Eccentric millionaires



Our marital partner left town Tuesday morning. By Tuesday evening, our bachelor party had become a situation comedy.

We put too large a load into the washing machine, which went on strike early in the rinse cycle. We had to unload several pounds of wet sheets and towels, lighten the load and start over.

Later, the dishwasher started making growling sounds, like somebody trying to start an old pickup. Believing that all mechanical problems fix themselves, we practiced benign neglect. So did the dishwasher, except for the benign part. It never washed … only dried. It became a kiln, searing flecks of rice and sprigs of broccoli to each plate.

The capper was, impossibly, forgetting to add yeast to the bread dough. Result: world’s largest matzo.

Better to stay longer at work, we thought, where we can’t cause quite so much damage.

On Day 2 of “Home Alone,” we received an email from a gentleman inquiring about the death — in 1929 — of a young man from Seal Harbor. Did we have anything on it?

It was not an unusual request. The American has been printing since 1852, so the archives are rich. But the newspaper has been online for only the past nine years. If you’re looking for something older than 2009, you’ll have to scroll through the microfilm at the library.

Which is what we suggested to the inquiring gentleman. He replied, regretfully, that he lives in South Florida … so a visit to the Ellsworth library was not to be.

We started an email explaining that we didn’t have a searchable archive and that the only other means would be somebody leafing through the ancient bound volumes here at the EA. But the old pages are as dry and brittle as tortilla chips and nobody here had the time and without the precise month and day it would …

At this point we realized that we were about to add to our list of dumb, poorly thought out moves. In the time it took to assemble these excuses we might have gone downstairs, turned a few pages, and found the deceased.

Which is what we did. We found him in under five minutes in a Vital Statistics listing in the April 3, 1929, issue. We took a cell phone photo of the entry and, because the name of the departed is a very common one, added in the phone number of a prominent local bearing the same surname who might be a descendant. Because we knew he would be grateful, we closed with a jokey p.s.: “Hope you’re an eccentric millionaire.”

He wrote back, expressed his thanks, and said we were half right: He said he was eccentric.

A few days later, upon entering the office, we spied a package in our mail cubby. We withdrew from said package a bottle of Macallan 12-year-old, single malt scotch. Attached was a thank you note bearing the name of the chap in South Florida. Neither the postal service nor UPS had delivered the bottle. A gentleman had brought it in and left it at the front desk.

We emailed our thanks to our benefactor, concluding with a question: How had he, a Floridian, arranged for the conveyance of a bottle of scotch without the involvement of the postal service, UPS or FedEx?

His reply: “As to its delivery … ahh, being helpful to eccentrics & strangers appears to be a characteristic of the people of Ellsworth.”

Macallan is the supreme being of scotches. It’s matured in sherry oak casks and bears a pleasing balance of sherry sweetness, wood smoke and ginger. Plus a really smooth finish. We checked out the distillery’s website and learned that this bottle cost more than we have ever spent on a bottle of anything.

Our Florida friend may or may not be eccentric. But at $55 for a bottle of scotch, he has to be a millionaire.

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]
Stephen Fay

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