Remembering Mainers We Lost in 2014

Dec 31, 2014

Year end can be a time for reflection on what we've gained - and who we lost. They were friends and public enemies. They made us laugh, gave us songs to sing. They made news, and delivered the news. Some gave of their fortune, others of themselves.  What they all had in common was a tie to this state and a life story that came to an end in 2014.

Charlie O'Leary died on the second day of the year.  He was a long-time advocate for workers' rights as head of the Maine AFL-CIO.

"I wish that, sometime, we would have a governor that would run as the working people's governor, that would say that what we have to do is increase the per capita of the people in Maine, be sure that they have health care and assure that they have job security," O'Leary said. Charlie O'Leary was 76.

Toward year's end, we lost Vincent McKusick, the former chief of the Maine Supreme Court. He earned so much respect for his legal mind that the U.S. Supreme Court called on him three times during his retirement to serve as a "special master" on cases. Vincent McKusick was 93.

Don Winslow was on the front line of law enforcement, rising to become chief of Bangor's police department.  Don Winslow died this year at age 57.   

Walter Walsh was also on that front line - in 1937.

Audio from newsreel:  "The main street of Bangor turns into a battlefield.  In front of this sporting goods store, machine-gunning G-men wrote a bloody end to the career of ex-public enemy number one, Al Brady."

Walter Walsh was the last surviving member of the FBI team that took down gangster Al Brady that day. Walsh died at the age of 107.   

Joey Aceto was on the wrong side of the law. A member of the Ray Levasseur gang, Aceto participated in bank robberies and bombings, kidnapping and attempted murder.   Aceto died in prison this year. He was 61.

Betty Cody died this year. Born in Quebec, Cody moved to Auburn as a youngster and grew up to be described as the "number one singer ever to go out of the state of Maine."  

But she turned down an offer from Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, that could have made her a much bigger star.  Betty Cody, who is in the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame, was 92 when she died this year.

Bob Crewe was really a Jersey boy who spent much of his adulthood in Los Angeles writing many of the songs recorded by Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons and others.  But he moved to Scarborough to be near his brother, and that's where Bob Crewe died in September at the age of 82.

Artist Jon Imber thought he'd saved his best for last. "I hope I'll be remembered for my last 50 drawings," he said.

What's poignant about that is that Imber, of Stonington, was talking about painting he did after contracting ALS, the disease that robs movement.  It forced Imber, a right-handed painter, to take up painting with his left hand.  But, in a documentary film, Imber wondered if any of that really mattered.

"I'm a painter, but I'm also a husband and a father and a friend," he said. "My life like that has really felt very full, gratifying, and I don't know if I need to paint to be who I am."

ALS, the disease that most famously claimed baseball star Lou Gherig, took Imber at the age of 63.

One of Jeff Pert's best known pieces of art is about death.  Like his other work, it's pretty funny:  One lobster looks into a lobster pot and says, "Bob, how's the water?" Then, as steam comes up around Bob, his friend shouts, with increasing alarm, "Bob, Bob!"  That, and his other caricatures of Maine wildlife will live on in stores and souvenir shops all over the state.  Jeff Pert was just 55.

Andrew Ian Dodge died even younger:  just 46. But he also started sooner then some on his adult pursuits. "I got involved in politics while at Colby College," he said in an interview, "and have been involved in politics all over the world. Because I believe in enfranchisement and having as many people dictate how they're governed, not fewer. And it disgusts me to see anybody actively say, 'We don't care what you think.' "

You may remember Dodge from his run two years ago for the U.S. Senate.  

The Maine Legislature suffered several losses: former House Speaker Richard Hewes at 87; Paul McGowan, a state representative from York, at 67.  Then, just weeks apart this fall, former Maine House Clerk Millie McFarland and State Senate Secretary Joy O'Brien died. McFarland was 58, O'Brien 60.

Amanda Dempsey died. Her battle with cancer inspired her son, actor Patrick Dempsey. to raise the money to create a cancer support organization at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.  Amanda Dempsey was 79.

Ann Murray Paige was inspired by her breast cancer diagnosis. In 2008, Paige and Breast Cancer Diaries director Linda Pattillo created Project Pink, a non-profit that supports young women with breast cancer. In 2010, after cancer had spread to her lungs, Paige wrote a book, "Pink Tips." And, in 2013, as she was honored as one of Massachusetts General Hospital's "Top 100" cancer advocates, Paige announced to the crowd her cancer had spread even further.

"They told me it's now in my brain and my liver, too," she said. "So, for this last moment, I would like to take off my advocate hat, and I'd like to put on my patient hat" - which was her bald head.  

Ann Murray Paige had been one of us: a journalist who had worked on television at WCSH-TV, and for us here at MPBN.  Anne Murray Page died this year at 48.

Bruce Glasier was one of us, too.  A sportscaster for decades at WCSH-TV, he aimed the spotlight beyond the Boston pro teams to shine it on the Maine school kids who played the same sports and generated stories just as compelling.   Earlier this year, Bruce was inducted into the Maine Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.  Too ill to attend, his son read his acceptance letter, creating the emotional high point of the evening.  Just days later Bruce Glasier died.  He was 69.

Raymond Gross was a newsman who worked at WRKD radio in Rockland and, later, for the Courier newspapers.  He eventually rose to be their editor and publisher and to be president of the Maine Press Association.  Oh, and something else his son told the Portland Press Herald:  His dad loved working 20 licensed lobster traps near his home. Ray Gross was 85.

John Winkin lived a long life and devoted nearly all of it to baseball.  Winkin coached at Colby College, UMaine, and Husson from the mid-1950's all the way to 2000's.  He led UMaine to several College World Series and was the oldest active coach in college sports when a stroke forced him to retire in 2007.  John Winkin was 94.

Richard Rockefeller had a famous name and the money that went with it.  But he made his name through his work, as a physician, both here and abroad, establishing Doctors Without Borders in the U.S.  He used his fortune to aid the causes he believed in, including ocean conservation.   

Last June, Richard Rockefeller had gone to visit his father, retired banker David Rockefeller, for his birthday. Attempting to fly home, Richard piloted his plane into a low fog that shrouded the Westchester County Airport, hit trees nearby and crashed.  Richard Rockefeller was 64 years old.

"Look at that eye. That is not the eye of a lizard. It's not the eye of a mouse.  It is the eye of an elephant." So said Jim Laurita, who had devoted himself to two elephants, creating a haven for them in Hope.  One of his goals, he said, was conservation. "When kids see that native intelligence of these creatures, they realize that this is not like visiting or dealing with a cat or a dog or a horse. This is a fellow, sentient creature who can think."

One day this September, Laurita fell in an enclosure and one of the elephants accidentally stepped on him. Laurita was 56. But he had assured that his charges, Rosie and Opal, would be cared for in the event of his death.  They are now living at an animal refuge in Oklahoma.