Donn Fendler to return to Cole museum

Posted Sept. 13, 2011, at 8:31 p.m.
Captain Donn Fendler shows &quotLost on a Mountain in Maine" to his son, Dennis , 8, during a visit to Palmyra in July 1962.
Bangor Daily News by Don Brough
Captain Donn Fendler shows "Lost on a Mountain in Maine" to his son, Dennis , 8, during a visit to Palmyra in July 1962.

BANGOR — What is it about an 85-year-old man from Tennessee who continues to draw hundreds of people to his annual appearance at Cole Land Transportation Museum?

It seems that even people who weren’t born when he spent nine days lost on Mount Katahdin as a 12-year-old think of him as “our Donn Fendler.”

On Saturday, Sept. 17, they’ll turn out once again to meet the co-author of “Lost on a Mountain in Maine,” the 1939 book from which he never profited, and hear his thoughts on how his faith and Boy Scout training helped him survive until he came upon a camp in Stacyville, 35 miles from where he started.

The author will sign books beginning at 11 a.m. in the covered bridge by the museum at 405 Perry Road. The presentation will begin at 1 p.m. in the museum conference room, with seating first come, first served. He will sign more books afterward.

Fendler, a career Army man, didn’t set out to become a Maine legend. But Maine schoolteachers thought the slim volume was just right for young readers, and the book is still in print.

He also has spoken to countless classes of schoolchildren around the state while he summers in Maine, emphasizing the importance of staying with one’s group while hiking or on other outdoor adventures.

Fendler calls it “giving back” to the state where hundreds of volunteers turned out to search for him and countless more prayed for his safe return all those years ago.

His yearly appearance at the Cole museum continues to be tremendously popular, according to Galen Cole, who founded the museum and flew with Fendler on an airplane flight over the Katahdin area a few years ago with then-Conservation Commissioner Pat McGowan as pilot.

Admission to the museum on Sept. 17, home to more than 200 vehicles and several military memorials and exhibits, will be at a reduced rate of $5 for adults. Those age 18 and under always are admitted free. There is no charge for the Donn Fendler presentation. The museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 1-Nov. 11 each year. For information, call 990-3600.

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