Bruce Dunham (1937-2023)

11 mins read
Bruce Dunham

AVON – On Thursday, April 6, 2023, Bruce Halstead Dunham passed away at his home in Avon, Maine. His short-lived bout with interstitial lung disease was waged at home in keeping with the wishes of Dunham and his wife, Mary. Home care was provided during his illness by Androscoggin Home Health Care and Hospice, for which Mary expresses her sincere gratitude.

Bruce lived his entire life in Avon, except for his four-year stint in the USAF. He was born at home on the Dunham Farm on July 26, 1937 to parents Maxell and Louise Dunham, brought into the world right on the family’s kitchen table. It has been suggested that the fact that the event took place in the middle of a thunder storm may have had something to do with “determining his disposition”. Bruce was predeceased by two younger siblings, Lorayne (Dunham) Gordon and Clark. As a farmer’s son, some of his favorite pastimes were hunting and fishing in what spare time he had.

Bruce attended grade school in Phillips and high school in Strong, after which he joined the Air Force. He served as a load and balance technician on the 124 cargo planes. He was stationed in Dover, DE all four years.

On one of his cargo trips to England, Bruce met a hometown friend, Corydon Hardy, who was then a pilot in the Navy. They happened to meet in Mindenhall, England. Both were happily surprised to run into one another in such a distant place.

While right on the tarmac, Corydon invited Bruce to his home in Tom’s River, NJ. This is where Corydon and his wife, Mim, would introduce Bruce to his wife-to-be, Mary (nee York).

Bruce was discharged in November, 1959 and returned to Avon. He guided summers at Big Island Camps in Eustis and worked locally at lumbering the rest of the year.

Mary came to Avon in the summer of 1960. They were soon engaged and were married on October 15, 1960 at the Strong Methodist Parsonage. They purchased their first home, a one-room cabin, on the Mt. Blue Pond Road.

They had lived there only a short while in their Mt. Blue cabin before Bruce took a job as herdsman at the Brackley Farm in Freeman. It was1963 when the Dunhams returned to their cabin in Avon.

The Dunham’s first child, Christopher, was born in July of 1965. Five years later, the couple built an addition when Mary became pregnant with their second child. Their daughter, Suzanne, was born in December of 1970.

In 1980, Bruce and Mary purchased lobster equipment and Dunham’s Lobster Pot was established right at their home. Clams, oyster, mussels, and fish were all available. At one point, the business had become so successful that the Dunhams had to increase their weekly trips to the coast for lobsters and clams to twice a week. Their purchases grew from one crate of lobsters and a bushel of clams/week to two tons of lobsters and fifteen plus bushels of clams every other week. By then the business was servicing all the restaurants in Rangeley and Mary was selling out of the truck four days a week.

Eventually, the Dunhams also sold ribeyes, whole or sliced, with or without the “secret seasoning”.

By this time, Bruce began doing cookouts for people.

“Large numbers of people never scared him,” Mary recalled as she remember one of the cookouts for Boise Cascade. They served three shifts when the mill had special occasion to celebrate no accidents in that year. 1800 pounds of lobster were cooked.

“It was quite a feat,” she said and explained that Bruce always cooked with wood.

Bruce eventually dug out a little pond on their property.

One spring, Bruce bought trout eggs from the Fish Hatchery on Toothaker Pond Road and Dunham’s Pure Water Hatchery opened for business. It was the only one in the state that raised trout and also had a fee fishing business that allowed people to come and fish right on the property.

Dunham’s was also the only such location in the state that never had a problem with disease.

“It was so good that he could’ve shipped anywhere in the US,” Mary recalled, but that would have involved computers and more record keeping, which Bruce decided wasn’t for him.

He soon began “stripping” his own trout to fertilize the eggs. He bought salmon for the pond, as well, and placed a dispenser, “kind of like a peanut machine”, filled with fish food. This allowed visitors to buy a controlled amount of food. This was yet another example of Bruce’s “Yankee ingenuity”. He sold stock to other pond owners, as well.

“It was a fun place to visit,” Mary said, adding that she used to have Gwen Augusten’s Halfway Down the Stairs Nursery School come on field trips to see the whole business. Nursing homes also visited to give residents the opportunity to go fishing. Bruce never charged for such occasions as this.

Smoked salmon was yet another product for sale.

“People came from everywhere for that,” Mary noted, “It was good!”

And lobsters could be packed for people traveling on planes or to be overnighted to more distant locations.

“We UPS-ed them,” she explained.

One of Bruce’s favorite things was the cookouts every summer. During Phillips Old Home Days, these events were held on Friday after the parade and on Saturday.

“Sunday was time to rest!” she declared.

Bruce sold the lobster pot business in 2004, at which time he retired and the couple built a new house up on Mt. Blue.

In addition to running the lobster pot, Bruce was especially active in snowmobile racing and horse pulling. He won many awards in both competitions.

Bruce competed in both oval track racing and cross country racing with his snow machine. His specialty was cross country, a grueling competition. Once, he had cut his hand logging during the week, but was still strong enough to hold the handle bars and win that particular race.

He traveled the USSA (US Snowmobiling Association) Circuit throughout New England, racing for Timberland Machines. He also raced one year for RODCO and Arctic Cat. He wore the #13, which may have worked against him during one particular competition in Lancaster, NH.

Bruce had a chance to win the trophy at that event. Being his third win in a row, he would get to take home the huge award. Could the 13 have jinxed him? He broke a ski lag right on the home stretch.

Additionally, he won second place in the Players’ World Snowmobile Championship held in Montreal, Canada in 1967. In 2017, he was inducted into the Eastern Snowmobile Racing Hall of Fame in Lancaster, NH. Racing from 1963 – 1975.

He was a member of the USSA Drivers’ Committee. He won over 400 first, second, and third place trophies in twelve years of professional snowmobile racing. This included winning nearly every major championship in New England more than once.He was second in points competing against an estimated 5,000 active drivers in the eastern USSA. In 1971, Bruce won seven out of nine cross-country races and took second in the other two.

He received the Grand Prix Pioneer Award in 2015 and was honored in the State of Maine in 2016 by the House of Representatives.

Bruce was also active in Town of Avon business. He served as constable for 59 years. One of his most exciting experiences was the capture of two burglars.

Bruce got a call one night from Bob Sanders, owner of the variety store on route 4 in Avon. Sanders, who lived right across the street, called to inform Bruce that someone was breaking into the store. They did not get far. Bruce apprehended them just down the road.

Bruce is survived by his wife, Mary, and their two children, Chris, who was born in 1965, and Suzanne, born in 1970; a son, Robert, from a prior marriage to Beverly Wright of Jay, and his two children, Logan and Lacey. Grandchildren are Max and Ben Dunham, Chris’s sons; and Sullivan, Amos, Tate, and Clara Abbott, Suzanne’s children; and one great-grandson, Ben’s son, Easton.

A memorial service will be held in the summer, as close to Bruce’s birthday as possible.

“He loved his birthday,” Mary declared.

The exact date and time will be announced when finalized. Plans for a community potluck picnic will also be forthcoming.

Dan and Scott’s Cremation & Funeral Service will make the final arrangements. Rev. Susan Tierney will officiate.

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  1. Mary, My deepest heartfelt condolences to you and your family. on the passing of Bruce. He was quite a joker for sure. May the Creator walk with you on this sad time.

  2. Mary and Family,
    We are so sorry for your loss. We have many memories of good times with you and Bruce…Halloween parties, Old Home Days get togethers, cookouts, and just plain old chats along the way. We hope the memories you cherish will sustain and comfort you in this time of sorrow. Love and hugs to you, ole friends! ~~~ Claire and Arthur

  3. One of the more vivid personalities in the area has left us. Bruce was a remarkable, personable presence who exuded an infectious interest in all that life had to offer.

    The obituary was a well done and authentic tribute that carries off a mission of imparting much of what made Bruce a distinctive character.

  4. Mary, We are sorry for your loss. May you and your family draw strength from one another during this difficult time.

  5. Sorry for your loss Mary. We remember many great times visiting at the pond with our children. Bill often speaks of the fishing trips with Bruce and the crew. RIP Bruce.

  6. So sorry to hear of Bruce’s passing, heart felt condolences to you and your family. Bruce was one of the most colorful people I have ever met.

  7. Condolences to you and your family , such found memories when I first moved here . Heading to the lobster pot for seafood and the best steaks was such a treat !! Then to take the kids to the fishing pond was always a added bonus . May he rest in peace

  8. Sincere condolences Mary to you and the family. Bruce sure was “one of a kind!”

  9. Sincere condolences. remember so many great meals at Dunams. Lobster Pot.

  10. So sorry for your loss Mary, Bruce was a true leader and we will all miss him very much Although we haven’t seen much of each other’s over the years, we have always kept a deep pride & love for Bruce’s endeavors.
    May you rest in peace my friend.👍🙏🙏🙏🇺🇸

  11. I met Bruce many years ago when my fishing and hunting buddies rented the cabin on the pond where he kept the boat he called the “Queen Mary”. I was the pilot that flew in from NJ. That was before I bought my place in Rangeley. He was a very special person and great camaraderie between us. The obituary is a perfect tribute to him. The Lord broke the mold after he was born. May the Lord comfort you Mary and your family. RIP Bruce.

  12. Mary and family,
    I formed a bond with your family with a litter of puppies including slick and Jake . Suzanne and Chris were great fun with the puppies. A Big Island connection, Joe Holman, asked me to work with a couple who were logging with horses on his property on Rangeley Lake.
    This forester enjoyed working with three generations of Dunham’s. Your son Chris and grandson Max continue in the outdoors tradition of making a living from the land. I’m sorry for your loss but the stories will not quit

  13. Mary and Family,
    So sorry to hear of Bruce’s passing. I have many memories of “Dunham’s” growing up and then bringing my own boys up to fish! You’ve given a wonderful account of his incredible life! May you find comfort in your memories. Kim Lambert O’Leary

  14. Mary and family , sincere condolences for your loss . I personally didn’t know him well, however, your glowing tribute to him makes me realize what an interesting person he was . Mary may you find peace and comfort as you start this new journey, you are never alone. Jesus is always with you. May you also find strength and comfort knowing your many, many friends and family hold you in their hearts and prayers. God bless you .

  15. Jo and I would like to express out condolences to you Mary and family, i could say alot about your husband Mary, but i will just leave it with “He was a hell of a guy” he will be sorely missed

  16. Hugs for Mary and family. I am so sorry hearing of Bruce’s passing. He was a very competitive person and loved people. Will be missed.

  17. Prayers to the entire family, and the community, Bruce was a wonderful man and as a child enjoyed going with my grandfather,Silas cook to Bruce and Mary’s,in which we may return home with anything from lobsters ,horse harness, or snowmobile parts, he truly will be missed.

  18. Mary and family I am so sorry to hear of Bruce passing . One of my fondest memories was helping on the addition on the camp while waited on orders to go to Viet Nahm. We worked , We drank,We partied And the next day we did the same thing . The old saying “The good die young was proven wrong with Bruce He raced ,lumbered he did it all and he lived to be a man I am proud to call friend . He will be missed.

  19. Mary and family I am so sorry to hear of Bruce passing . One of my fondest memories was helping on the addition on the camp while waited on orders to go to Viet Nahm. We worked , We drank,We partied And the next day we did the same thing . The old saying “The good die young ” was proven wrong with Bruce He raced ,lumbered he did it all and he lived to be a man I am proud to call friend . He will be missed.

  20. It was awesome knowing the family when I was a little girl growing up. Thank you for always being so kind to me.

    Wendy (Bachelder) Crowell

  21. Mary & family
    So sorry to hear about Bruce.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  22. Sending sincere condolences to you, Mary, and your family. We didn’t get to know you or Bruce well, but it sounds like he had quite the interesting and varied life and gave much to his community. A life well-lived!

  23. I remember Bruce at his Lobster Pot where my family visited quite frequently!
    Yes his smoked salmon was the best & at a very reasonable price. Bruce will be sorely missed, my sincere condolences to Mary & family.
    May you R.I.P. Bruce

  24. Mary & Family, So very sorry for the passing of Bruce. I am remembering many wonderful times where we all celebrated different occasions and certainly enjoyed being with everybody. God be with you all. Sending Prayers and Love to you and your family🙏🙏💝🙏🙏

  25. Back in the early Sixties my father bought the first two Bombardier snow-mobiles to be imported into the United States thinking they would be useful in cruising wood-lots for his business. Since they weren’t and my oldest cousin was a real “gear head” Dad gave them to my cousin who immediately started to “soup” them up to go faster and ultimately ran into Bruce at competitions.
    My teen-age cousin was at a cross-roads in his life at that time and Bruce & Mary generously invited him into their home where he tinkered with Bruce’s snow-mobiles for a couple of years and found his footing as a person and a first-class mechanic.
    It says a lot about the kindness and generosity of a young couple with children of their own to invite a young stranger to live and grow with them,

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