ELLSWORTH — Tony Sohns, whose love of the natural world extended to the creepy and crawly and whose family-run Rock & Art shops enliven area downtowns, died Feb. 6 of a heart attack while on a business trip in Arizona. He was 41.
To many, especially children who participated in his natural science workshops, Sohns was “The Bug Man.”
He grew up in Bucksport, exploring the shores of Silver Lake. From a young age, he collected rocks, insects and natural oddities. He never stopped. Among his collections was a complete archive of Maine moths, which now resides in the Smithsonian, according to his obituary.
Paul Markosian, owner of Flexit Café in Ellsworth, met Sohns about 15 years ago when he took his oldest son, then a toddler, to a bug demonstration. They were hooked. Sohns would introduce kids to live creatures, be they insects, reptiles or tarantulas.
“He handled them and talked about them in ways that were true to the science,” Markosian recalled.
Sohns’ knowledge and range of interests was wide-sweeping, Markosian said, adding that the Rock & Art Shop’s name doesn’t “do justice to what’s in it.”
The shop, which has locations in Ellsworth, Bar Harbor and Bangor, was co-founded by Sohns, his sisters and their parents. It first started in a small orange building on the side of Route 1A. The shops carry fossils, plants, jewelry, stationery and yes, rocks and art.
“You can’t just be pretty to be in our shop, you also have got to have a story,” Sohns told The American in 2015. “We try to make the weird of the world accessible.”
It pays to look closely when you browse a Rock & Art Shop. Peer into corners, look up.
“If you go out in the world and look straight ahead, you’re going to miss out on a lot,” Sohns said in the 2015 article. “Life’s more interesting if you look up, down and under things.”
A wake will be held at Mitchell-Tweedie Funeral Home in Bucksport on Friday from 4-6 p.m. The funeral service will be Saturday, Feb. 16, at 10 a.m. at St. Vincent De Paul’s in Bucksport.