Library receives portrait of aviator with Houlton ties

Posted March 12, 2009, at 9:25 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A portrait of 2nd Lt. James Frederick Dow of the U.S. Army Air Corps has been given to the people of Bangor.

The portrait in oils, painted by Bangor artist Waldo Peirce, with a frame designed by Bangor architect Eaton Tarbell, was unveiled March 6 at Bangor Public Library.

Dow is shown as a young man in uniform, with curly russet hair and brown eyes fixed away from the gaze of the viewer, as if he were thinking deeply.

On hand for the unveiling was BPL history librarian Bill Cook and David Burgquist of Hermon, whose work researching Dow’s life resulted in the portrait being returned to Bangor.

Dow, a native of Oakfield, graduated from Houlton High School and the University of Maine, where he was a football star in the 1930s. He attended Parks Air College before joining the Army Air Corps. He went to flight school at Randolph Field in San Antonio, where he received his commission and wings in March 1940. On June 17 that year, he was killed in a midair collision over Queensborough, N.Y., during a routine training flight. He was 26.

“He was flying a B-18 in formation when two of the planes hit each other,” Burgquist said. “Both pilots were conscious and able to maneuver their planes so that no houses were hit when they crashed.”

Burgquist, a Bangor native who is retired after a career in academia, was researching Dow’s life for an article he wrote for Echoes magazine, Through his interviews with Dow family connections, he located the painting in the possession of Dow’s niece, Margo Pelletier of New York.

“I wanted to photograph the portrait for my article,” he said.

Dow Air Force Base, first known as Dow Field, and now Bangor International Airport, is named for James Dow.

Burgquist shared what he had learned about Dow, and Pelletier made the decision to give the portrait to Bangor Public Library, where it will be on display until late spring before it goes on loan to Bangor International Airport.

The portrait, painted from a photograph of Dow, was commissioned by the Civilian Advisory Board at Dow AFB and hung in the Officers’ Club from 1959 to 1969 when Dow AFB was decommissioned. After the base closed, the portrait went to members of the Dow family.

“I really started to feel I knew him,” Burgquist said of his research into Dow’s life. “His story is part of our legacy.”

Burgquist will give a seminar on James F. Dow, 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, at Bangor High School as part of the Bangor Adult Education program. The cost to attend is $10. Call 992-5523 for information.

The portrait of James Dow now hangs in the rotunda of Bangor Public Library.

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