Rockland native, ‘Jewish Cowboy’ Levinthal dies, 72

Posted Jan. 22, 2009, at 7:53 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Mike Levinthal, 72, known in the rodeo world as the “Jewish Cowboy,” died Monday in Rockland.

Although he was born and raised in Rockland, Levinthal spent most of his adult life in New York and New Mexico, serving for many years as chairman of the board of the Rodeo de Santa Fe Association, after an award-filled career as a cowboy. He had returned to Rockland several years ago.

Friends remembered Levinthal as the type of man who made a powerful impression, a great storyteller and a thoughtful man with a great sense of humor.

His memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. today at Adas Yoshuron Synagogue, 50 Willow St. in Rockland. All who knew him are welcome.

After the service, his ashes will be scattered on Penobscot Bay as he requested.

As a teenager in Rockland, Levinthal was a three-sport varsity athlete and the only Jew in his high school.

“People think it’s unusual to be a Jewish cowboy. It’s more unusual to be a Jew from Rockland, Maine,” he said in a 1999 interview with the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California.

After his discharge from the Korean War, Levinthal took a job at a Nebraska cattle ranch.

“I was a cowboy for the next 41 years,” he said in the interview. He worked on ranches, led trail rides and pack trips, was a saddle bronc rider, and shod and doctored horses. He had been called a horse whisperer.

When interviewed in 1999, Levinthal appeared wistful for his home state.

“I’ll probably go back to Maine someday and finish my life,” he said. “I will have come full circle. I feel my roots calling me, I feel the ocean calling me.”

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