While growing up in Sullivan, Lynn Dunbar attended kindergarten at the Sorrento-Sullivan Recreation Center and grades 1-8 at the Sullivan Grammar School, now the town office. She graduated from Sumner Memorial High School.
“I worked at the Dunbar Store,” a Sullivan landmark owned by her great-uncle, Emery Dunbar, Lynn recalled. One day as the town election approached, a selectman brought nomination papers into Dunbar’s and asked her to run for town clerk.
“Another man in the store said, ‘I’ll circulate that,’” took the nomination papers, and promptly rounded up the 25 required signatures,” Dunbar said. She understand there were several candidates for town clerk, but “when the ballot came out, my name was the only one on it” because the other candidates had not filed their nomination papers.
Elected for a three-year term, Dunbar started as the town clerk/tax collector/treasurer in 1979. Then located in the recreation center, the town office moved into the grammar school when the Mountain View School opened on the Bert Gray Road.
Sullivan selectmen later made Dunbar’s position appointed rather than elected and also made the town clerk a separate position. Now the treasurer, tax collector, registrar of voters and “deputy to every other position,” Dunbar said that “I like my job.
“I have had good co-workers and a lot of cooperation with the selectmen,” she said. “I love Sullivan. I love the people in the town; they’re like family.” Responsible for recording Sullivan’s vital statistics, Dunbar now records birth certificates “for the children and grandchildren” of Sullivan residents whose births she recorded decades ago.
Dunbar has warm memories of the recreation center, now home to the Frenchman’s Bay Library, the Sullivan-Sorrento Historical Society, the Sullivan Thrift Store and a pet pantry offering “no-cost pet food” to people who cannot afford to feed their pets.
“Back when I was a kid, they used to have square dancing there, Halloween parties there, wrestling there,” Dunbar said. When age 8 to 10 or so, “I was a Little Rigger,” the name given to a group of children learning square dancing at the Rec Center.
Dunbar is married to James Murphy, a supervisor with Woolwich-based Reed & Reed Inc. “I got him on the outgoing tide” as a famous local landmark disappeared 20 years ago, Dunbar said with a smile.
Their marriage involves the Singing Bridge, opened in 1926 to connect Sullivan with Hancock. The Maine Department of Transportation hired Reed & Reed to build a new bridge in the late 1990s.
The project fascinated Dunbar. Reed & Reed crews carefully moved the Singing Bridge 50 feet upriver to maintain Route 1 traffic, work started on the new bridge, and Dunbar captured the entire project on film.
“The state (MDOT) reps and Reed & Reed reps met here at the town office,” she said. “I’d have refreshments for them.”
There she met James Murphy, who secured permission for Dunbar to photograph the bridge construction. “I took over 3,400 pictures when they were working on the bridge,” she said. Escorted wherever deemed safe on the site, Dunbar brought her camera, and “I had my own hardhat.”
The photographic results became 17 photo albums capturing the project from beginning to end.
Reed & Reed tore down the Singing Bridge. Murphy “was the last one out of town,” and by then he and Dunbar had fallen in love, Lynn said. Today she and Jim like to go four-wheeling and stay at the family camp on Flanders Pond. They have taken a few cruises, including one in 2018 on the Inside Passage to Alaska.