In newspaper readership surveys it is not surprising to learn that the obituary pages rank high with readers over a certain age, and for the most basic of reasons: The brief biographical sketches tell us interesting things about the lives of fellow citizens. Often, the listing of lifetime experiences and interests of total strangers gives us a clue to their personalities, making us wish we had known them.
“There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval,” the philosopher-poet George Santayana wrote. A reading of recent obituary pages shows that many Mainers did, indeed, enjoy the interval before being called to their heavenly reward.
Former Millinocket resident Melvin Lane of Virginia was a banker who had many outside interests, including flying an airplane. He “loved to fly above Mount Katahdin and the surrounding lakes,” according to his obit, and was a huge fan of the Boston Red Sox, Celtics and New England Patriots.
Retired farmer Paul McKenney of Fort Fairfield was “known for loaning his tools, automobiles, farm equipment and often times his opinion on farming.” At age 18 he built one of the first mechanical rock pickers in Aroostook County. His love for farm life was reflected in the impressive landscaping of his farm, which was featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine in the 1970s.
As a youngster, Anna Barbara Lincoln of Surry lived in the San Fransisco Bay Area. She witnessed the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, which she and her family walked across on the day it opened. Adele Brown, a former Greenville Junction postmaster, fulfilled a lifetime ambition when she stood on the Great Wall of China. Stephen Judy of Dedham, a pilot licensed to fly single-engine aircraft, was invited to fly the Goodyear Blimp in 1971.
One of the proudest moments in the life of Carl Dudley of Searsmont, a military policeman in Germany during World War II, was standing guard for Gen. Dwight Eisenhower at Templehof Airport. Leo Andrews of St. Andrews, N.B., born at Princeton, served with the Marines in World War II, and later with the U.S. Air Force. He treasured a certificate stating that he had broken the sound barrier in a F-100 jet fighter while flying with famed test pilot Chuck Yeager.
Roberta Tozier of Howland was described as an expert in making peanut butter fudge. Fredda H. Swift of Searsport loved to cook, and “never permitted family or friends to leave her home hungry.” Juliet Perreault of Fort Kent “had a knack for growing beautiful gardens,” and could “immaculately paint a home faster than three men combined.”
Easton resident Arnold Kennedy, proprietor of an antiques business, played seven instruments, including spoons, and had his own radio show in the 1940s. He was “set in his old-time ways, and appreciated the kindness of others.”
Working in construction until age 80 was something that helped keep World War II veteran George Boucher of Old Town young. He loved to dance, play guitar, drums, harmonica and the mouth harp, and traveled to Greenland, Vietnam and Puerto Rico in his work. “Hanging in there” was his stock reply when asked how he was doing.
Navy and Air Force veteran Everett White of Bangor had been an air-traffic controller on Kwajalein Island in the South Pacific, controlling aircraft for the A-bomb test. Army veteran Charles Greif Sr. of Brunswick participated in the World War II liberation of Tunisia and Sicily, and led his company behind German lines in the landing at Anzio.
A dedicated animal lover, Cindy Lou Noyes of Harfords Point on Moosehead Lake was best known as “the little bus driver,” safely delivering a generation of children to school and back home. Fun-loving Dolly Cole of Millinocket, a graduate of Milo High School, “was known for being one of the best jitterbug dancers in the Milo area” and had dreamed of becoming a Radio City Music Hall Rockette. “She was always on the go, and talked whenever she had an audience.”
Many obituaries include material for fine epitaphs, but probably none more so than the one for Everett C. Cronkite of Easton, a retired farmer and mechanic who “bragged obnoxiously about his grandchildren and his dog, Clifford.”
I would wager that many a proud grandfather and dog’s best friend would be delighted to learn that such a remembrance had been carved in stone, in his behalf, for the ages.
BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. His new e-mail address is Mainedawg@gmail.com.