Odd and Ordinary Dead People
Like many people, my favourite section of the newspaper is the obituaries. Some papers are better than others, and the Portland Press Herald in Maine is one of the best I’ve found for homey, chatty, detailed, quirky obits. Among the 5-15 obits that appear most days are some people who have led unusual lives and who have done extraordinary and ordinary things. And then there are the descriptors, some of which appear in almost every obituary (“deceased was happiest when spending time with family” in obituaries written by … well, the family) and some of which you’ll only read once in a lifetime.
Some clips from obits I’ve enjoyed in the last week or two:
“He enjoyed watching Nascar and having a Bud Light. ” (Lance Morton, b. 1948?)
“She collected music boxes, dolls and unicorns.” (Roberta S. Potvin, b. 1926)
“In his spare time he enjoyed clock repair.” (David L. Adams Sr., b. 1939)
“He was a brilliant applied mathematician and solved one of his mathematical problems on the Eniac. … Between 1963 and 1968, he was the first solo circumnavigator to sail in a fiberglass boat. His trip took him through the Panama Canal, onto Cape Horn, and around the Cape of Good Hope. … Other work included participation in seeding clouds in order to create clear spaces over airports and lead capsule protection that shielded the men on Admiral Rickovers’ first nuclear-powered submarine.” (Alan Gates Eddy, b. 1930)
“On a king-size Tempurpedic, holding the hands of her daughter and new son-in-law, May Madeline Carter took her last breath, closed her eyes and left her body; instant peace filled the loving home of three. May’s final days on Earth were comfortable, serene, and beautiful. In her last hours, May could not say a word; her shirt said, ‘Love is all you need.'” (May Madeline Carter, b. 1951?)
“His leisure time was spent walking the streets of his beloved town, riding his bicycle or driving his muscle car. He loved the town, the woods, the tracks and the beach. He will be sadly missed by all those who have loved him, known him or have laughed with him, including his pug, Maevis Pudge, and his tuxedo cat, Mandy Marie.” (David M. Couri, b. 1958)
“She loved lighthouses and went on a lighthouse tour of the Cape with her sons and their wives to celebrate her 70th birthday. She was an avid football fan. Her favorite team was the Green Bay Packers, particularly Brett Favre. She studied every aspect of the game and had won some fantasy football leagues. She was especially proud of the week that she picked every game in the NFL right. … Another joy of hers was to sit peacefully on her porch observing nature and watching the birds come and go from her feeders.” (Joanne Marie Parks, b. 1932)
“Although she was a brilliant hairdresser, the job May truly accelerated [sic?] in was motherhood.” (May Madeline Carter, b. 1951?)
“Joseph was always on the move and could often be found repairing small engines. He had a very unique way of sharing his opinions.” (Joseph ‘Grandpa Joe’ E. Lanham Jr., b. 1932?)
“She loved her family dearly and lived through her children.” (Laurabelle Wing Small, b. 1942)
“Hans’ enjoyed three hobbies during his life, tournament chess, stamp collecting, and building several large format H.O. scale model railroad layouts.” (Dr. Hans Willem Verleur, b. 1932)
“There was always plenty to eat and drink for anyone who happened to stop by. Ed was very proud of his backyard garden, where he grew a beautiful mix of vegetable and flowers. He loved to fish and make daily shopping trips to most of the supermarkets in Southern Maine.” (Edmund Wilfred Rombalski, b. 1939)
“Mrs. Small was very fond of gardening and keeping up the grounds of her home and also, keeping a very tidy household. She enjoyed preparing holiday meals for her family and enjoyed having her family around her. She was a feisty woman right up till the end.” (Laurabelle Wing Small, b. 1942)
“May encouraged, supported, admired, and inspired her children; they were simply her universe. Unfortunately, May suffered the loss of her mother, father, stepfather, son and two brothers. Finding out cancer would reunite her with these losses brought joy to a special place in her heart.” (May Madeline Carter, b. 1951?)
“She was a head surgical nurse in brain surgery at University Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. … The Walls traveled extensively, including a four and a half month trip around the world on a freighter. … Above all, she loved a good party.” (Ruth Alberta Walls, b. 1908)
“She was a simple woman who loved vegetable gardening, cooking and making quilts.” (Marjory J. Greenleaf, b. 1926)
“Her interests were varied. She enjoyed hunting and fishing, skeet shooting and motorcycles.” (Margaret ‘Peggy’ Beaudoin, n.d.)
“In his free time, Robert enjoyed puttering around his home.” (Robert E.L. Stevens, b. 1935?)
“She was a loving mother and grandmother who taught her family to ‘believe in the Lord with all your heart and he will show you the way.'” (Mary Ann Lakin, b. 1943?)
“Her favorite memories of that time involved sledding before breakfast in the winter ….” (Katherine Jewell Fiori, b.1951)
“Her favorite week of the year was the one she spent with Terry and her family in Jonesport every summer. She enjoyed doing crossword puzzles, e-mailing her friends and family, and spending time with her cats Gert and Mary, who will miss her dearly.” (Dona J. DeRoche, b. 1942)
“Valeriye’s greatest passions were her love for the Lord, her family, and her country.” (Valeriye R. Johnston, b. 1935?)
“He often noted that having been raised by Victorians synchronized his values to an earlier generation.” (David W. Adams, b. 1923?)
“She was never without a book in the evening. … One of her other interests was tap dancing, and she would often entertain at family and school reunions.” (Janet B. Lynds, b. 1919)
“Decked out in his favorite duck billed cap, a plaid shirt, glasses, comfortable shoes, and mostly brown pants, he never seemed to be in a bad mood.” (Franklyn Hunter Goldsmith, b. 1914)
“He was enthusiastic about sports, particularly baseball, and at one point in his life was able to attend every single world series game for 24 consecutive seasons.” (Carl Roger Wright, b. 1925)
“In 1972 he bought a cabin in Friendship, coming closer to his childhood dream of being a lighthouse keeper. A fourth-generation Freemason, he often headed out in a dory to fish with fellow Mason and curmudgeon, Jake Overlock, for silence and Jake’s recitations of the Masonic ritual. … He loved breakfast out with friends and family and a good joke, although he never could remember the punch line.” (David W. Adams, b. 1923?)
“Wayne enjoyed swimming, fishing and mowing the lawn.” (Wayne P. Hobart, b. 1958)
“She also enjoyed traveling, camping, gardening, flower-arranging, bowling, archery, painting, playing the piano, sewing, needlework, and reading.” (May Harmon Rowe, b. 1924)
“Buff found her first, true avocation as a tender, empathetic mother, bearing three children over six years. She taught by example, always having time for conversation and play.” (Elizabeth ‘Buff’ Grant McDonald, b. 1938)
“Fran became engaged to Jack in Tuckerman’s Ravine, was married in Cape Elizabeth and honeymooned aboard the ‘Loon,’ their friendship sloop. … Frannie was a natural athlete. She played golf at Purpoodock Golf Course and won the President’s Cup at age 88. … [S]he finally gave up her downhill skis when she was nearing 80, but continued to cross country ski when the snow conditions allowed.” (Frances Dana Jordan, b. 1918)
“Kay was a strong and independent woman before it was common. During the 1940s, she would drive a florist truck full of flowers and vegetables to sell at Haymarket Square in Boston.” (Katherine Pilsbury Cobb Mercier, b. 1914)
“Donald enjoyed playing bingo and going to the Casinos at Foxwood and Las Vegas.” (Donald E. Cobb, b. 1944)
“Florence is predeceased by two infants ….” (Florence R. Gray, b. 1919)
“He was planning to work in Dubai in January.” (Fred A. Pickering III, b. 1952?)
“Connor D. Chute was born and died on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008, at Southern Maine Medical Center, Biddeford. He was the first born child of Michael C. and Kelly J. (Noel) Chute. … ‘Curious George will be watching over you.'” (Connor D. Chute, b. 2008)
and this one, almost in full:
James A. Creighton Jr., 89 THOMASTON — One of Thomaston and Cushing’s notable characters passed away early Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008.
James A. Creighton Jr., a World War II veteran, was 89 years old. Jim Creighton was born in Harrisburg, Pa., but moved as a boy to the town of Hamburg in western New York. He worked summers during high school in the blast furnaces of Bethlehem Steel and later studied metallurgy at the ‘hardest college I could find,’ which turned out to be the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Certainly one of the proudest experiences of his life was his Naval service, for which he volunteered before the war started. He served in every theater of war except the Indian Ocean, as an engineering and deck officer, first on a minesweeper and then a destroyer escort rising eventually to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. On the early part of his service, his ship guarded supplies for the D-Day invasion of Normandy, was assigned to the Mediterranean and North African landings, and guarded against submarines in the North Sea. Later as the war progressed, Jim joined the Pacific fleet and participated in the invasion of the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. In 1945 his ship was put out of action by the attack of a Kamikaze plane.
He told so many war stories about his Naval adventures-including being washed overboard in the mid-Atlantic — that his wife urged him to write them down, and his book, No More War Stories, is in its second printing.
Jim stayed in the Navy through 1951 and returned to Bethlehem Steel as a metallurgical engineer, working in the Lackawanna and Burns Harbor, Indiana Plants. He was promoted to Superintendent of the Burns Harbor plant in 1967.
After his retirement he moved to midcoast Maine, where his family had lived since the early eighteenth century-one David Creighton, in fact, had been separated from his scalp during a fort battle in the 1730s. His family eventually became sailors, shipmasters, shipbuilders and lime manufacturers in Thomaston. In his retirement, he worked enthusiastically for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and the Maine Highway Commission.
He himself embraced unusual driving techniques. One of his more dubious practices was his ‘moose avoidance procedure,’ which entailed driving close, if not on, the dividing line, in rural Knox County. This permitted him to prepare for animals emerging on either side of the road.
As an eager competitor throughout life, Jim Creighton helped organize and build community skating rinks for hockey games, construct tennis courts, and invented a type of duplicate bridge. ‘Bridge Match’ is regularly played in and around Knox County. His love of numbers and statistics extended to his golf playing and his health. His physician compared his blood pressure records to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jim will be remembered not only for his optimism, loyalty, and leadership, but also for his love of sailing, tennis, bird watching, and the Boston Red Sox.
He loved ‘hunkering down’ in Maine winters. He will no doubt be remembered as well for his eccentric opinions. Known within the family as Gump, he was also referred to as Captain Budget, and his pronouncements about life, money, and manners were kept in a red notebook. He proclaimed early on, for example, that he wanted ‘one dog, one cat, one wife or any combination thereof,’ but the limits he set in the animal line were never honored. His family pets besides numerous dogs and cats over the years included white rats (complete with their own apartment complex), a green heron named Pookie, and an enterprising crow named Woody. In his later years he and his cracked corn earned a devoted following among the mallard duck and seagull populations in Pleasant Point, Cushing.