Former Maine Gov. John H. Reed buried in Fort Fairfield

Posted May 06, 2013, at 3:03 p.m.
Last modified May 06, 2013, at 7:41 p.m.

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FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — On a beautiful spring day, a former state governor and U.S. ambassador who a pastor said “had his feet firmly planted in Aroostook County soil” was laid to rest next to his wife in a Fort Fairfield cemetery.

John H. Reed, who died at age 91 of pneumonia on Oct. 31, 2012, was buried in a brief service of committal with Masonic Burial Rites and full military honors in front of approximately 60 people in Riverside Cemetery with Pastor Ellen Cleaves of the Limestone United Methodist Church officiating. His funeral was held in Washington D.C., shortly after he died.

The Fort Fairfield native, a Republican, was governor of Maine from 1959 to 1966, and a member and chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1967 to 1975. He also was U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives in 1976 to 1977.

As governor, Reed is credited with starting educational television in Maine and creating a network of University of Maine colleges. He also pushed to combine school districts to save money.

During the committal ceremony on Monday, Cleaves praised Reed for his work with the Masons and the Anah Temple Shriners, as well as with the town of Fort Fairfield and the Northern Maine Fair in Presque Isle. She noted that every year, Reed looked forward to getting on the public address system and announcing over the intercom, “Welcome to the Northern Maine Fair.”

She said that he was a man of faith, and while living in Washington D.C., he also became active in the Christ United Methodist Church, where his funeral was ultimately held.

Before becoming governor, he graduated from the University of Maine and served as a naval officer in the South Pacific during World War II. He briefly became a seed potato farmer before entering politics in 1955 as a representative to the Maine Legislature. After one term in the House he was elected to the state Senate. In his second term he was elected president of the Senate.

Gov. Paul LePage attended Monday’s committal ceremony but did not address the gathering.

Richard Rhoda, a Houlton lawyer and Mason affiliated with the Monument Masonic Lodge in Houlton, performed the Masonic Burial Rights. Reed was affiliated with that lodge.

Rhoda recalled a phone conversation he once had with Reed and how he wasn’t sure how to address Reed because of the litany of titles that he had accumulated over his lifetime.

“He told me to call him brother,” he said, which is a term used by the Masons. “That was the one that meant the most to him, to be a brother within the Masons.”

Another funeral attendee said that Reed was a kind man with a great deal of wisdom, who always remembered your name when he met you again and was very proud of his family.

Reed was predeceased by his wife of 60 years, Cora Davison Reed; one brother, Walter M. Reed Jr.; and one sister, Ruth Reed Mraz. He is survived by his two children, Cheryl D. Reed of Alexandria, Va., and Ruth Reed Duford of Groveland, Mass.

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