UNITY, Maine — When farmer and retired Game Warden Mark Thompson died suddenly a week ago, his community mourned. Then, they got out their calendars and planners.
The 63-year-old’s life and work partner, Val Derosier, wasn’t sure if she would be able to run their Long Shadow Farm booth during this weekend’s Common Ground Country Fair — but that was before a small army of volunteers from the area offered to take shifts to help her out.
“To have gotten the kind of response I got from a couple of phone calls and Facebook posts, it’s just awesome,” Georges Nashan of Brooks said Friday night from the Long Shadow Farm booth at the fairgrounds.
It also means a lot to him to be in the booth, decorated with gourds, a pumpkin and a photograph of Thompson, and help support Derosier. Thompson had suffered from health troubles in the last few years, but his death was unexpected.
“The mood is very upbeat,” Nashan said. “Every 10 or 15 minutes, somebody stops by and gives Val a hug.”
Thompson will be missed, he and others said. The born outdoorsman achieved a lifelong dream in his 30s when he was sworn into the Maine State Warden Service. Thompson spent his whole career in Waldo County, according to his obituary, and served as a member of the overhead search and rescue team.
“Mark was a great guy,” Waldo County Sheriff Scott Story said Friday. “He was very highly thought of at the sheriff’s office. We worked side-by-side for many years, and he was a good warden in the area.”
Story said that the Maine Warden Service made a “grand appearance” Thursday at Thompson’s funeral at the Morrill Baptist Church.
“The warden service showed up in big numbers. It was nice,” the sheriff said.
After retirement from the warden service in September 2011, Thompson turned his attention to farming. At Long Shadow Farm, he and Derosier provided people in the nearby communities with organic fruits and vegetables. He also was a founding board member of the new Marsh River Co-op, where Nashan said that his expansive know-how and “wonderful, dry sense of humor” added a lot.
“Mark was instrumental in getting the co-op going,” Nashan said. “He was the grounding force, and the ‘let’s keep going’ force. Nobody had ever run a co-op before. There were a lot of meetings. He was always a voice who would say, ‘Let’s stay on track here, and keep things going.’”
He said that some of the 20 volunteers who offered to take shifts over the three days of the fair didn’t know Mark Thompson personally. But they wanted to do their part. The Common Ground Country Fair is a critical weekend for local farmers.
“For a lot of farmers, they sell more here than anywhere else during the year,” Nashan said. “It’s also a time of networking, and spiritual renewal.”
So, it didn’t seem like the right time to let the Long Shadow Farm booth go fallow.
“It’s really a pleasure to live in a community where people are eager to step in and help out in a pinch,” Nashan said.