BAR HARBOR – The Honorable Bernard C. Staples of Bar Harbor, Maine entered the house of his Father on September 26, 2013, after a long illness that resulted in a blessedly short decline.
Bernard was affectionately known to all of his friends as “Bernie.” He was born on November 4, 1932 to Clark R. Staples and Olive Parks Staples. Bernie graduated from Rockland High School, then received his Bachelors of Arts in Classics, studying Latin and Greek, from Bates College in 1955. He spent two years in the United States Army, and taught high school for a year. He then went to Boston University Law School and graduated with honors in 1961, earning a spot as a senior editor of the Law Review.
Bernie then worked as an attorney for the United States Army Corps of Engineers in West Virginia, returned to Maine, and entered into practice with Ralph Masterman in Bar Harbor. Bernie married Jeanette Staples in 1964, and the couple had a daughter, Heather, in 1967. Jeanette retired from her employ as librarian at the Jesup Memorial Library, and Bernie continued in his practice, notably as County Attorney for Hancock County for a term.
Bernie worked long hours as an attorney, focusing his practice on transactional law. He also did public defense work, and included among his cases a homicide matter. Bernie also practiced municipal law, and was town and city attorney to many of the municipalities in the area. He was appointed to the District Court bench in February 1989, serving in Belfast for a time. He also served the court in Bar Harbor until that court was closed in 2005. Notably, Bernie was the District Court judge in Ellsworth for over 21 years.
During his time on the bench, he oversaw thousands of cases, primarily involving family law, child protective and criminal law matters. Bernie took his responsibility as the Judge in Hancock County very seriously, spending most weekends in his office writing decisions. Above all, he believed that serving the citizens of Hancock County meant serving not only the adults, but most importantly the children in the family law and child protective matters he dealt with most days.
Bernie retired in 2010, and enrolled in Grace Evangelical Seminary in Bangor. A deeply religious man, he enjoyed the education he received, keeping himself fully engaged studying Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. He welcomed all of his church family entirely into his life as close members of his community, and continued to be involved with them until his passing. Bernie was a member of the Church of Our Father in Hulls Cove for decades, but also enjoyed being a part of the church communities at the Southwest Harbor Congregational Church and the Tremont Congregational Church.
Bernie was also very involved in his community in roles other than as a judge and devout Christian; he was part of the SAFE Family Exchange in Hancock County, which provides a safe and peaceful setting for high conflict families to exchange their children for visitation, and in the past he was one of the founding members of the MDI Alcohol and Drug Abuse Group. He was a member of the Bar Harbor Rotary, as well as a past member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
Bernie enjoyed many recreational activities. Never content to sit and let life pass him by, in the past he would take yearly sailing trips with his friends for a week exploring many locations together. He was a lifelong reader, belonging to a very vibrant book club made up of close friends. Bernie loved music and theater, enjoying thoroughly the Met shows at The Grand. While in college he even once performed in “Brigadoon.” He did not have a singing role, however. More recently, Bernie found a passion for kayaking, finding great pleasure and a closer relationship with his Father while paddling beautiful locations with a very close kayaking “buddy,” who was much like a son to him.
He is survived by his daughter, Heather Staples, of Bar Harbor, Maine, who is also an attorney and engaged him nightly in legal argument; Bernie usually won. He is also survived by his daughter in law, Michelle Staples, of Bar Harbor, Maine, who brought great joy to his life along with a certain peacefulness that words cannot express. He is further survived by his much loved cousins James and Harriet O’Neil, of Thomaston, Maine. Bernie will be greatly missed by his two cats, Stella and Spats, and a beagle named Hank. Bernie was predeceased by his wife Jeanette, who passed in 2006.
Bernie, as a lawyer and a judge, may be remembered by many things, but perhaps one concept would be of primary importance: “De minimis non curat lex.” Or, “the law does not bother itself with little things.” Bernie always focused on the key issues of every case and controversy brought before him, giving great heed to the evidence and arguments made about law by his peers, but did not fail to see the big picture and he gave justice fairly and honestly.
Visiting hours will be held 5-7 pm, Friday, October 18, 2013 at Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main Street, Mt. Desert. A funeral service will be held 1:00 p.m. Saturday, October 19, 2013 at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church, 41 Mt. Desert Street, Bar Harbor. Interment will follow at the Hillside Cemetery, Route 3, Hulls Cove. Following the interment, a reception at the Church of Our Father in Hulls Cove, across from the cemetery, will bring refreshment. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to SAFE Family Exchange, P.O. Box 1285, Southwest Harbor, ME, 04679. Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.