BANGOR, Maine — A former Orono resident who served as a right-hand man to former U.S. Secretary of Defense and former U.S. Sen. William Cohen for most of his career died Saturday at his home in College Park, Md.
Dale Gerry, who is credited with creating thousands of defense jobs in Maine and waged a tireless fight to save Maine military bases during the Base Realignment and Closure Commission proceedings of the 1990s, was 62 when he died as the result of a brief illness, according to friends and colleagues.
Cohen, who was in Los Angeles Wednesday night on business for The Cohen Group, was among those who mourned his loss this week, calling Gerry “a dear friend and a truly devoted public servant whose death at such a young age is a real loss for his family and a personal loss for me.
“Dale started working in my 1972 run for Congress when he was still a student at the University of Maine and after I won worked in my Bangor office for a number of years, diligently serving constituents throughout the Second District,” Cohen said.
After Cohen’s election to the U.S. Senate, Gerry moved to Washington and worked with him on a range of defense and security issues, with a focus on defense jobs in Maine.
“There are literally thousands of workers at Bath Iron Works, Pratt and Whitney and other Maine facilities who could truly say that Dale’s efforts helped create the jobs that they worked at for many years,” Cohen said, adding, “When it came to helping Maine’s defense companies and defense facilities, Dale was dogged and relentless, though with his customary good cheer.”
When Cohen became U.S. Secretary of Defense, Gerry joined him at the Pentagon as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Mine and Undersea Warfare, “a very key position where his knowledge of defense and security issues was put to very good use for our military forces,” Cohen said.
“Even as his professional responsibilities grew in scope and stature, he remained one of the nicest and most approachable people I’ve ever known,” he said. “Even though his professional success took him around the world, he was always proud to be known as a son of Orono, Maine. I am honored to have known Dale over so many years and deeply saddened by his death.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe recalled him as “an extraordinary individual who served his beloved home state of Maine with tremendous pride and outstanding distinction. I was privileged to work with Dale many years ago under Bill Cohen and followed his remarkable career with great interest before I was fortunate enough to have him as a member of my own staff.
“Indeed, I was always impressed with his unparalleled knowledge of defense and veterans issues, which time and again proved truly invaluable for Maine,” she said. “In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that because of Dale’s tireless efforts throughout the years, legendary Maine assets like Bath Iron Works and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard continue to enjoy such immense success today.”
U.S. Sen. Susan Collin also was saddened by Gerry’s death. “He accomplished great things for the people of Maine during his time on the Cohen staff as well as during his service as a senior official in the U.S. Navy,” she said. “Dale was an outstanding public servant from a great Orono family and I will miss him dearly.”
Born in Bangor, Gerry was a graduate of Orono High School, where he played football and participated in many other activities, and the University of Maine, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and history in 1972 and held a variety of leadership positions. He also was a member of the Senior Skull Honor Society.
Gerry was awarded the Distinguished Public Service Award for exceptional service to the Department of the Navy. After retiring from civil service in 2001, he joined Strategic Marketing Innovations, a government affairs firm in Washington, where he served as a vice president.
Gerry is survived by his wife, Dale Ahearn, according to an obituary being prepared by his former colleagues at Strategic Marketing Innovations. Funeral arrangements had yet to be announced as of Wednesday.