WILTON – James W. Bacon (1934 – 2022) Son, husband, father, brother, grandfather, uncle, cousin, friend … James Wright Bacon filled many roles in his 88 years.
In the early hours of May 19, 2022, surrounded by his loving family, James gently and quietly stepped over the threshold into eternity to be with his Lord and Savior, leaving behind – as we all will – a legacy of victory, defeat, joy, and heartache. He was at once simple to know yet too complex to understand, extremely personable but deeply introverted, bright in intellect while economical in deep emotional expression.
Though operating around a core character, James revealed different sides of his multifaceted persona, depending upon the individual with whom he interacted. He was the living example of the ancient Buddhist parable of the traveling wise men who had never seen an elephant (Upon coming to a village, a Buddhist monk allowed each of the wise men to learn of the creature only through touching one part while blindfolded. When reunited, each man described his own experience with absolute confidence. One believed it was a fan (ear), another thought it was a spear (tusk), a third a tree (leg), yet another was convinced it was a wall (body). All were certain their interpretation of the animal was the truth, leading to a heated debate. The monk intervened, explaining that all were correct and all were wrong. None had experienced the elephant in its entirety yet each were strong in their conviction of their perceived reality). And so it was with James Bacon and all who encountered him.
Born at his Aunt’s house in Norridgewock on Jan. 22, 1934, James was the second child and only son of Joseph and Thelma (LeBaron) Bacon. James grew up on the family farm in Mercer, Maine, assisting his father with the many responsibilities of operating a successful dairy business.
After graduating from Skowhegan Area High School in 1952, James continued working with his father for three years, during which time he decided to join the U.S. Air Force. He served as an Air Traffic Controller from 1955 – 1959, training at Sampson AFB, NY and Keesler AFB, MS before being permanently assigned to Loring AFB near Limestone (His “claim to fame” was talking with actor and pilot Jimmy Stewart on the radio when Stewart was on-approach to Loring during a training mission in 1957).
He married Rosalie A. Rowe of Norridgewock on June 15, 1957 and the two resided in Caribou for the remainder of his tour of duty, having their first child, Linda, in the military hospital.
After the expiration of his enlistment, they returned to central Maine where James took over the family farming business in Mercer and the two of them continued growing their family to six children – three boys and three girls – by 1972. Along with being a farmer, James took on other roles during this time: Mercer Road Commissioner, SAD #54 School Board Member, Town Selectman, among other business ventures, such as hauling hay and running a small contracting operation with his own equipment. They remained on the Bacon Homestead until 1977 when they sold the farm and moved to Norridgewock.
It was then he began doing what he truly loved: being an owner-operator as a proud member of the trucking industry. He would come home from his cross-country trips and regale the family with stories of long sleepless runs crossing the vast open prairies and deserts, tense encounters with State Police at weigh stations, the chaos of New York City, and the grandeur of the Montana Rockies. Each time the stories were retold, they became a bit more embellished and we all enjoyed ribbing him that we had heard these stories a dozen times already. It was on the open road where he discovered a new-found freedom as well as a special type of loneliness. It was also where his marriage crumbled.
Divorced in 1984, James remarried in 1985. Though now having a regular travel companion, that marriage, too, dissolved by the early ‘90s. James continued to drive over-the-road, though less often, driving more miles on Maine logging roads than on the concrete Interstates. This vocational shift led to the beginning of another long-term relationship, residing most of that time in his hometown of Mercer.
However, this relationship also ran its course. In 2000, after more than 15 years apart, James and Rosalie reunited, sold her home in Norridgewock and converted the seasonal camp into a year-round residence on Pleasant Pond in Caratunk. While there, he earned the close friendships of three neighbors with whom he kept in contact throughout the year: Art Brown, Clarence “Ham” Hamilton, and Donnie Baker. He would care for their lawns in the summers and keep their driveways and camp roads plowed through the winters.
He recognized that his days driving log truck were soon ending, so he went to work for Northern Outdoors, the renowned rafting company in The Forks, driving bus that carried Kennebec River rafters to the put-in at Harris Dam. It was during this three-season job when he satisfied his socializing thirst, chatting with other Northern Outdoors employees, joking with the rafting customers, and teasing his employer, Suzie Hockmeyer.
Over the long winter, he enjoyed making daily telephone calls to his sisters, Donnie in Connecticut, Ham in Bangor, and Art in New York City, giving weather and temperature reports, and news garnered from his other calls. He also busied himself by working up his own firewood with family’s assistance, serving as Caratunk Town Selectman, and even as a Volunteer Fireman for the town of West Forks.
By 2012, due to natural aging and an inability to continue driving commercially, he and Rosalie began spending the winter months at the home of their second daughter and husband’s residence in Wilton. Despite his appreciation of his daughter’s hospitality, James always looked forward to returning to the peacefulness and familiarity of “camp” at Pleasant Pond. No longer able to regularly socialize with co-workers or chat on the C.B., he would occasionally steal away to Berry’s General Store in West Forks, making small talk with customers and exchanging tales with various locals and the owner, Gordon Berry.
James belonged to Lebanon Lodge #116 of the Ancient Free & Accepted Masons in Norridgewock for more than sixty years, where his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had been raised before him, and where he raised two sons and a grandson.
He was also very proud of his service to his country and carried a quiet pride for having his three sons follow in his footsteps, all serving in the Air Force like him. His patriotism ran deep and his eyes would well with tears when watching WWII documentaries or movies. He also beamed with great pride at the academic and professional accomplishments of his three daughters. James lived a full life the best he knew how and though saddled with guilt and regret for past decisions, he did not speak of them late in life, choosing instead to relish moments with his grandkids, enjoying any dog or cat in his presence, and injecting a comical quip into any conversation. Though never exposing his entire “elephant-ness” to anyone – including himself – all who engaged him left the encounter a bit richer for having met him. His absence will be profoundly felt by his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, sisters, extended family, and numerous friends and neighbors.
He was predeceased by his father, Joseph Bacon in 1966, mother, Thelma (LeBaron) Bacon in 1980, and his beloved dog, Tiki in 2010.
He leaves behind to celebrate his life his wife Rosalie Rowe Bacon of Wilton, six children: daughter Linda (Richard) Quimby of Norridgewock, son James F. Bacon and companion Stephanie Connolly of Mercer, son Blaine (Sandra) Bacon of Skowhegan, daughter Beth (James Smith) Hartsock of Wilton, son Daniel Bacon of Lincoln, Illinois, daughter Bettina (Everett Spaulding) Richard of Wilton, 19 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, three sisters, and nieces, nephews, and cousins too numerous to recount.
James will be cremated and his interment will take place at the Northern Maine Veterans’ Cemetery in Caribou, Maine. Date and location of his memorial service will be forthcoming. Memories may be shared in his book of Memories at www.wilesrc.com. Cremation care has been provided by the Wiles Remembrance Center of Farmington.