VERONA ISLAND — Paul Carter and his wife, Marilyn, built the gas station and convenience store Fort View Variety up from nothing over the past 30 years. Their roots in the area, however, go back much longer.
Marilyn Carter’s great-grandfather, Erastus, was a carpenter who worked in the island’s once-booming shipbuilding industry.
Erastus helped build that industry’s most-famous product, the S.S. Roosevelt, which Rear Adm. Robert Peary and his crew sailed in 1905 on their way to becoming the first Americans, and some of the first people, to reach the North Pole.
Erastus named his son Ross Marvin Allison, after Professor Ross Marvin of Cornell University, who was the first assistant to Peary and who died during the expedition.
A few generations later, Marilyn’s interest in her family’s history reignited when she heard that fellow Verona Island resident Verna Cox is leading an effort to build a museum on the island dedicated to the S.S. Roosevelt.
When Marilyn passed away this September, her family thought it would be a great idea to ask friends to send not flowers, but checks to the Verona Island Historical Society, which is the group leading the S.S. Roosevelt museum effort.
“Flowers fade fast, and museums last a long time,” said Paul Carter, who also happens to be allergic to some flowers.
The family raised $1,000, a windfall for the fledgling historical society.
“We’ve had yard sales, but they didn’t raise a huge amount,” Cox said, “so this was really exciting.”
“I think it’s a good memorial for mom,” added Allyson Sucy, Marilyn’s daughter. “She’d be very happy.”
Cox said the donations are a good start toward the group’s $100,000 goal, which is the price of the property of an antiques store for sale on Route 1. Securing the property will allow the historical society more time to raise $150,000 to build a new home for the museum.
“The property is still for sale, but we’re biting our nails because we don’t want anyone to buy it first,” Cox said.
The 87-year-old envisions a museum filled with stories from the people who lived in the area in the late 19th and early 20th century, as told by their descendants.
There would also be models demonstrating the wooden shipbuilding process, along with photographs of the Roosevelt voyage.
Cox hopes the museum will emphasize stories over artifacts, so that visitors will get a sense of what it was like to live here over 100 years ago.
“Most historical groups have so many antiques,” she said. “They are packed with them.”
Cox met with Nick Tymoczko, the operations director of the YMCA in Bucksport, to discuss ways of getting young people involved in the museum.
Tymoczko said the museum could do activities with the YMCA’s afterschool program.
“I think it would be nice to make little replicas of the Roosevelt and maybe have a create-your-own-boat race down the Penobscot,” he said.
Cox hopes those arts and crafts projects can help students stay interested in the museum later on in life.
“You need to get the young people involved so that you don’t end up with a house full of antiques that no one wants to do anything with,” she said.
Cox said one reason for building a museum on Verona Island is to help passers-by take a left into Bucksport rather than keep driving east on Route 1.
“The S.S. Roosevelt museum is there to advertize everybody,” said Cox, who hopes to include in the museum an information center promoting the area.
“Since the mill has gone out, Bucksport needs people to turn left at the light,” she said.
The next step for the Verona Island Historical Society is to host an informational meeting with the public. The meeting will be held Dec. 1 at the Heart & Soul Building on Main Street, though the exact time is yet to be determined.
Cox hopes the meeting will help spark some interest from citizens, local politicians and business leaders. One thing’s for sure: the museum has a few fans already.
“I think it’s a heck of a good idea,” said Paul Carter. “I hope it happens.”