AUGUSTA, Maine — An accomplished combat veteran and Republican candidate for the Maine Senate died early Thursday morning from injuries he suffered Aug. 3 in a motorcycle accident near Rangeley.
Stuart “Toby” Pennels of Casco, who was a candidate for the Senate District 26 seat against Democrat William Diamond, leaves behind a wife and three adult children, according to a statement from the Maine Republican Party. Pennels, a financial adviser and retired Army colonel who served in three overseas tours of duty, was a Windham High School and University of Massachusetts graduate.
“My beautiful husband passed away peacefully at 12:15 this morning at the Hospice House in Auburn,” said his wife, Brenda Pennels, in an online forum in his honor. “We were with him when he drew his last breath, holding his hands and letting him know that everything would be OK. … I cannot possibly express my gratitude for the love and support we have received from our local community here as well as friends around the world.”
Pennels’ name was withdrawn from the Senate ballot on Aug. 14.
Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said Thursday in a written statement that he and others associated with the Senate were “heartbroken.”
“He will be remembered as a man whose unselfish dedication to his country and his community knew no bounds,” said Thibodeau. “Even after serving his country honorably in Iraq, coming home and running a business, and giving his time to local veterans groups, it was clear to all that Toby still had so much to give.”
Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett echoed Thibodeau’s comments.
“The thoughts and prayers of the entire staff and committee of the Maine Republican Party go out to the Pennels family on this tragic day,” said Bennett in a written statement. “Mr. Pennels represented the best that Maine had to offer, and hopefully his story will inspire others to live life to the fullest in service to their country and community. His memory reminds us that Mainers are fortunate to have such honorable and vibrant people step up to represent them in our citizen Legislature.”
Pennels, a former local school board member, also was a 2012 candidate for the Windham-area Maine House of Representatives seat, an election he lost narrowly to Democrat Jane Pringle.
Diamond said Pennels was highly respected and was known locally, along with his wife, for reaching out and helping young people in distress.
“Everyone knew and liked him and appreciated all he’s done,” said Diamond, who added that he put his campaign mostly on pause after Pennels’ accident. “He and his wife did so many things quietly for the kids in town. They really took kids who needed extra help and brought them in.”
Gov. Paul LePage released a statement Thursday afternoon lauding Pennels, whose family LePage said he visited recently.
“I conveyed our sympathies when I met with them last week, but we cannot imagine the grief they must feel,” said LePage. “At the same time, they should be very proud that their husband and father served our country with honor and always supported his fellow veterans. … Toby truly represented the best of Maine, and his example of selfless service has inspired us all.”
Senate District 26 includes the municipalities of Baldwin, Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish and Windham. The seat, whose boundary lines were redrawn in redistricting last year, is represented by Republican Sen. Gary Plummer of Windham, who is not seeking re-election.
Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said Thursday that the deadline to replace Pennels on the ballot is 5 p.m. Friday and that the Cumberland County Republican committee was scheduled to caucus Thursday evening to name a replacement.