BAR HARBOR — Elliott Jordan “Squeak” Sawyer, a kind, hardworking, resourceful man with an unceasing eye for entrepreneurial opportunity, who grew up surrounded by the love of more than a dozen brothers and sisters, died on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011 in the embrace of his wife and daughters, at Mount Desert Island Hospital. He was 89 years old.
Elliott was born on June 17, 1922, in Bar Harbor, the seventh child of Fred Sawyer and Ada (Jordan) Sawyer of Hulls Cove, who together had 13 children. His mom died when he was just 6 years old. Later, his father married Leola Caler and she brought her two children from a previous marriage into the fold. The couple then had two more of their own, bringing the family total to 16.
Times were tough and by today’s standards the family had little in the way of economic resources. They used to joke that they couldn’t have the minister over for supper because there weren’t enough spoons to go around.
Still, the many brothers and sisters shared an abundance of love that they continued into their adult lives as they and their growing families remained close as the years went by.
For many in Bar Harbor, Elliott was simply known as “Squeak,” a nickname he was given when he was 9. According to the family, young Elliott got his nickname because the first pair of shoes he ever wore that were not hand-me-downs squeaked loudly with every step.
Squeak was never afraid of hard work, whether it was cutting firewood to feed the family’s furnace and kitchen range, or working in his uncle’s market downtown. He also showed an early knack for making a little income on the side. At one point he even bought an old slot machine that he kept in the back of his car and let people try their luck for a nickel a pull.
He and his brother Lloyd discovered they could earn a dollar in exhibition boxing matches at the Dreamwood arena in Salisbury Cove, occasionally even having to square off against each other.
In February of 1941, the then 18-year-old Squeak joined the Maine National Guard in a unit made up of Hancock County boys. Just a few months later the United States entered World War II and he was called to active duty, eventually serving in the Pacific Theater with the 678th Field Artillery Brigade of the 43rd Division Artillery.
At one point while in the Philippines, Squeak tamed a wild monkey. When a general suggested it be allowed to run around headquarters, Squeak complied, and the monkey promptly ate some classified documents. It was allowed to stay with the unit although Squeak’s attempt to smuggle it back home aboard the Queen Mary, which had been pressed into service as a troop ship, was unsuccessful.
Although his unit didn’t see a lot of frontline combat, several members were killed in enemy action and after months of living in the mud, rain and swamps, Squeak caught malaria.
As a young man, Squeak always had an eye for the ladies and his interest in matters of the heart intensified upon his return from the war. One time while courting a young lady he rode his bicycle from Bar Harbor to Franklin and back in an afternoon. Unfortunately he had a boxing match in Bangor that evening and had little energy left for the ring; a fact his opponent exploited for a win.
But when it came to romance it was another pretty Franklin lass, Dolores Camber, who was working in Bar Harbor, who caught his eye and won his heart. They were married on Nov. 2, 1947, in Bar Harbor as the ashes of the Great Fire still smoldered in empty cellar holes. The union of “Squeak and Dimp,” as the couple came to be known, would last for more than 60 happy years.
After living for a time in Hulls Cove, where the family grew with the arrival of Squeak and Dimp’s daughters, Roxie and Mary, the couple built a new home at the corner of Eden Street and Harbor Lane where they would live for 55 years.
Squeak worked in the grocery business, but left that to work at the Bluenose Ferry Terminal for Canadian National; he remained there for 23 years until retirement. He also worked several side jobs including as an assistant at a local funeral home.
To help make ends meet, the Sawyers would rent out rooms in their single-story home in summer, moving lock, stock and barrel into the basement on the days there were guests at “Whispering Leaves.”
They would also escape to the camp they built themselves at Georges Pond in Franklin, where they shared many wonderful memories.
Squeak also began buying and refinishing furniture and trading antiques. His regular yard sales on the front lawn that he meticulously tended became a tradition onto themselves. In later years the sales were less of an economic necessity as they were an opportunity for a man who loved to buy and sell to ply his craft.
Over the years, Squeak was active in the Church of Our Father in Hulls Cove where he was baptized and confirmed and was a regular attendee. He was a Clam City Waybaker and an avid sports fan who rarely missed a Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins or New England Patriots game.
After turning 85 he eventually phased out handling large furniture and focused on buying and selling bicycles that he would line up in the front yard and sell to eager college students and summer workers. Just a few weeks before he passed way, even though as his physical energies were fading and he could only get around with the assistance of a walker, his eye for a deal remained undiminished. While riding home from Ellsworth one afternoon he insisted the driver stop the car at the side of the road so he could get out and check on some bicycles he suspected he could buy and make a profit on.
Squeak was predeceased by his parents, and his siblings Lowell, Frederick, Madeline, Ada, Buddy, Leona, Burnell, Esther, Ella, Gerald, Harrison and Ernest.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Dolores; his brother Lloyd and sister-in-law Dolores of Bar Harbor, brother Charles Sawyer of Ellsworth, sister Mildred Bibro of Portland; his daughters and sons-in-law Roxie and Earl Brechlin of Bar Harbor, and Mary and Rev. Bryan Lauzau of Franklin, Ohio; grandchildren Heather Servaites and her husband Matt of Bar Harbor, Evan Graves and his wife Erin of Caribou, Sara Graves of Bar Harbor and Justin Lawson of Bangor; great-grandchildren Elliott Servaites, Hayden Graves, and Emma Graves; and numerous nieces and nephews; and a special friend, Brad Gray.
A memorial service was scheduled to for Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011 at 2 p.m. at the Church of Our Father on Route 3 in Hulls Cove with Father Charles Bradshaw officiating. Interment will be private.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to the Bar Harbor Food Pantry, 36 Mount Desert St., Bar Harbor ME 04609 or to Island Connections, 15 Eagle Lake Road, No. 505 Bar Harbor ME 04609.