Public servants, innovators among those lost in 2021

ELLSWORTH — Every year brings loss, but the prominent Hancock County residents who died in 2021 seemed to be an especially dedicated, talented and giving group. Among them is a Hancock County Sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty and an Ellsworth firefighter who succumbed to cancer. That’s not to mention school board members, selectmen, a boat builder, a historian, a businessman, a probate judge and a track coach.

Luke Gross

The late Luke Gross, a Hancock County Sheriff’s deputy who was struck by a vehicle while clearing debris from the road in Trenton Sept. 23, is remembered as a man devoted to his wife, Lauren, children Ryan and Alissa, friends, co-workers and to his job protecting and serving the public.

The Hancock resident was 44.

“He would do anything for anybody,” said Mount Desert Island Police Officer Ken Mitchell.

“I worked with him directly a little bit at the Sheriff’s Office,” Mitchell said. “I always felt comfortable going to complaints with him because I knew he was going to be professional. He was also compassionate.”

Ellsworth Police Capt. Shawn Willey had been friends with Gross for over 18 years.

“He was a big kid at heart, always willing to help you,” Willey said. “He always tried to find the good in anything we had to deal with on the job. He loved the fact he had a family with two great kids; they were his world. He went out of his way to make sure kids in the county were able to have a smile on their face at Christmas, raising money with the sheriff’s charities.”

“For me professionally, Luke was always my go-to,” said Hancock County Chief Deputy Patrick Kane. “I can’t think of one occasion in the 18 years we worked together he told me no. If there was a community event, educational event or event involving children, I leaned on Luke intensely. And every time that I asked it was a ‘yes’ without hesitation.”
Gross managed to find time to serve his personal community of Hancock and its children as a parent volunteer at Hancock Grammar School and as president of the school board. He was elected to the board in 2016 and became president in 2019.

Bucksport Middle School Principal Todd West worked with Gross when the late deputy helped bring the Every 15 Minutes drunk-driving awareness program to Deer Isle-Stonington when West was principal at the high school in 2017.

“Luke put an incredible amount of effort, time and most of all compassion into the program,” West recalled. “It was very clear to me that he was passionate about the message of the Every 15 Minutes program and concerned about the well-being of all of the students in the school.”

Gross was a counselor at Camp POSTCARD, held every year for children who may not otherwise get a traditional summer camp experience. POSTCARD stands for “Police Officers Striving to Create and Reinforce Dreams” and was founded by Sheriff Scott Kane about 28 years ago.

Former Hancock County Sheriff Bill Clark hired Gross in 2003.

“It shakes me to the core to think Luke was taken from us while doing what all officers have done a thousand times before and will do a thousand times again and is a vivid reminder of the frailty of this profession,” Clark said.

Bobby Dorr

Bobby Dorr

Ellsworth Deputy Fire Chief Robert “Bobby” Dorr Jr. Dorr died May 5 at the age of 43 following a battle with cancer. A three-time EFD Firefighter of the Year recipient, Dorr led a fundraising campaign to purchase particulate-blocking hoods for county firefighters as he fought for his own life. The hoods are designed to protect firefighters from breathing in soot and other toxins while fighting fires.

Dorr, a 12-year veteran of the Ellsworth Fire Department, was named winner of the 2021 Captain Joel Barnes Community Service Award. The award honors Barnes, a Berwick firefighter who died in the line of duty in 2019 after saving a fellow firefighter.

The award recognizes a firefighter with three or more years of service, either in active duty or recently retired, who “demonstrates outstanding professionalism and service to their community and a commitment to promoting life safety education.” It is presented by the Mariners hockey team.

“It’s an honor, for sure,” he said at the time. “I always said at the end of my career that I wanted to make a difference in at least one firefighter’s life.”

Dorr himself was injured in the line of duty March 2, 2014, while responding to a fire started by an arsonist at Birdsacre Wildlife Sanctuary in its Stanwood Homestead Museum.

Forty firefighters from Ellsworth, Lamoine, Trenton and Hancock responded and kept the blaze from taking the entire structure. The stairwell and an upstairs bedroom were destroyed.

The Steuben native fell through a floor in the sanctuary’s museum and suffered compression fractures and nerve damage, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed by Fire Marshal’s Office investigator Jeremy Damren. The injuries left Dorr unable to work for 10 months.

Beyond serving as captain and interim assistant chief of the EFD, Dorr was also lead instructor for the Hancock County Fire Academy that the department hosts each year. There, Dorr said in an interview before his passing, he “tries to instill decent morals and teach people what it means to be a firefighter. I always wanted to be a firefighter.”

State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas, Hancock County Emergency Management Director Andrew Sankey and interim Fire Chief Gary Saunders all spoke at Dorr’s funeral about his dedication to his craft, career and colleagues, and to the up-and-coming firefighters he trained.

“He was a true leader who was dedicated to his friends, family, colleagues and community,” Sankey said, reading from a letter sent by Governor Janet Mills.

“For a lot of us, Bobby gave us the tools, the skills and the motivation,” Lamoine Deputy Fire Chief Stu Marckoon said.

Trenton Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Amanda Corson delivered the eulogy, at Dorr’s request.

“For those I love, I will sacrifice. This was Dorr’s mantra,” Corson said. “He lived by those words.”

Dorr received the International Association of Firefighters Line of Duty Death Medal, awarded by the Maine chapter.

Jimmy Shedeck

Jimmy Shedeck

A long tenure as track coach at Ellsworth High School gave Jimmy Shedeck an opportunity to coach generations of Ellsworth athletes. Some of those who were once his students, such as Louie Luchini and Josh Frost, later became his colleagues as coaches or administrators.

An icon and friend to all who walked through the school’s doors, Shedeck, who passed away Jan. 3, 2021, at the age of 74, will long be remembered by those whose lives he touched in the Ellsworth community.

Shedeck, who moved to Ellsworth after serving in the Vietnam War, spent 20 years working as a custodian in the Ellsworth School Department. During his tenure coaching cross-country, track and field and softball, the Eagles enjoyed consistent success across the board.

When the Ellsworth girls won the state cross-country title in 2018, no one was prouder of the Eagles than Shedeck.

The same could be said in 1996 and 1998, when boys’ teams that included then-standout runner and current head coach Louie Luchini won Class B titles.

“On both occasions, I can’t think of anyone who was happier than Jimmy,” said Luchini, who grew up right down the street from Shedeck. “He had such a big heart, and he was absolutely dedicated to his athletes, the community and the school.”

Shedeck’s legacy, though, went beyond event wins and trophies. The late coach could always be relied upon as a confidant and a trusted friend for students, fellow coaches and anyone else whose path he might happen to cross.

“He didn’t care how good you were; if you needed a coach, he was there for you,” Luchini said. “He believed in each and every kid that he coached regardless of ability, and he helped them be the best they could be.”

With the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season, last winter’s Eastern Maine Indoor Track League season ended up being Shedeck’s last as an Ellsworth coach. He was awarded a plaque in recognition of his years in the district prior to the fall season.

On cold winter evenings, Shedeck stayed in the parking lot after practices to make sure every athlete and coach had access to the school building or a warm car. During the fall and spring seasons, he spent his time maintaining the school’s athletic fields and assisting coaches and administrators however he could.

“Even when not coaching, he could be found running the scoreboard at the home soccer games or the buzzer and time clock at the basketball games or working the fields,” said Michelle McNabb, one of Shedeck’s five children. “Anyone who went to Ellsworth High School knew who Jimmy Shedeck was.”

Deborah Brewster

Deborah Brewster

If a person is measured by her dedication — to family, community, and self — then Deborah Brewster stood 10 feet tall. Brewster died at home in Brooklin on Aug. 26 and left a legacy of commitment, service and love behind. She was 71.

A member of the Brooklin Select Board from 2011 until April of this year, Brewster also served nine years as a George Stevens Academy trustee, and then returned years later. In all, she served 18 years on local school boards.

“Education is the future for our children, and, by extension, the future for us all,” Brewster said upon rejoining the GSA board of trustees in 2009, her friend and GSA Advancement Director Rada Starkey recalled.

“She is respected and admired for her commitment to the quality of local education,” Starkey added.

Fellow trustees agreed.

“Deborah had a remarkable way of cutting through complicated scenarios and getting to the heart of the matter,” former trustee Marion Morris said. “She was never dismissive of other people’s ideas, yet her wry sense of humor shone through when conversations got a little too far off base.”

Rob Clapp, who served with Brewster as a GSA trustee and on the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital board, said Brewster was who he turned to for advice.

“She always had my back and she encouraged me when I was a new board member,” he said. “More importantly, Deborah always saw the big picture. For the hospital, she reminded us that we were there for the health of the community. For GSA, we were there to serve students, not the administration or teachers or public opinions.”

“It’s important to recognize the totality of her dedication,” said Bill Cohen, who served with Brewster on the Brooklin Select Board. “Deborah had a unique ability to keep us moving forward, even during controversial items, but always with this warm, human touch.

“She was a healer, and so, so thoughtful of everyone’s views and perspective,” he added. “She was highly respected…as being a voice of reason, with good common sense and insight. We’ll try and behave that way going forward.”

Harry Jones

Harry Jones

Nearly every day, Harry Jones would leave his real estate business on upper Main Street in Ellsworth with his dog and walk down to Camden National Bank. It was a familiar and welcome downtown sight for decades.

In his final years, Harry used the bank’s drive-through. Still, employees would bring him coffee and a treat for his pet.

Harry S. Jones III died Dec. 13 at 88, leaving behind family both human and canine and scores of memories among community members touched by his generosity and spirit.

“Harry Jones was a vintage Downeaster,” Star 97.7 owners Natalie Knox and Mark Osborne said in a joint statement, recalling Harry took them under his wing when they arrived in Ellsworth in 1982. “We were just a couple of twenty-something kids who’d never owned a business before. Harry was like a favorite uncle, who helped us in every way he could.”

“We consider ourselves better people for having known Harry and will miss him terribly,” they concluded.

Kathy Young, who arrived in Ellsworth this year as Woodlawn Museum’s new executive director, only knew Harry for a short time but he made a lasting impression, even before she finagled a meeting with him.

“He sends like religion a check [to Woodlawn] every month,” she recalled. “I was like, who is this person?”

Hearing he was in town one afternoon, she raced over to see him.

“We sat and talked for 45 minutes,” she said. “I learned in that meeting he was writing similar checks to 13 different charities every month. He said, ‘Well, you’re not the only one I love.’”

Harry, his son Christopher Jones said, was a “man of the people. He saw the good in everyone.”

As a real estate broker, Harry could sell something to anyone, his daughter Emilie Jones recalled. “He was a great salesman.”

But he was more than just a broker, his children agreed. “It went far beyond that,” Jennifer Jones said.

Harry was quick to forgive an outstanding debt if it meant securing someone a home. “He always gave people a second chance,” Emilie said.

Harry showed up at his office up to his last day, said his children, who each joined him in his real estate business over the years. He filed paperwork, answered phones — and went to the bank downtown.

And he was a careful and very slow driver in his final years, Christopher said, cruising along Bayside Road at 25 miles per hour. Drivers in the line of cars behind him would honk and clap when he finally pulled into his office.

His children were Harry’s caregivers for his last years, enabling him to remain in his home. “He wanted to stay there as long as he could,” Christopher said. “He got to do what he wanted to. That wasn’t very much to ask.”

Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter, longtime historian, town official and, according to his daughter, Dawn, “character,” died Oct. 31. Carter was 90 years old.

Bruce traveled the world as a Merchant Marine, with trips that took him to the east coast of Africa. He also served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

But his deep Franklin roots brought him back to his hometown, where he remained heavily involved throughout his life.

Among his many roles were selectman, road commissioner, water commissioner, school committee member, Town Meeting moderator, founding member of the Franklin Veterans Club and champion behind the building of the town’s Korean War/Vietnam War monument.

He served multiple times as a selectman, with one stint as first selectman running consecutively from 1991 to 2003.
Bruce even served as a town assessor, Planning Board member and Community Center trustee until the day he died.

“He’ll be remembered for helping establish the Franklin Vets Club, for just being part of Franklin,” Dawn said. “What I’ve heard the most is the historical knowledge that we’re going to lose with him passing.”

Both Bruce and his late wife, Alice, had long-running genealogical ties to Franklin. Bruce’s connection to his ancestry inspired his commitment to documenting the town’s history, Dawn said.

His research led him to write “Odyssey in a Downeast Outhouse” (Bruce and friends traveled to outhouses throughout the state and traced their histories), “Oblivion & Dead Relatives Downeast” and “History of Roads in Franklin.”

Friends remember Bruce as fun, sociable and a great storyteller.

“Bruce was a people person and he liked to meet new people and visit,” said friend, code enforcement officer and fellow assessor Millard Billings. He and his wife, Beverly, were longtime friends with Bruce and Alice.

“Bruce and his wife, Alice, were friends of ours and we always liked to go on mystery rides,” Millard shared. “We would just hop in the car, and nobody knew where we were going.”

“But Bruce usually had a story about wherever we were heading,” Beverly added.

For Dawn, it was both her parents, especially her mother, who influenced her to get involved in local government, where Dawn has served on the select board since 2015. She is the town’s first selectman.

“In the last years, we’ve lost so much of Franklin history,” Dawn said, referencing the late Bob Fernald, the town’s longtime clerk. About her own generation, Dawn asked, “Are we going to be able to keep bringing that history along?”

But Beverly said Bruce worked to share his research with the town.

“I give Bruce credit because he did try to leave that information,” she said. Books and research can be found at the Franklin town office and Franklin Library. A large map of Franklin was donated by Bruce and Alice to the town.
“He didn’t keep it to himself, he shared it,” Beverly said.

Jim Patterson

Jim Patterson

Colleagues and friends of former Hancock County probate judge and attorney Jim Patterson are remembering him as a gentle, patient man.

Patterson died Jan. 16 at age 72 after battling pulmonary fibrosis for 11 years.

“Judge Patterson was a private, unique, smart, thorough and fair judge,” said former Hancock County Register of Probate Bonnie Cousins. Cousins worked with Patterson for 11 years.

Cousins said during adoption cases, the judge always let children come up to the bench and pound his gavel and sit in his chair. He would also take a photo with them.

“He was so good with them,” Cousins said.

“He never complained and was just a great, wonderful man to work with,” she continued. “You’ll never find another person like him and we’ll all miss him dearly.”

Patterson was probate judge from 1979 to 2014, when he retired.

He got his start in the legal profession working as assistant county attorney for then County Attorney Michael Povich back in the early ’70s. Maine switched to its current district attorney system in 1975, at which point Povich became district attorney and Patterson assistant DA.

“He was my first attorney I ever hired,” Povich remembered. “He did things competently, quietly and then he got elected judge of probate in 1978. So, on Jan. 1, 1979, he resigned. He was a really good guy. He was loyal to me. He was extremely loyal.”

Patterson started a law practice on Main Street in Ellsworth doing real estate and municipal law. Tuesdays were reserved for the county’s probate matters.

Ellsworth attorney Diane O’Connell has been a friend and colleague of Patterson’s since 2003. They became business partners in 2014 and she took over the practice when he retired in 2018.

“He just had an absolute passion for the law, his clients, his family,” said O’Connell. He was “generous, even-tempered, good-humored. I can’t remember him ever being angry despite how stressful it is as an attorney.”

O’Connell said Patterson had a way of calming people and diffusing stressful situations.

“He always knew what to say,” O’Connell said. “He’d make people feel at ease.”

“I started working for him when I was 19, and I worked for him for 31 years,” said Lisa Carter, Patterson’s former legal secretary. “He was amazing. He was patient and thorough and taught me everything I know about the legal profession. I can’t say enough nice things about him.”

On many workdays, you could find Patterson and other attorneys having lunch at The Riverside Café back when the downtown eatery belonged to Beth Fendl and her sister Barbara Guida.

“When I think of Jim, I smile,” said Fendl. “He was just a great person, a great customer, very supportive of the Riverside.”

Ralph Stanley

Ralph Stanley

Legendary master boat builder. Bluegrass fiddler and violin maker. Sailor and captain. National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. Historian and genealogist. Neighbor and friend. A local who could trace his ancestors back to 18th century Cranberry Isles. A Mount Desert Island native who stayed.

Ralph Warren Stanley died Dec. 7 at the age of 92. He is woven into the history of Southwest Harbor, the community he called home for decades.

“Ralph understood the working boats and the men who sailed them and their concerns,” said Charlotte Morrill, who edited his book “The Stanleys of Cranberry Isles” and worked with Stanley for close to 20 years on the Southwest Harbor Public Library’s digital archive. “He came from men who sailed; his father and great-uncles had all sailed for summer people, as did Ralph. His perspective was as a boat builder and a sailor … but he knew a lot about fishing.”
Stanley could name and give the complete history of every vessel in Southwest Harbor, she recalled. “And he had 1,457,000 stories.”

And while Southwest Harbor may rightfully claim him as a native son, “every historical society on the Eastern Seaboard considered him one of theirs,” she added.

“I used to look at him and think, what would be lost?” Morrill mused. “We spent 20 years recording Ralph in every way. His stories about rum running on the island are the only ones in existence, practically.”

Honored in Washington, D.C., by the National Endowment for the Arts as a master boat builder in 1999, Stanley built and restored vessels, from simple rowboats to a 44-foot lobster boat, for over 57 years. His first one came after he returned home from Ricker Junior College in Houlton with an associate degree.

Stanley once said, ‘Building wooden boats is like climbing a still-growing tree where you never get to the top … you’re always looking to improve.’”

Over 70 pleasure vessels, lobster boats and the single-masted Friendship Sloops came to life under his working hands. Local pine, white cedar and oak were used in their construction. His favorite was reportedly the Friendship Sloop, with Stanley telling the Working Waterfront in 2009, “I just like sailing them. They feel comfortable.” His ease with the sailing sloops helped him win the Class A division in Rockland’s Friendship Sloop regatta three years running. Now the award for the best-maintained wooden Friendship Sloop is named the Stanley Cup.

Bar Harbor filmmaker Jeff Dobbs captured Stanley, complete with his Downeast Maine accent and detailed knowledge of local history, in a 2015 documentary, “Ralph Stanley: An Eye for Wood.” It debuted, of course, at the Southwest Harbor Public Library before being showed on the PBS television channel. Stanley’s friend Gunnar Hansen wrote the script, and former state representative and MDI resident Dennis Damon narrated it.

“I said, ‘Ralph, give me everything you’ve got,’” Dobbs recalled. It first took two to three years of interviews with Stanley, who was nearing 80 years of age. “As Ralph would readily admit, you could sit down and talk with him, and then realize the next time you talked with him he’d told you a heck of a lot more. He wasn’t bashful and could tell a good story.”

Stanley loved the film, Dobbs said.

“Every time we showed it, he would show up.” At one showing at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, so many people came, the film was played three times.

When Stanley had finished his last boat and was ready to retire from boatbuilding, Morrill said he told her, “I’m more than just a boat builder. I’ve got so many things to do and so many things I’m interested in, and I’m going to do them.”

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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