Peter Rees

rees  peter TWTRENTON — Peter Rees, 82, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital.

Peter was born in Newton, Mass., the son of Frank A. Rees and Dorothy D. Rees. He received his B.A. from Lafayette College in 1955, a M.A. in anthropology from Harvard University in 1958, and an Ed. D. in counseling psychology from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1964.

Peter met his wife, Phyllis, in 1960, camping in the White Mountains. He knew she was special because she didn’t complain of the sleet and mud that trip. She was the love of his life for 52 years. They shared a love of adventure and traveled extensively in America, Africa and Europe during their marriage. They saw beauty with the same eye and responded to it with the same heart. They made two beautiful daughters together: Amy and Jenny.

Peter moved his family around a lot but finally settled in Trenton Maine in 1979. At that time he was the only psychologist in Hancock County. He had an independent psychology practice for 26 years, as well as contracts with MDI Hospital, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Probation and the MDI High School. He worked extensively with sex offenders, including a treatment group for adolescent sex offenders. He helped many people and families in the area for many years.

Peter loved the outdoors, sailing and hiking. He and Phyllis sailed a little cabin cruiser, Flirt, in the waters around MDI, Blue Hill, and Schoodic for 23 years. They would spend the night in a quiet harbor and awaken to a beautiful sea sunrise. When Phyllis couldn’t sail anymore, Peter bought a camp on Webb Pond so she could continue to appreciate a wild beauty. He enjoyed summers there immensely.

As a young man, Peter loved fast cars. In the time of courting Phyllis he had a Jaguar XK 120. They drove the Jaguar up to Baxter State Park for their honeymoon, outrunning a Maine State trooper on the way, Phyllis with the wind in her hair egging him on. Their wedding night they made camp after dark in the rain on a side road, only to find they had camped in a garbage dump the next morning. They loved to tell that story. As he aged, Peter would gadget out any car, boat, or computer. He loved technology and gadgets. He had a keen intellect and was interested in everything, from car repair to culinary mushroom picking.

Peter was a social activist and dedicated himself to working for peace, justice and equality. He was an innovative psychologist and founder of the Peace and Social Justice Committee of the Maine Psychological Association. He was a tireless advocate for legislation expanding civil and human rights protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, as well as the campaign for same-sex marriage in Maine. He was a long-term member of the Downeast Chapter of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network), organizing “Bridges of Respect” conferences, promoting gay-straight alliances in schools, and working within schools to reduce bullying and discrimination against all students who were perceived to be vulnerable. Dedicated to a bullying-free environment, after retirement as a psychologist, Peter worked for the Maine Attorney General’s civil rights teams in the Downeast area, promoting an educational environment where no student felt disparaged or unwelcome.

Peter’s friends are profoundly saddened. We have lost not only an irreplaceable companion, but also a bright beacon. Each of us has felt truly accepted by Peter, but, at the same time, quietly challenged by example to be a better person. We miss him fiercely.

We will miss the telephone call to dinner and lively conversation, perhaps to try a new curry dish or his legendary Navajo stew. We will miss the call to adventure, whether camping in the Caribbean or Cobscook, hiking in Acadia, exploring Malta, or sailing about islands closer to home in his beloved Flirt. We will miss the call to share an important anniversary or occasion with his cherished family. We will miss the call to comfort us in our times of need. We will miss the call to action to join him in his tireless work for peace, justice and equality. We will miss his gentle humor and strength of purpose. We will miss his voice. He enriched our lives. We are better friends, better citizens for having known him.

Peter is predeceased by his wife Phyllis, and survived by his two daughters; Amy and husband, Rob Lash; Jenny and husband, William Tefft, two grandchildren; John Sawyer and Michelle Sawyer-Houle with husband, Patrick Houle, two step-grandchildren; Miranda and Mackenzie Tefft, and two great-grandchildren; Desmond and Hollis Peter.

Peter’s memorial service will be held at the Trenton Elementary School on Saturday Dec. 19, 2015, from 10 a.m. until noon. All are welcome. There will be an open microphone for all who want to share memories or reflections of this marvelous man.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be directed to:

Acadia Friends Meeting of Quakers on MDI; Unitarian-Universalist Church of Ellsworth; Downeast Chapter of GLSEN; H.O.M.E. in Orland; EMMAUS Homeless Shelter in Ellsworth.

Whatever happens, we can get through this. You did.


Know when to pay your respects.