PITTSFIELD, Maine — Earl Dean might have been responsible for feeding more people in the Pittsfield area than just about anyone, but he was no chef or restaurant owner.
Dean, who died Feb. 22 at age 86, ran the Pittsfield Food Pantry for 26 years before succumbing to a brief illness. Dean still was filling out paperwork for the pantry just a few days before his death, said Kathy Kehoe, his daughter. He undoubtedly would have been pleased to learn that Kehoe has agreed to take his place running the pantry.
“I never had the chance to tell him [about taking over the food pantry], but I think he would have been proud,” said Kehoe. “He loved this place. It’s what kept him going for a long time.”
The food pantry, which provides food for more than 100 families per month, is an independent nonprofit organization that dates back decades. When Dean first took over, he ran it out of his home. It didn’t take long for the pantry to outgrow that space, which is why Dean spearheaded the purchase of its downtown location at 128 Connors Drive.
The pantry, which serves Pittsfield, Burnham and Detroit, is supported through a variety of means, including an annual effort by local elementary schools to contribute. Every year, elementary students led by physical education teacher Sue Nile have walked to the pantry carrying their donations.
“Earl has done an awful lot of wonderful things for the community,” said Nile. “It’s just something we do every year to honor his hard work.”
Dean, who moved to Pittsfield from Massachusetts after a career as a heating system engineer, was born in Mexico, Maine, and graduated with the Brewer High School Class of 1941. A World War II veteran, Dean was involved in numerous charitable organizations in addition to the food pantry. He was honored for his contri-butions to the community with a Jefferson Award and by both the Sebasticook Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Pittsfield Area Kiwanis group.
Kehoe, who lives near the food pantry, said the thought of taking over as director had crossed her mind, but she didn’t consider it seriously until she was approached by some of the volunteers.
“I told them I’d be honored,” said Kehoe. “I didn’t think they’d want me because I’ve never done it before.”
Pantry volunteer Marian Cormier of Burnham said Kehoe was a natural choice.
“We were so pleased to see that Kathy wanted to take over,” Cormier said.
Edna Stanley of Pittsfield, whose involvement in the pantry goes back as far as Dean’s, said his presence already is missed — most notably because his constant jokes and good-natured ribbing have been silenced.
“He teased me to high heaven,” said Stanley. “He had a real heart for people, though.”
To commemorate Dean, elementary students in the district will conduct a weeklong food drive beginning Monday, the proceeds of which will be donated to the food pantry. Anyone wishing to contribute can drop off nonperishable food at the Vickery or Manson Park School in Pittsfield or the Burnham Village School. Alterna-tively, the food pantry is open from 9 a.m. to noon. Tuesdays and Fridays.
“I’m so glad the children will be collecting food,” said Town Manager Kathryn Ruth. “That is what Earl would have wanted for the people of this community.”