As I indicated in a story I wrote recently about Ashley Bryan, I have pretty close personal ties to Islesford, Maine, a community on Little Cranberry Island, which is about a mile and a half off the southeastern shore of Mount Desert Island.
Islesford is a year-round community that sees its population swell significantly in the summer, from around 100 in the winter to maybe four times that number. I’ve never been a year-round resident, but for 40 years my family has been among the “summer people” who show up every June and stay through the end of August.
It is where I learned how to ride a bike, where my wife and I got married, and where I’ve experienced many of the more meaningful and memorable moments of my life. These days, I don’t get the chance to visit Islesford as much as I would like, but still I try to get out there a few times each year.
I consider myself lucky to have gotten the opportunity here in 2014 to learn and write about the lives of three of Islesford’s elder residents: Richard A. Alley, 87; Ashley Bryan, 91; and longtime seasonal resident Richard “Dick” Dudman, 96 (pictured in order above from left to right).
I wrote about Richard Alley for the BDN in May, when he finally was awarded the military medals he earned for his service in the Army during World War II.
I wrote about Ashley Bryan for the BDN earlier this month, when a retrospective exhibit on his life and career as an artist was moved from the Islesford Historical Museum to College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.
And also this month, I wrote about Richard “Dick” Dudman – not for the BDN, but an introduction that I read during his Oct. 18 induction ceremony into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame.
I’ve known all these men for decades, but what has left an impression on me this year is what I had not known about them – the challenges they faced, the difficulties they overcame, and the lives they went on to lead.
My lack of prior familiarity with personal details of their lives is not surprising. What is surprising to me is that, by learning and writing about their extraordinary experiences, it has made Islesford even more special to me than it was before. Sometimes time changes things in good, unexpected ways.
I’m grateful I’ve gotten the chance to know these people personally and to write about them professionally, and I know there are others who could be added to this list. Writing these stories has been a reminder to me that many people, especially those who lead long lives, sometimes get to bear witness to amazing moments in history and to have a lasting impact on the lives of those around them.
I have a few more decades before I get to be 90 years old. If I continue to be lucky, and if I make it that far, I might accomplish a fraction of what Richard, Ashley, or Dick has.