YARMOUTH – Charles E. "Stick" Stickney Jr., 89, died Dec. 3, 2011, after a fall while hanging holiday garlands over the front door of Cutter House, the home he loved. He died as he lived, active to the end.
Stick was a man of intense energy and many passions. He was passionate about work, and giving back to the community. He was devoted to his loving wife of 63 years, Anita, and to his children and grandchildren. His boundless energy gave credence to the catch phrase among many of his octogenarian friends that "80 is the new 60." One of eight children, Stick grew up in Portland. He graduated from Deering High School in 1940, and was part of University of Maine’s class of 1944, where he majored in mechanical engineering. He interrupted his education when he joined the Navy in 1943 and became a naval aviator flying torpedo bombers, firmly cementing his lifelong love of both the Navy and of being airborne. After leaving the Navy in 1945, he ultimately graduated in 1946. In 1948, Stick married Anita Cooper, with whom he had four children. In 1951, he joined the Naval Reserves, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander before separating finally from the Navy in 1956. That year, he bought Deering Ice Cream Corp., which had been owned by his father when he was growing up. The company became another of his passions, as was ice cream, and he routinely worked six days a week until he retired in 1989. He took pride in maintaining the ice cream’s high quality, and in expanding the company, working side-by-side with his wife, Anita, to include the Deering Ice Cream shops, which at their height had more than 20 locations in three states and nearly 500 employees. Stick never did anything halfway, whether vocation or avocation. He believed in giving back to the community and did so through volunteering and philanthropy. Among many other contributions, he was instrumental in the founding of the Maine chapter of the Navy League, and was practically legendary for putting on clambakes for the Blue Angels and hundreds of guests every time they came to Maine for an air show, most recently, this past summer. Upon his retirement, he became active in SCORE – Service Corps for Retired Executives, and in IESC – International Executive Service Corps. With the latter group, he traveled for weeks at a time to advise ice cream companies in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Egypt, Israel, Turkey and China, broadening his view of the world at the same time that he assisted businesses to grow. For several years he was on the board of Maine Department of Environmental Protection. He was a staunch supporter of University of Maine, particularly the College of Engineering, and was active with UMaine’s Development Council. His love of being on the water led him to become a volunteer docent at Maine Maritime Museum. He was devoted to Portland, and expressed that through philanthropic support of many Portland institutions that mattered to him, including Portland Museum of Art, Portland Symphony, Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ and the recent reconstruction of the fountain at Deering Oaks Park. Cutter House, the 1730 colonial house where he and Anita have lived since 1950, was another passion. He was an avid gardener, putting in his garden even while still using a cane after breaking his hip last year while skiing. Working on the house was a constant in his life and he painted it himself right up until this year. He kept bees for nearly 60 years and still snowblowed the walkways himself. He was never too old to acquire new interests. When the JJ Nissen plant in Portland closed, he decided to take up bread baking, and bought 40 industrial bread pans. He got an industrial mixer, made a proofing box for dough to hold 40 pans, and had marathon baking sessions, taxing his home’s two ovens by making as many as 160 loaves, 40 at a stretch, to donate to his church’s annual Christmas Fair. Perhaps Stick’s longest enduring passion was skiing, which he fed in his youth by becoming a bellhop in North Conway, N.H., so that he could ski at Mount Cranmore. Skiing Tuckerman’s Ravine was one of his favorite memories. He put all of his children on skis by the time they were age 3, and for the past 30 years, he and Anita went with their dear friends of "The Washingtonians" ski group to Europe to ski every January, until he broke his hip skiing in France in January 2010 at age 87. He was a volunteer guide skier for Maine Handicap Skiing since that program’s inception, until breaking his hip. Aviation was his other passion, which he indulged by flying well into his 70s. His favorite plane was a Stearman open cockpit biplane, which he flew for 20 years, until he donated it to Owls Head Transportation Museum, where it still resides. Stick also never stopped learning. In the 1990s, a deepening interest in theology inspired him to take courses at Bangor Theological Seminary’s Portland campus, leading to him eventually joining the Seminary’s board of directors. He also became a regular at "Senior College" at Osher Lifelong Learning Center at University of Southern Maine. But his friendships and his family were Stick’s greatest passions. He kept in touch with friends from college, from the Navy, from "the Group" – half a dozen couples from various ice cream companies whom he met while on the board of International Ice Cream Manufacturers Association, who became great friends and would gather twice a year without fail for decades, from the "Washingtonian’s" ski group, and from their neighborhood. Just last week, Stick started addressing invitations to the annual Holiday Open House at Cutter House, which traditionally as many as 70 people would attend. And he delighted in watching his grandchildren growing into adulthood and in the family patriarch role at holidays and family gatherings. In all, Stick was a man of drive and passion, and also of contradictions. On the one hand, his frugal Yankee character meant that he had clothes for working around the house that were practically threadbare, "Why should I throw them away? They’re still wearable!" On the other hand, if convinced of the merits of a cause or a civic project, he thought nothing of pulling out his checkbook to help make it happen. He was a "serious businessman," but delighted in doing risky aeronautic maneuvers in his biplane, even occasionally donning a scarf that would fly out behind him just to vamp. He was adamant about teaching his children about hard work and perseverance, but he was nonetheless able to convey the importance of having other passions. Seeing Stick in the pilot’s seat of a plane, or gliding gracefully down a ski slope, made it clear that even this protestant Yankee with a relentless work ethic could let go, and just experience pure joy.
Stick is survived by his wife, Anita; sisters, Virginia "Ginny" Cooper of Wiscasset and Hortence "Horty" Warren of New Providence, N.J.; brother, Frederick Stickney and his wife, Lorraine, of Standish; children: son, Andy Stickney and his wife, Annie McBratney, of Cape Elizabeth, his daughters, Anne Stickney and her husband, Nick Waugh, of Peru, Maine, Alice Stickney of Ester, Alaska, and Beth Stickney and her husband, Ken Kunin, of Rome, Italy; and seven grandchildren and their families. He was predeceased by his father, Charles E. Stickney; mother, Medora Haskell; brother, Henry Stickney; sisters, Olivia McCrum, Margery Woodbury and Patricia Davis; and grandson, Peter Stickney.
A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral, 143 State St., Portland. A reception will be held after the service at the parish hall. Burial will be in spring 2012 at Riverside Cemetery, Yarmouth. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution in Stick’s memory to The Center for Grieving Children, P.O. Box 314, Portland, ME 04104 www.cgcmaine.org; or Maine Handicapped Skiing, 8 Sundance Lane, Newry, ME 04261 www.skimhs.org. To view a video collage of Stick’s life and to share your condolences, memories and tributes with his family, please visit