CAMDEN – Marine illustrator, builder, craftsman, teacher, harmonica player, sailor and oarsman, Samuel Manning, Camden Maine, cast off and died gracefully at his home at 12:08 a.m. July 9, 2019. The town clock rang at the moment of his passing, welcoming him in his transition to his next great adventure.
Sam is survived by his wife Susan Manning and daughters Erika Manning and Hilary Manning as well as by a wonderful and caring community of friends.
Sam grew up during the Great Depression and spent his youth on Sunny Meadow Farm in Robertsville, Connecticut, established in 1937 by his mother as a work study farm for wealthy young boys and girls. Sam began his love of carpentry at Sunny Meadow Farm and he was taught true craftsmanship and construction skills through several mentors – skills he employed throughout his life. A pond at Sunny Meadow Farm and summers at Fairfield Beach, CT captivated him and cultivated his love of the water. His life on the farm during the depression taught Sam to use what was available and he remained resourceful throughout his life.
In 1943 gas rationing due to World War II and a series of family events made remaining on the farm difficult for Sam’s family. Sam’s mother and stepfather drove Sam and his sister Penny across country via the infamous Route 66 to Newport Beach, CA, where Sam became a Sea Scout. Sam’s love of the water grew to a lifestyle – beginning when and he and his Sea Scout friends built their own diving suit with air fed helmet and used derelict dinghy’s to play in the surf.
As Sam grew older he worked summers sailing in Newport Harbor as a deck hand on the 75’ wooden yacht “Sirocco” previously owned by Errol Flynn.
After high school, Sam moved back to the east coast where he enlisted in the Navy for a year and was assigned aboard DDG Sarsfield a destroyer operated in Key West.
As a quartermaster striker, Sam taught himself navigation by spending leave time up in the bridge studying and becoming proficient in the art of navigation.
Following his first enlistment, Sam worked a year at Nevens Yacht Yard on City Island, New York and at Derecktor’s Yard in Mamaroneck, New York Sam returned to school where he spent a year at Bowdoin College studying to be an engineer. Due to the Korean war, Sam was called back to the Navy for two additional years with a fleet cruise up to Thule North Greenland in an LST.
When Sam returned to Bowdoin after his second stint in the Navy, he caught up with his friend Bob Peary (son of Admiral Robert Peary who is best known for reaching the geographic North Pole with his expedition in 1909). Bob had found a 23’ dory frozen in the sand at Reid State Park Beach and didn’t have to convince Sam to chop her out of the ice and sand. Sam rebuilt her and in the summer of 1955 Sam and a Navy buddy, Don Loomis, rowed and sailed to Cape Breton Island, Canada with a goal of reaching Newfoundland. However, they were thwarted by several storms including the remnants of Hurricane Carol as well as the impending start of the fall term at Bowdoin, and Sam and Don were forced to turn back.
After college Sam was a trainee at American Export Line, a Steamship company in New York. Sam then worked as a Salesman for Alexander Hamilton where he soon became the top New England Salesman in the organization. Though a great salesman, carpentry was his calling and Sam transitioned to work as a carpenter for Hobbs, Inc., Custom Luxury Home Builders where he was quickly promoted to foreman.
A self-taught illustrator, Sam’s official career began in a small cabin back in Cape Breton Island, Canada where he and his first wife, Helga spent a year in which Sam honed his illustration skills and contacted the well-known publication Maine Coast Fisherman in Camden, Maine (which became National Fisherman) and was commissioned to submit articles and drawings to the magazine.
Sam’s work with Maine Coast Fisherman brought him to Camden where he was then commissioned to produce six drawings of a schooner called “Silver Heels” which was under construction. After presenting his work, the Naval Architect, Murray Peterson, pronounced them “the best damn drawings he had ever seen.”
Sam moved back to Connecticut with Helga where his daughters were born, but returned to Camden in1969 where he settled in Maine permanently.
In 1972 Sam and Helga divorced and in 1975 Sam met Susan, who became his second wife. Sam and Susan became a harbor fixture, where they rowed and sailed the fourth of Sam’s dory’s almost every day, rain or shine for over 40 years in Camden Harbor and elsewhere.
During the latter half of Sam’s life, he continued his work as an illustrator and authored, co-authored and illustrated several books, and was a frequent contributor to Wooden Boat Magazine and other publications. Additionally, Sam was a gifted Commercial Artist.
Sam and Susan rebuilt a 1930s barn with craftsmanship, skill and care.
In 1998 Sam and Susan were featured in a video documentary, aired on PBS, called Islands In Time part of an Anyplace Wild series. They were filmed as they rowed and sailed over 20 miles of open ocean to the remote Matinicus group of islands.
Sam Manning has left behind an incredible legacy – his simple way of living, his attention to detail, his quality craftsmanship – whether in boat building, house building or furnishings – is meant to stand the test of time. Many of Sam’s illustrations have and will continue to be preserved at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport where future generations can experience the art of craftsmanship carefully preserved in illustration. Perhaps his most powerful legacy is one he was not aware of. Sam was self-taught in most aspects of his life, and he was eager to teach people what he learned. His students, who he would call his friends, have embraced his lessons and his legacy will live on through others and kept teaching us up to the end how to live and how to die with grace.
A service will be announced. Memorial gifts may be made to Coastal Family Hospice, Camden Area District Nursing Association, or to the Soup Lunch c/o United Christian Church in Lincolnville Center. Condolences may be shared with the family at www.longfuneralhomecamden.com. Arrangements are with the Long Funeral Home & Cremation Service, 9 Mountain Street, Camden.
Ronald Emerson Thomas
July 5, 1945 – July 1, 2019
Franklin – Ronald Emerson Thomas, 73, beloved husband, father, brother, and community member passed unexpectedly on July 1, 2019. He was born July 5, 1945 in Guilford, Maine to Charles Thomas and Gladys (Emerson) Thomas.
Ron spent his childhood on the family farm in Dover-Foxcroft, where he honed his skills in all manners of farm life. He and his siblings dutifully performed their chores while also managing to partake in many childhood antics. His mother, Gladys, most certainly had her hands full keeping an eye on six rambunctious boys. In his teenage years, Ron had a paper route, cut wood with his father and brothers, worked for a furniture store and attended Foxcroft Academy where he graduated in 1964. After graduation, like so many young men from Maine, Ron set his sights on Connecticut where there were many job opportunities. He and his first wife, Ellen, packed a Volkswagen Beetle and headed south where Ron would land an apprenticeship that eventually shaped the rest of his life. Ron often shared the story of his walking into a machine shop for the first time, where he first saw a working metal lathe that captured his fascination immediately. His aptitude for math, combined with his desire to learn and strong work ethic, resulted in his moving up quickly in the machine tool trade. Ron then did a stint in the military first serving in the Army, and later the Air Force. Being a true “Mainer”, Ron couldn’t resist the call to return to his home state, ready to take on the machine tool world by storm. He returned to the State of Maine and went to work for GE as a toolmaker. He worked for them about four years. He had also been doing airframe repair and he said that it gave him some great experience. After leaving GE he went to work for Sylvania on the Hogan Road in Bangor. He was the tool room foreman. Things were going pretty good, but he just got bored and decided to go out on his own and opened his own machine shop, R.E. Thomas Machine Co. in 1973 in Bangor. He successfully built a business through long hours doing custom design and contract work for large corporations. In 1985, Ron relocated the business to Hancock, Maine, where he continued custom and corporate work until 2001, when an unexpected opportunity literally walked in the door when a potential customer arrived with underwater marine hardware that he wanted manufactured. Soon after Ron began manufacturing this product, the customer decided he was unable to take it further and offered the sale of his line to Ron. At this point, Ron and Karen raised the money to buy the product line as Ron immediately saw the potential to make vast improvements. It was a perfect marriage; boats, underwater marine hardware, and fishermen. These are all the things Ron truly related to and he dedicated his efforts into designing safe and modernized products as part of R. E. Thomas Marine Hardware. His expertise and preciseness, was matched only by his ability to make all customers feel as though they were his only customer. Ron’s shop had an open-door atmosphere where all were welcome, not only to do business, but to also chat and have a cup of coffee.
Ron had a big, warm smile, super friendly demeanor and absolutely loved to help people. If he didn’t know you, he damn well got to know you, one way or another. Ron was very proud of overcoming alcoholism with the support of AA, and its many members, who came to be like family to him. Ron’s most treasured pastime was fishing. He was always searching for “Timmy Toque”, as Karen called them, while they trolled along on so many of Maine’s gorgeous lakes, their dog Grady by their side. Ron served on boards for both Open Door Recovery and the Franklin Historical Society.
Ron is survived by his wife and sole mate in this life, Karen Macomber. Also surviving him are his two cherished daughters, Heidi Thomas and Ami Simbari; as well as son-in-law Ron Simbari; and step-daughters, Leslee Differ and husband Danny, and Joslyn Brenton and husband Peter. Ron’s grandchildren include Gabriella and Isabel Simbari, Connor Dorr, Jack and Miles Differ, Quinn Kelly, and Clara Brenton. He is also survived by his siblings; Stuart Thomas, David Thomas and his wife Joanne, James Thomas and his husband Bob, Cathie Goodine and her husband Greg, Cindi Lee, and Vickie Parsons, along with brother-in-law, Mark Macomber. Ron was predeceased by his parents, as well as two brothers, Paul and Gerald Thomas and his brother-in-law Danny Parsons. He is survived by many nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Ron’s life will be held on Sunday, August 4, 2019 at the Franklin Veteran’s Club, 4 Cards Crossing in Franklin, ME from 2:00-4:00pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ron’s memory to the Franklin Historical Society’s School House Restoration Project at PO Box 317 Franklin ME 04634. Ron’s passion for old buildings, along with his many vocational skills, enabled this project to get off the ground. His vision will continue to support the ongoing restoration.