CAMDEN, Maine — There were few things in Camden that Donald Gross did not lend a helping hand to, and friends and family recalled that devotion to the community after his unexpected death last week.
One of his favorite passions was the Camden Snow Bowl.
His younger brother Peter Gross of Camden said that the five Gross brothers — Don was the eldest — grew up skiing at the Snow Bowl when the family returned to Camden in 1958. At that time, there was only a rope tow to get people up the mountain, one main ski trail and a dilapidated wooden ski jump.
Over the years, Don gave his time and effort to see the Ragged Mountain Recreation Center grow. He was serving as chairman of the committee to build a new lodge at the Snow Bowl at the time of his death.
His brother Peter said Don and his wife purchased a home overlooking the Snow Bowl about eight years ago.
“It was a dream. He could ski from his back door to the ski lift,” Peter Gross said.
Ken Bailey was a classmate of Don’s, both graduating from Camden-Rockport High School in 1968. The two have been active with the Snow Bowl for decades. Bailey recalled a time when Don was on the ski patrol and Bailey was teaching ski school. He noted that because of their positions they could get free lift tickets at any Maine ski resort.
“We decided we would try to see how many ski lifts we could make in one day. We jumped in the car in the morning and finished the night skiing at the Snow Bowl. I think we hit five or six places,” Bailey recalled.
But anything to do with Camden was something that Don would give of his time to make better, Bailey said.
“Don had a great, big heart. His civic involvement exemplified community spirit,” Bailey said.
Don’s brother Peter agreed.
“He was involved in so many and various activities. He never said no,” Peter said.
Camden Select Board member John French Jr. also cited the many times that Gross stepped up when needed. One of the more recent examples was when the Camden First Aid Association had internal problems and he agreed to join its board of directors to help straighten out the issues.
“He loved the town. I can’t speak enough about him,” French said.
Gross served on the Camden Select Board, on the SAD 28 board, and the West Bay Rotary. He worked at times for Knox Woolen Co., Wayfarer Marine, E.C. Hart and Sons, and for the past several years as the administrator of Pen Bay Healthcare’s Knox Center for Long-Term Care.
Peter Gross said his older brother was committed to his family even from a young age.
“When he turned 18, he told our parents that he had been worried about what would have happened if something happened to them. But now that he was 18, he said no one would take his younger brothers from him,” Peter Gross recalled. “Of course, me being the younger brother, I thought, ‘Who does he think he is?”
Don Gross, 62, died Thursday at Maine Medical Center in Portland after suffering a major stroke.
His family mentioned in his obituary that even with his death he continues to help others. He donated his organs and the New England Organ Bank was able to match and place all of his major organs in other people, including someone who received his heart.
Don is survived by his wife, Margie, of Camden; his daughter Laura of Boston; his daughter Michele (Gross) Metzler, her husband, Jake, and granddaughter Maggie of Bangor; his parents, Stephen and Grace (Terry) Gross of Camden; brother Peter and family of Camden; brother Ken Gross and family of Camden; brother Bob Gross and family of Yarmouth; and brother Richard Gross and family of Camden.
An informal gathering is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 25, at the Camden Opera House for friends and family.
The family asked that in lieu of flowers donations in his memory may be made to the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Foundation, P.O. Box 438, Camden 04843. to help fulfill his dream of ensuring the success and longevity of the Snow Bowl.