop” Cooper, a former University of Maine football star who went on to play in the pros; longtime Bangor Daily News publisher Richard K. Warren; and other scholars, war heroes and business leaders.
The following is a list of Mainers, or those who made Maine their homes, who died during the year.
Robert Hellens, 82, a nuclear physicist who helped design the Navy’s first nuclear-powered vessel, died Jan. 28 at his home in Boothbay Harbor. Hellens worked on the reactor design for the submarine USS Nautilus and later worked on nuclear power plant design at Combustion Engineering in Windsor Locks, Conn., and at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.
Allan Weeks, 86, who served in the state police for 37 years and rose to its top post before his 1987 retirement, died Feb. 1. A U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, Weeks joined the state police in 1950 and served as colonel from 1976 to his retirement. From 1976 to 1979, Weeks also served as commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.
Samuel Pennington III, 78, who launched Maine Antique Digest from his kitchen table and grew it into a national publication, died Feb. 2. In 1973, Pennington and his wife wrote the 28-page first issue on a typewriter and distributed it to five people. It now averages more than 250 pages and is distributed nationally to about 20,000 subscribers.
Thurlow “Coop” Cooper, 74, a former University of Maine football star who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, died Feb. 14. Cooper played end for the Black Bears and was team captain when he was drafted in 1956. He returned to school for his senior year before going to the pros. Although he was dropped from the Cleveland roster before the season started, Cooper was picked up as a linebacker by the New York Giants in 1959 and was signed the next year by the struggling New York Titans, later to become the Jets.
Richard K. Warren, 87, publisher of the Bangor Daily News from 1955 until his retirement in 1984, died Feb. 15. Warren guided the newspaper through a series of physical and technological changes. A past president of the Maine Daily Newspaper Association and the New England Newspaper Association, Warren also had been a director of the Chamber of Commerce and other local hospital and business boards.
John Roderick, 93, an Associated Press correspondent who covered the Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong and other Communist guerrilla leaders while living with them in their cave headquarters in the mid-1940s, died March 11 in his Honolulu home. The Waterville native was a leading China-watcher for decades, covering the country from its pre-revolution days to the economic reforms of the 1980s.
Vicki Van Meter, 26, the Pennsylvanian who was celebrated for piloting a plane across the country at age 11 and from the United States to Europe at age 12, was found dead March 16. As a sixth-grader in September 1993, Van Meter flew from Augusta to San Diego over five days in her single-engine Cessna 172. Nine months later, Van Meter flew from Augusta to Glasgow, Scotland, and was credited at the time with being the youngest girl to make a trans-Atlantic flight.
Robert “Bob” Dyk, 71, longtime Maine broadcaster and a former television network correspondent who covered the hostage crisis in Iran, died March 22. Dyk began his career with CBS News during coverage of the 1960 Democratic convention that nominated John F. Kennedy, and later worked on TV and in radio, covering stories such as the death of Winston Churchill, rioting in Los Angeles and bloodshed in Beirut. Dyk moved to Maine in 1987 and worked as an anchor and reporter for WMTW-TV and on the radio.
Jane Stevens, 87, of Phippsburg, an expert on the establishment of the failed Popham Colony 400 years ago, died March 22. Stevens’ home was the focal point for a 10-year archaeological dig that turned up artifacts from the Popham Colony.
Harvey Picker, 92, a pioneering physicist, inventor and businessman who went on to a second career in higher education before focusing on the promotion of patient-centered health care, died March 22. Son of the founder of Picker X-Ray Co., Picker led the family business into such fields as cobalt therapy for cancer, nuclear imaging diagnostics and use of ultrasound for oceanography. He went on to teach political science at Colgate University, his alma mater. He then served for more than a decade as dean of the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. An avid sailor, Picker in 1982 moved to Maine, where he bought Wayfarer Marine, one of the largest boatyards on the East Coast.
Henry Berry III, 77, a former Cumberland County district attorney who helped launch Pine Tree Legal Services, died March 21. He continued to represent low-income clients through his retirement early this year, and was widely known in the Portland area for his musical talent. Over the years, Berry played piano in a number of jazz bands.
William Kraushaar, 87, a pioneer in high-energy astronomy and a former physics professor at MIT and the University of Wisconsin, died March 21. Kraushaar, who devoted much of his career to the study of interstellar matter, began in 1955 a decade of work on the detection of cosmic gamma rays that promised to open new ways to investigate high-energy processes in the universe. Kraushaar moved to Maine after retiring in 1999.
William Rogers, 87, a World War II fighter pilot who served as national commander of the American Legion in 1976-77, died April 2. During the war, Rogers flew carrier-based F6F Hellcats in the Pacific. He later became active in veterans affairs, helping to found Legion Post 153 in Auburn and serving as the Legion’s state commander in 1955-56.
Albert Weymouth Jr., 82, a former two-term mayor of Bangor and a longtime Husson College professor, died April 3.
Autum Aquino, 23, who captured the hearts of Mainers after her mother revealed that she and Autum had HIV, died April 3. Aquino became a poster child for AIDS after her mother made the disclosure in 1991. She spent a lot of time talking to teenagers about HIV and AIDS.
Richard “Doc” Costello, 79, longtime athletic director at the University of Southern Maine, died April 7. Costello coached nearly every sport during his 37-year career at USM. The sports complex at USM is named for Costello.
Campbell Niven, 78, former publisher of the Times Record and longtime Brunswick civic leader, died April 28. The Boston native and Bowdoin College graduate presided over the 1967 merger of his family’s two newspapers, the Brunswick Record and the Bath Daily Times, that created the Times Record.
Clara Cohen, mother of former Defense Secretary William Cohen, died May 12 in Arlington, Va. She and husband Ruby were longtime owners of the Bangor Rye Bread Co. and fixtures in the community. Their son William was a congressman and senator from Maine and later served as Defense secretary under President Clinton.
Richard Randall, 65, former president of the University of Maine at Augusta, died May 31. Randall began his career at the university as a sociology professor in 1967 and held several other positions before rising to associate provost and president.
Allen “Red” Gagnon, 71, whose informal coastal eatery Red’s Eats in Wiscasset was known far and wide, died June 13. A former shipyard worker who also owned a trailer park and pizzeria, Gagnon bought a trailer-sized shack in 1977 that became known for its lobster rolls and was featured on TV networks and in National Geographic magazine.
Janwillem van de Wetering, 77, a Dutch-born author who wrote a popular detective series set in his home country, died July 4. Born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Van de Wetering moved to Maine in 1975 and lived in Surry. He enjoyed a passion for Zen Buddhism, motorcycles and jazz.
Dr. Victor A. McKusick, 86, the key architect of the Human Genome Project and a winner of the National Medal of Science, died July 22 in Towson, Md. McKusick, a Maine native and twin brother of former state Chief Justice Vincent McKusick, explored the links between genetics and disease. He founded the Johns Hopkins Division of Medical Genetics in 1957 and in 1973 became chairman of its department of medicine and physician-in-chief of The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Two medical disorders carry his name.
Linwood Palmer Jr., 85, former gubernatorial candidate whose activism in the Maine Republican Party spanned four decades, died July 24 in Dover-Foxcroft. Palmer was first elected to the Maine House in l947, and at age 24 he was the youngest member of the Legislature. He ran for governor in 1978 but was defeated by Democrat Joseph Brennan in a three-way race.
Robert A. Maheu, 90, a Waterville native who became a Howard Hughes confidant and CIA operative, died Aug. 4 in Las Vegas. The public face of Hughes’ massive corporate empire in the 1960s, Maheu was once involved in a failed plot to poison Fidel Castro.
Dr. Eva Reich, 84, daughter of Dr. Wilhelm Reich and lecturer on the controversial work on orgonomy that he pioneered more than a half-century ago, died Aug. 10 at her home in Hancock. A native of Vienna who moved to the U.S. in 1938, Eva Reich participated in many of her father’s controversial experiments.
Army National Guard Sgt. Deon Taylor, 30, who grew up in New York but graduated from Carrabec High School in North Anson, was killed in Afghanistan Oct. 22. He was a New York City undercover narcotics officer.
Augustus “Gus” Barber, 87, a former meat cutter who built a kitchen-based operation into a frozen-food business that had a work force of 800, died in Portland Nov. 21. The founder of Barber Foods was a son of immigrants who fled Ottoman rule.
Murray “Mike” Thurston, 87, a driving force in the development of the original Sunday River ski resort, died Nov. 25. A native of Bethel and a graduate of Dartmouth College, Thurston helped develop a plan for a lodge and a tow rope to reach two ski trails on Barker Mountain in Newry. The ski area opened in 1959.