WILLMANTIC, Maine — When Manford Webber of Willimantic was hired for court security 15 years ago, his supervisor told him the Piscataquis County courtroom was “an accident waiting to happen.”
That accident never happened on Webber’s watch in the often-crowded courtroom because he had the ability to calm rising tempers and jittery nerves without drawing a gun. He also made it a habit to speak to everyone who entered the courtroom, whether it was a victim or a defendant or an observer.
“I don’t look down on anyone,” Webber, 80, who retired as deputy judicial marshal last week, said Monday. For those in trouble, Webber would draw his 6-foot-1-inch frame up next to them and give them some fatherly advice on changing their pathways. “And some listened,” he said.
Webber already had retired from operating his own mechanic business in the early 1990s when he was offered a job as a guard at Piscataquis County Jail. While he took the job, Webber said he didn’t stay long because the shifts were increased soon after from eight to 12 hours.
Later, when there was a vacancy for a county court officer for both District and Superior courts, he assumed the position, although he said he had to get over his “fear” of judges. After being treated so well by the officials he feared, Webber began to enjoy his job of protecting them and the public inside the courtroom.
“I think things went quite well for the last 15 years,” Webber said. Although an inmate escaped a few years ago while being taken from the jail to the courtroom, which did not involve Webber, there were no other disturbances, he said. “I bet we’ve had the least disturbances and violence of any court around.”
Piscataquis County Clerk of Courts Lisa Richardson said Monday that Webber would be missed because he is such a good-natured person who was both kind and efficient while doing his job. “He was just a pleasure to work with,” she said. Richardson said Webber also was a true gentleman who always came to work early and held the door open for her each morning.
Piscataquis County Sheriff John Goggin had a similar assessment of Webber. “He was very low-keyed, very conscientious and extremely loyal,” he said Monday. Webber always was very aware of what was taking place in the courtroom, and was adept at keeping tense situations from escalating into disturbances, Goggin said.
Goggin noted that Webber’s brother Ivery Webber recently retired as a county jail transport officer after about 15 years, and a third brother, Gardiner Webber, serves as a corrections officer for the county.
“Their work ethic really means something,” he said.
Webber, who was feted at a retirement party last week, plans to enjoy retirement by puttering around the house and sharing more time with his wife, Nora.