ELLSWORTH — When Harold White Jr. died peacefully at his home here Saturday at the age of 80, Ellsworth lost a man who made his mark on local education and had a lifetime love for and involvement in local sports.
Known to most friends and acquaintances simply as “Tug,” he attended Ellsworth High School and played football, baseball and basketball. Tug gained local recognition as both an all-conference football player and as a member of the historic Ellsworth Eagles basketball team that captured a state championship in 1953 — when White was a senior — and went on to compete for a New England title.
After a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, Tug returned to Maine and attended the University of Maine, earning his bachelor’s degree in education.
He taught and coached in the Bar Harbor and Ellsworth school systems for several years, then became a child protection and social worker before returning to education as assistant director of special education for Hancock County.
But while widely recognized as an educator, it was through sports that Tug became familiar to legions of other folks in Ellsworth and beyond.
A devoted follower of EHS sports, Tug also served as commissioner of the Ellsworth Little League and coached both Little League and Babe Ruth baseball.
And for years, he was the voice of high school basketball and football for Hancock County as a sportscaster for WDEA radio.
For Tug’s son, Russell, that is one of the fondest memories.
“He loved sports,” said Russell. “The thing I’ll remember the most is his doing the broadcasting for WDEA. He’d take us to do the games throughout the county, and it is amazing to see the difference in how things were done then and how they are done now.
“Sports is the thing I will link to him always,” said Russell. “He was a coach for me, and when I played baseball in high school, he would park his truck right where he could pull up to the backstop. I don’t think he ever missed an athletic event that I played in.”
While the 1953 EHS basketball championship is the one that garnered most of the attention, said Russell, the Eagles also won the Eastern Maine baseball title that year. Ellsworth then lost to Cape Elizabeth in a game that, for reasons unknown, was not identified as a state championship.
But 30 years later, with son Russell playing for the Eagles, Tug was on hand as the tables were turned and Ellsworth bested Cape Elizabeth for the state baseball title.
Tug also loved football and, after that sport was discontinued at EHS in the late 1950s, he became involved in an effort to revive it.
“When we were kids,” said Russell, “there was a big push to bring football back. They had everything in place to make it happen and the school board wouldn’t approve it.”
But Tug never gave up on football, and decades later, he was part of the successful effort that saw the sport brought back to Ellsworth, both at the junior high and high school levels.
Ray McDonald of Surry was one of the many young players who benefited from Tug’s teaching and coaching.
But McDonald and his pal, Buddy Wood, also loved to play practical jokes on Tug and his longtime friend, Jack Scott.
“They were in a poker club and we always wanted to mess with them,” McDonald recalls.
So one night, he and Wood rolled Tug’s Volkswagen bus down the street and out of sight while the poker game was going on.
The results were predictable.
Tug came out and, finding his van gone, he called the police and he and Scott went searching until the found the vehicle.
The two men had little doubt who was responsible and, when they next saw McDonald and Wood, Tug promised them that he’d even the score.
Not long afterward, recalls McDonald, the two boys were sitting in their car at a downtown traffic light with Tug and Jack in the car in front of them.
“All of a sudden, both doors of their car fly open, Tug pulls my hood open, yanks off all my plug wires and shouts out ‘I told you guys,’” said McDonald, laughing at the memory.
Stories such as that likely will be shared by family and friends on Saturday when Tug is remembered at a celebration of his life at Big Cats Catering from 4 to 7 p.m.