SEARSMONT, Maine — A longtime Belfast Area High School teacher was found dead in the woods near his home Wednesday night after he failed to return from turkey hunting.
Harvey King, 69, of Searsmont apparently died of natural causes, according to a friend who was helping to look for him.
King, a dedicated teacher and outdoorsman, had taught history for 30 years at the high school before retiring about seven years ago. He also helped found Waldo County Search and Rescue in 1985 and continued to be an active assistant director of the group, said Director Gary Drinkwater.
“He was a real kindhearted person. He’d do anything for anybody,” Drinkwater said Thursday afternoon. “He never missed a search looking for somebody.”
When King didn’t show up at his girlfriend’s home Wednesday in Lincolnville for dinner as they had planned, she grew worried and began calling his friends and then the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department. That’s when the search for him began in earnest, Drinkwater said, with a crew from the Sheriff’s Department, Maine game wardens and a tracking dog all participating.
Fifteen of King’s 20 search and rescue team members ultimately helped look for their missing friend. His car was found parked a couple of miles away from his house on Moody Mountain Road.
“We do this all the time, but when it’s one of your own team, you get pretty anxious,” Drinkwater said. “Obviously, something was wrong.”
King was in good physical health, he said, and could outwalk men half his age. He also had taught survival skills and hunter safety courses for decades, so Drinkwater figured that he hadn’t just become lost in the woods.
Officials found King’s body late Wednesday night not far from his vehicle. Drinkwater said that crews were at the scene until 3 a.m. Thursday while police tried to determine whether King had died of natural causes. That appeared to be the case, although Drinkwater did not yet know exactly what caused King’s death.
He speculated that his friend might have passed away just after shooting a turkey that morning. Turkey hunting stops by noon.
“By golly, he had gotten his turkey,” Drinkwater said.
This search was a particularly tough one, he said.
“It was tough. It was real tough on the team,” Drinkwater said.
King was a very capable and a very thoughtful person, he said, and knew “half the town” of Belfast after having taught history for so long. He also had two sons, Tyler King of Wiscasset and Chad King of Texas, according to his friend.
Drinkwater said that students always knew that they could distract their teacher from history if they just asked him about hunting and fishing.
“He loved teaching,” he said of King.
He also loved helping others and co-founded the search and rescue group after a small plane crashed in Waldo County 25 years ago.
“Since then, we go anywhere in the state,” Drinkwater said.
Last year, King was with the group when it assisted in the search for a lost hiker on Mount Katahdin. They climbed on rocky terrain up to the treeline at 4,000 feet, Drinkwater said.
“It was rough going, but [King] was right there with us,” he said. “We’re pretty proud of him.”
Visiting hours for Harvey King will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 15 at Crabiel-Riposta Funeral Home at 182 Waldo Ave. in Belfast. A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, May 16, at Belfast Area High School. Online condolences may be offered to the family at www.ripostafh.com.