Ben Crehore: Westport Island Renaissance Man
Some thoughts on a life well lived…
As word spread ’round the Island when Ben Crehore passed on June 1 this year, Dennis Cromwell voiced a remembrance that stuck in my head, “He always met us with molasses cookies when we were plowing after a snowstorm. He was a nice man. My wife had him as a teacher in Topsham, my son had him as a substitute teacher in Wiscasset, and he was a Town Father. He’ll be missed.” Those thoughts, in a nutshell, attest to Ben’s range as a human being.
The thoughts and cards that poured in from those whose lives have been touched by Ben filled an “almost-bushel” basket. And today, more than 100 people gathered at his home to say goodbye.
It was generally acknowledged that Ben was a devoted husband of 54 years and a devoted father and grandfather. But, Renaissance man? I came to think so in the days following his death.
When Roger and I arrived at the Crehore’s in the ensuing days to help with some chores, Sandra handed me a 10-pound bag of King Arthur flour, “I’ll never use this; Ben was the baker.” When explaining to Roger what she needed help with, she pulled out notebooks full of carefully written instructions about caring for the house and yard that Ben had compiled in the event he died first. She also pointed out a letter Ben was writing to granddaughter Emily. Then there were the tidbits that popped into Sandra’s head that defined Ben for her: his patience and support in whatever endeavor she chose; the fact that he, not her, named all their children because it was important to him. He gave his son the family name. Daughter Karen — pronounced “Karn” — was named after a woman he admired from New Sweden; “because Ben really liked Maine and the character of the people in it”. Kirsten was named after a Danish heroine from one of his favorite books, The Tall Ships by John Jennings.
Ben lived a civic example, he served as a Westport Island Selectman, participated on town committees, and served as President, Instructor, and always-on-call volunteer for the Lincoln County Rifle Club. He was an avid reader with a collection of books by John Gould, a “soulmate” of sorts, who believed that “humor can make even dullness agreeable”. Ben was a shooting enthusiast; an antique gun afficionado; a Mason; a Revolutionary War re-enactor; a baker; a boater; a detailed planner and organizer; a woodworker, and above all — so integral to who he was — he was a teacher. Although educated and trained to teach math, he was a teacher by personality and temperament in all his life’s roles. He left everyone with a kernel or two to remember him by.
Ben’s life was a life well lived. He gave what he had to give — to his family, his students, and his community. A life well lived doesn’t end with a period; it ends with a comma. His spirit, good example, and contributions will live on.
Like a character in a John Gould story, Ben also left us with a little smile. He died having just hung a target to spend some time with his life-long passion: shooting. One can only think that passing from this world to the next while doing what you love is a blessèd way to pass – unless you knew that Sandra woke with a start later that night remembering words he’d once spoken to her, “I don’t want to die shooting, because I couldn’t stand to leave a dirty gun.”
Photographs from the Lincoln County Rifle Club were taken by Susan Hartford