BREWER, Maine — Longtime Maine Public Broadcasting Network personality Virgil “Virg” Bisset died Sunday after a short illness.
He was 79.
Bisset had a long history in radio, but also had experience as a journalist, an author and an actor. Locally, he’ll probably be remembered for his work on MPBN’s live telephone program “Maine Concerns” and other shows he produced, including his documentaries “Dearest Andrew,” “The Polar Bears of Blue Hill” and “The Maine That’s Missing.”
He was hired as a producer for MPBN in July 1976 and retired in the mid-1990s.
“He has a charm and curiosity that entices great interviews from interesting people,” states an MPBN brochure featuring Bisset produced years ago.
Bisset was born in Blue Hill and went to high school at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill before leaving the state to attend the Leland Powers School of Radio, Television and Theatre in Boston.
“He has a long history in radio,” Toby Boutillier, a longtime friend and co-worker of Bisset’s, said Monday.
Bisset worked at radio stations in Okinawa, Japan, and in New York, Connecticut and Ellsworth before he accepted the job at Maine Public Broadcasting. He also was an actor in Acadia Repertory, now known as the Penobscot Theatre.
“Virg’s exposure in covering the news also includes writing for the Christian Science Monitor [based in Boston], the Berkshire Eagle [in Pittsfield, Mass.] and the Syracuse Post Standard” in New York, Boutillier said.
He served as a medic in the U.S. Army between 1951 and 1953 and was stationed in Baumholder, Germany, for a time.
“He had quite an interesting life; [he took] trips on steamers [and] he lived on Okinawa,” Bangor resident and friend Dick Shaw said Monday. “He was a very interesting guy.”
Bisset and co-producer Charles Halsted earned national and international attention in 1991 for their “Read to Me” program, a reading-aloud series for children on MPBN Radio.
The program won the 1991 Achievement in Children’s Broadcasting Award in the Action for Children’s Television Radio category and earned the International Reading Association’s 1991 Broadcast Media Award for radio.
He also spent time reading for a “Books for the Blind” program based in Massachusetts.
With Constance Hunting of the UM English department, Bisset edited “In a Dark Time,” an anthology of poems protesting nuclear weapons released in 1983.
Bisset loved cats. He was interviewed by the Bangor Daily News in 1995 while visiting Buffy, the Brewer library cat, who was a recipient of his treats.
He is survived by a sister, Mrs. Ronald Candage of Ormond Beach, Fla., and a brother, Donald, of Jefferson.
“He wrote his own obituary,” Boutillier said. “He’s written his own memorial service. We’ll have that in April at St. John’s Episcopal Church on French Street in Bangor. The music is all picked out, it’s all written. This man was organized.”
He added, “He is being missed by a lot of people.”