Maine warden pilot remembered at funeral

Deputy Chief Gregory Sanborn (right), leans in to talk to Rita Gordon, wife of deceased Warden pilot Daryl Gordon as Gordon's funeral procession rolls up to the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday.
Deputy Chief Gregory Sanborn (right), leans in to talk to Rita Gordon, wife of deceased Warden pilot Daryl Gordon as Gordon's funeral procession rolls up to the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday.
Posted March 30, 2011, at 3:36 p.m.
Last modified March 30, 2011, at 10:23 p.m.
Maine Game Warden pallbearers pause over the casket of Warden pilot Daryl Gordon before entering the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday for a private funeral service. Gordon died as a result of a plane crash on Thursday, near Cedar Lake in northern Piscataquis County.
Maine Game Warden pallbearers pause over the casket of Warden pilot Daryl Gordon before entering the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday for a private funeral service. Gordon died as a result of a plane crash on Thursday, near Cedar Lake in northern Piscataquis County.

AUGUSTA, Maine — About 2,000 mourners filed into the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday to remember a Maine Warden Service pilot who colleagues say died doing what he loved to do.

Daryl Gordon, 60, of Eagle Lake died on Thursday, March 24, when the Maine Warden Service plane he was piloting crashed on Clear Lake in northern Piscataquis County. Search and rescue personnel found the wreckage of Gordon’s plane shortly before 9 a.m. on Friday.

A warden for 25 years, Gordon had been a warden pilot for the past seven.

The chief of the Maine Warden Service, Col. Joel Wilkinson, said in a press release that Clear Lake was one of Gordon’s favorite spots, and his promotion to warden pilot provided Gordon the most happiness in his long warden service career.

“Daryl died doing what he loved best in an area he loved best, and this is a day that will forever be remembered, a date now etched in the hearts of the entire warden service,” Wilkinson said in a news release handed out before the funeral.

Edie Smith, director of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Information and Education Division, said a common theme, love, was pervasive during the ceremony. “Love is a good way to describe Daryl. He was full of love,” Smith said. “He was full of love for God, for his family, for his friends, for his department, for his career, for his airplane. His most joyful moments were in the air.”

The last six days have been stressful for IF&W, Smith said.  “The warden service is such a wonderful brotherhood,” she said. “They are very strong individuals, and when they come together like this they are even stronger. But they’re in a great deal of pain. And they will be in a great deal of pain for a long time.”

Gordon’s death was the 15th in the line of duty in the 131-year history of the Maine Warden Service. It was the first line-of-duty death in the service since 1992.

Hundreds of law enforcement personnel from Maine, all five other New England states and the Canadian province of Quebec attended the funeral, which was closed to the media.

During the funeral, wives of Maine game wardens were to present Gordon’s widow, Rita, with 125 white roses representing game wardens and Maine Warden Service personnel. All of the roughly 100 Maine game wardens attended the funeral.

Dean Varney, the son of warden pilot Richard Varney, presented the Gordon family with the flag that had been placed on his father’s casket after a 1972 plane crash claimed the elder Varney’s life.

In addition, Maine Marine Patrol presented the family and the Maine Warden Service with a pencil drawing of Gordon in uniform.

A reception followed the funeral, and a 6 p.m. graveside service was scheduled to take place in St. Albans.

On Tuesday the Maine Legislature issued a joint resolution in honor of Gordon. Top officials of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and the Maine Warden Service accepted the resolution on behalf of Gordon’s family.

Gordon is survived by  his wife of 35 years, Rita, and two sons, Daryl Gordon Jr. and James Gordon III.

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