Some of the famous and not so famous who left us in 2022

9 mins read

The end of one year and the beginning of another is a customary occasion to pay tribute to those who have joined the “great majority, meaning those who have departed this life and gone as Shakespeare’s Hamlet observed to “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” 

My own snapshots, seen primarily through a Maine based lens, include:


James Brunelle

Reference books that should not be far from the grasp of anyone wanting to know 20th century Maine include the 1978 and 1980 editions of Maine Almanac by James Brunelle. It’s as indispensable a tool to studying the state in mid and late 20th century as is the 4000 entries in Theodore Hodgkins’ 1927 Brief Biographies of Maine is to the century’s earlier years.  

A mere 26 when he put out the book, Hodgkins later became principal owner and developer of Forster Manufacturing Company, which for the 40 years under his leadership until his death became one of the largest employers in Maine. But it’s a book first published the year  Hodgkins died in 1978 by Brunelle that also deserves a prominent place at the table of Maine reference authorities. 

Brunelle, who died January 3rd, was not only the author of the Almanac but also the editor of various Maine humor books along with the Maine Geographic Book of Lists. 

As a feature commentator for some 17 years on  TV’s  Maine Watch – which for much of that time was hosted by now senator Angus King –  and a columnist for various Maine newspapers Brunelle brought a sharp wit but well balanced perspective to public affairs. It was a career  in Maine that spanned some 43 years before his departure to Washington State in 2008.

Through his influential columns and broadcast commentaries he stimulated a revived interest in such earlier Maine writers as Artemus Ward, William R. Pattangall, E.B. White, Harold Boyle and William M. Clark.   

Though his journalism career ended some 14 years ago, thoughts of Maine were never far from his pen. I was among those with  whom he continued a correspondence for the ensuing years until his death.

A few selected  samples:

“I am a WINO,” he wrote me shortly after moving to the Pacific Northwest, “Washington in Name Only.”  

Early in the 2016 campaign he lamented the time he had endured tuning into some of the presidential candidate forums. 

“Putting the candidates in a theatrical setting to play to their own wild cheering sections in a stadium-sized auditorium does not encourage sensible debate, especially with the ‘moderators‘ urging them to enter into personal attacks on each other.”

The sadness he expressed in his last Christmas card to me that “The worst of it for me has been a bad case of stay-at-home boredom,” is surpassed by the wistfulness I felt on his passing a short time later.

He was 86 when he passed away of natural causes this past January 3.       


William P. “Bill” Hardy

In 1977,  the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision which as much as any in history transformed the way that Americans locate legal services. It was Bates v. Arizona, a case that loosened up state restrictions on lawyer advertising.  To be sure, lawyers up until then  had advertised  But the ads rarely mentioned specialties in which they engaged and were limited in attempting to advocate  their prowess.  The lid blew off after  Bates, which opened the way for more assertive  solicitation through modern media promotions, particularly in the lucrative realm of personal injury cases.

The lawyer who  took the lead in this in central Maine was Lewiston’s Bill Hardy who died July 16 at the age of  77. His “We Will Fight for You,” became a theme of the firm that emerged over forty years ago  as “Hardy, Wolf, and Downing.,”  which remains a major force in the mission of representing injured parties seeking redress in the state’s judicial system. 

Though a capable and talented attorney Hardy had the advantage of a media resume that included service as a military film maker in Viet Nam’s Tet Offensive and as a news producer for Boston television.  

His personal stamina had its roots performing chores on the Fletcher Farm in Wilton where he was raised in the 1950’s and early 1960’s before stints at Colby, in Viet Nam, and at U-Maine Law. 

I will  remember Bill for his modest, thoughtful low key private  demeanor, one that stood  in contrast to the baseball bat wielding flamboyance of  the ads in which he projected a somewhat more overt persona.


Edward F. Gorham

He was the face of organized labor in Maine as an executive with the AFL-CIO for some thirty years until his retirement in 2010. His obituary recalled early advice from his mentor, the long time Maine labor titan Ben Gorsky, “Sit down and listen to people of differing opinions and not assume you were right.” 


Neal Trask

This pioneer in developing modern snow making techniques died November 30. A long time resident of Sugarloaf’s Carrasbassett Valley, he co-founded South Portland’s Trask-Decrow Machinery in 1983. The company’s innovative techniques allowed for the kind of vertical turbine pumps now used to provide the thousands of pounds of pressure for snow making at high elevations. Trask’s snow making techniques have had widespread use including the 1998 Winter Olympics.


William Munsey

No person will likely ever match the gate keeper role for higher education in Maine that Bill Munsey achieved. As admissions director first from 1965 to 1980 at Gorham and then for the next 34 years until 2014 at Orono, more than 100,000 entering students passed through the gauntlet of his admissions system. He passed away December 12 at the age of 86.


Kristie Alley

A resident of the Waldo county town of Islesboro for most of the 1990’s, this Emmy Award and Golden Globe winning actress died of cancer at age 71 on December 5. Her best known credit was portraying the career oriented Rebecca Howe in the NBC sitcom Cheers. She appeared in 150 of the series’ episodes beginning in 1983. After Cheers ended its run in 1993 she took title roles in realty shows. These often featured  courageous and candid portrayals of personal challenges in controlling her weight. 


Paul Mills is a Farmington attorney well known for his history and analyses on public affairs in Maine; he can be reached at: pmills@myfairpoint.net              


Print Friendly, PDF & Email