CAMDEN – Talented seaweed scientist, gardener, mentor to mushroomers, poet, artist, beloved older brother, father, father-in-law, grandfather and great-grandfather Dimitri James Stancioff took his last breath at home in Camden on Feb. 10, 20121, at the age of 94.
He was by nature a gentleman, in the eyes of all who knew him.
He was born in London on April 18, 1926 to American-born artist and writer Carolyn Marion Mitchell Stancioff and Bulgarian diplomat Ivan Robert Stancioff. The first of seven children, he earned the lifelong admiration of his three sisters and three brothers with his unique blend of playful humor, wisdom, humility, practicality, eccentricity, and tranquility.
His father’s diplomatic career moved the family to Bulgaria when Dimitri was two, then Rome for his primary school, where he liked to recall having had a classmate named Romano Mussolini. His teenage years were in Bulgaria, from which World War II forced his mother to flee with the children to neutral Switzerland to await the end of the war, while his father served in Turkey. There Dimitri finished high school and completed a year at Zurich Polytechnic, by then fluent in French, English, Bulgarian, German, Italian, and Swiss German.
Reunited in 1947 with father Ivan, the Stancioff family emigrated to the U.S., where they thriftily restored an antebellum mansion and gardens in Urbana, Maryland, then generously hosted and entertained countless war-displaced artists, intellectuals and diplomats.
Dimitri attended Manhattan College, earning a B.S. in chemistry in 1950. His sister’s Manhattanville College friend, Charlotte Gaillet, also from a war-time émigré family, caught his eye and they married in June of 1951. Shortly thereafter, he entered a two-year military career, by the end of which the couple had two children. He was employed in Washington, D.C. where a third child was born and Dimitri obtained an M.S. in chemistry from Georgetown University; they then moved to New Bedford, Mass., where Dimitri worked as a chemist at Seaplant Chemical Corporation, and a fourth child was born.
In 1959 the Stancioffs moved to Rockport, Maine, where Dimitri began his 34-year career as a research scientist with Marine Colloids, and then to Camden, where their youngest, Anne, was born. While at Marine Colloids, his work garnered multiple patents in the field of hydrocolloids, notably in early applications of carrageenan. His accomplishments led to travel and recognition through appearances at the annual International Seaweed Symposium and as president of the International Seaweed Association.
Dimitri’s talents encompassed far more than chemistry, however. His terraced gardens with extensive stone walls and his hybrid tulips, rose archways, and colorful perennials were featured in books and magazines. His wit, mild-mannered charisma, and knack for clever and at times bawdy limericks endeared him to party-goers at the sprawling inter-generational gatherings for which the Stancioffs were known during their years of Camden entertaining. Throughout those 50 years, Charlotte and Dimitri’s home was regularly a haven for displaced souls who were welcomed without question and left enriched by their acceptance and gentle guidance. To this day there are many who consider him a second father.
Despite erudite family roots Dimitri Stancioff was unprepossessing and approachable by all, equally at ease with day-laborers and diplomats. His grasp of the big picture led to a tendency toward absent-mindedness, as in the case of when he grabbed his lunch pail only to discover when he got to the car that it was the diaper pail. Rarely was he seen in clothes without holes, rips or paint stains, and often he emerged from the garden with weeds trailing.
“Diado” (Bulgarian for grandfather) to his eight grandchildren, he loved, entertained, teased, taught, welcomed, and even housed them in his later years, in turn earning their love, admiration and devotion.
Dimitri was predeceased by his daughter Elisabeth in 1986 and wife Charlotte in 2011, sister Feodora, brother Peter, and sister Anne. He is survived by his sister Nadejda (Bamby) of Rome, Italy; brother Ivan (Johnny) and his wife Alexandra of Dun Lugas, Scotland; brother Andrew and his partner Randy Chanler of Spruce Head, Maine; son Ivan and wife Lynn of Lincolnville; son Paul and wife Cynthia of Chesterville; son Andrew and wife Esperanza of Camden; daughter Anne (Anci) and husband Jim of Winterport; grandchildren Dimitri and wife Katie, and Lucia Stancioff and husband Benjamin Carr; Elisabeth and Louisa Stancioff; Nadejda and Yani Stancioff; Helena and Sarah Tatgenhorst; great-grandchildren Thea and James Stancioff, and Julian and Rowan Carr; and 36 nieces and nephews in various countries.
A service will be held at a later date, to be announced. Memorial donations can be made to Partners in World Health, 40 Walch Drive, Portland, Maine, 04103, Attn: Elizabeth McLellan.