EMMET MEARA

Remembering a longtime midcoast journalist

Posted Sept. 16, 2011, at 1:46 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 16, 2011, at 4:23 p.m.

Mike Brown wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. That didn’t bother him much. In fact, I think he liked it.

Brown lived, worked and died on the coast of Maine. He wrote a newspaper column after working as editor at both the Camden Herald and the Belfast Journal. Of course, there is no more noble profession, if it’s done right. He did it right, for 60 years.

He died at age 81 on Sunday, Sept. 11.

Mike and I go way back, the very early ’70s with the hippie invasion of the state. I never considered myself a hippie. Brown did.

I was penniless after running a Boston photography business into the ground. I came to Camden to register my car, savings about $300 over Massachusetts rates. I had worked at the Gloucester Times and the Attleboro Sun (if that counts) and I begged for a part-time job at the Camden Herald. He none too politely declined.

He took a look at my (battered and used) BMW with the McGovern sticker on the bumper, my long hair (for the time) and basically said three strikes and you’re out.

Thank God the Bangor Daily News came through with a job I treasured for 30 years.

At the Herald, Brown eviscerated the phony and pretentious (in Camden?) in his weekly columns in which he rowed his dory through Main Street, remarking on the developments of the day. Hilarious — if you were not the target.

Brown went on to the Belfast Journal where he started a crusade against the chicken companies that were polluting the harbor and littering the roads with dead animals. There were a few death threats from people who defended the biggest business in the county. The anonymous, threatening callers probably didn’t know that Brown fought in the famous Chosin Reservoir campaign with the 1st Marine Division. Fighting the chicken companies was a little easier than Korea. He filed a suit against the companies, won, and collected a cash settlement. Brown donated the money to the city of Belfast for a swimming pool.

Oh, all right. He was a hero to me. That’s what newspapers are supposed to do.

Brown was of the Maine coast, like his father, Earle “the Old Man.” They maintained a fish weir near the mouth of Little River. After the Korean War, Brown sent a letter to the editor of Maine Coast Fisherman, using the pen name Cap’n Perc Sane. That began his 60-year journalism career and a monthly column continuing in that paper until his death. He wrote two books, “Saturday Cove” and “The Great Lobster Chase.” In more recent years, he became an independent columnist forming Hometown News Service, providing news to state newspapers covering state politics with a decidedly conservative bent from his office overlooking Penobscot Bay.

Mike was fortunate enough to be invited by the South Korean government to participate in the 50th anniversary of the Korean War in 2005.

Almost until the end, Brown enjoyed hauling his lobster traps, fishing for the elusive striped bass and the more common mackerel. He especially loved riding with his grandsons, Doug and Patrick, on the tugboats in Penobscot Bay and Portland, his obituary reported.

His beloved chocolate Lab, Mocha, has taken the loss very hard, it was reported. Kids and dogs naturally took to the irascible Brown. They can always tell.

We would always argue and he would always come out on top. When I wrote a story about the death of the Camden Herald, I remarked that few liked the prickly columnist.

In a letter to the editor he wrote, “Well now, as one of the few people who read Emmet’s weekly ramble on Cobb Manor, Blue Eyes and the Red Sox, all of the above is true. I didn’t hire Emmet because he was living in his bald-tired BMW and sleeping on a bale of hay.” The letter is still on my refrigerator.

Farewell, Mike. I assume you will find a newspaper or magazine wherever you are going, just to harass people. This time, save me a job.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.

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