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A president and a first lady among Mainers who died in 2018

December 31, 2018
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FILE - In this June 12, 2012 file photo, former President George H.W. Bush, and his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, arrive for the premiere of HBO's new documentary on his life near the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. The former first lady died on April 17 at age 92. The former president died on Nov. 30 at age 94. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A president and first lady who spent summers in Maine, an enigmatic and reclusive artist, a man who popularized Down East humor, a poet who chronicled the final resting places of bards, and an ice cream company founder are among notable Mainers who died in 2018.

Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, were the patriarch and matriarch of a famous political family.

The Bushes had long ties to Maine, spending summers at their seaside home in Kennebunkport where they hosted family, friends and world leaders. Inside their home, Bush kept a plaque engraved with the letters “CAVU,” the acronym for perfect flying weather, “Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.”

“This is our anchor to the windward. This is where our memories are. This is where I’ve been coming all my life and will remain to our last days,” the former president said.

She died April 17 at 92. He died Nov. 30 at 94.

Other notable deaths in Maine in 2018:

— Robert Indiana created the “LOVE” series that’s instantly recognizable around the world. Born Robert Clark, the artist found fame in New York City before moving to Vinalhaven, Maine. Indiana died May 19 at age 89 at his home in a converted Odd Fellows Hall, on Vinalhaven Island. His will seeks to transform the home into a museum to display his work.

— Bob Bryan was half of the comedy duo behind “Bert and I,” a 1958 comedy album that shaped Maine’s humor and image. Bryan and the late Marshall Dodge created their humor in a Yale dorm room. The jokes were uttered in exaggerated Down East accents, and one of their punchlines was, “You can’t get there from here!” He died Dec. 12 at his home in Quebec at 87.

— Walter Skold created the Dead Poets Society of America while using Freeport, Maine, as a base of operations. Skold visited the final resting places of more than 600 poets before his death Jan. 20 at age 57 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, where he’d moved. He died little more than a month after commissioning his own poetry-inspired tombstone.

— Randall Gifford ran a milk business in Connecticut before moving to Maine in 1971 to begin making ice cream at a small dairy in Farmington. He and his wife later moved to Skowhegan, where Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream is currently based. Gifford’s sells 1.7 million gallons of ice cream a year and has five family-owned and operated stands. He died May 21 at 90.

— Peter R. D’Errico led the Bangor International Airport to commercial success in the wake of the Dow Air Force Base closure. Tony Caruso, the current airport director, called him “the father of the airport” after leading the airport for two decades. The Air Force veteran and former city councilor died at his Bangor home on July 11. He was 87.

— Irving Isaacson was a World War II soldier who spied for the forerunner of the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services. He was trained to parachute behind enemy lines and helped the Dutch resistance. Later, he spied on the Soviets in an unofficial capacity, which he recounted in the book. He died March 28 at 102 in hospice care in Auburn.

— Merton “Mert” Henry was a Republican attorney, World War II veteran, political adviser, and Bowdoin College trustee who served as chairman of all of Republican Susan Collins’s U.S. Senate campaigns. Long before that, he was an adviser to the late Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith. He also was a trustee when Bowdoin voted to allow women to attend. He died April 6 at 92.

— Bangor native Thomas Walsh built one of the largest hotel companies in the world. He founded Ocean Properties, which owns more than 100 hotels including many of New England’s most notable: The Samoset Resort in Rockport, the Bar Harbor Regency and Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, New Hampshire. He died Oct. 6 at 88.

— John F. Sullivan Jr. served as president of Bath Iron Works at a time when employment more than doubled and the shipyard was sold to Congoleum. The backlog of work grew to more than $1 billion during his eight-year tenure. Sullivan, who retired from the shipyard in 1983, died May 13 at 93 in Brunswick.

— Gerard Conley was former Maine Senate president, Portland mayor and chairman of the Maine Turnpike Authority. While leading the turnpike authority, he oversaw a 30-mile highway widening project and installation of the EZ Pass system. He died Jan. 4 at 88.

— Veteran Bangor Daily News reporter Chris Cousins led Statehouse coverage and was known for his big heart and spirit. An editor said that his response to each and every assignment, even difficult ones, was, “I am not afraid.” He died Aug. 15 at age 42.

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Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York. contributed to this report.

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