Legendary sardine canner, face of Stinson closure, dies at 82

The past few years have brought a lot of changes to the quiet coastal village of Prospect Harbor, the most significant of which have involved the former Stinson Seafood processing plant.

The plant was the last remaining sardine canning factory in the country when Bumble Bee Foods decided to shut it down in April 2010. Live Lobster of Chelsea, Mass. tried to revive the facility the following year as a lobster processing plant, but their efforts fell short when its primary lender decided to pull the plug. Now, Maine Fair Trade Lobster is trying to make of go of it.

The sardine cannery had operated in Prospect Harbor for more than 100 years and no one was there longer than Lela Anderson, a local resident who worked at the plant for more than 50 years before losing her job when Bumble Bee left town. On Oct. 13, at the age of 82, Anderson passed away at her home in nearby Corea, which for many represents the passing of an era almost as much as the closure of the sardine factory itself.

“Her face and lengthy career was almost as synonymous with Stinson’s as the 20-foot fisherman outside of the factory,” one local resident told me, referring to the plant’s iconic metal sign.

Lela’s decades of work for Stinson Seafood was noted by news media organizations that reported on the plant’s 2010 closing. The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies interviewed her, as did the Associated Press, Yankee magazine, and others.

The BDN was among them. “In a way it was a surprise,” she told a BDN photographer the day after the plant’s closure was announced. “In a way it wasn’t. I’ve made a lot of friends, a lot of different people [at the cannery]. I’ve seen a lot of changes.”

Here’s some pieced-together raw footage I shot of Lela working at the sardine plant on its final day of operation, April 15, 2010:

For a longer, more produced video about the plant’s closure, click here.

Bill Trotter

About Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors. He writes about fisheries, marine-related topics, eastern coastal Maine communities and more for the BDN. He lives in Ellsworth. Follow him on Twitter at @billtrotter.