Community remembers Ken Bailey
Bailey, who graduated from Camden-Rockport High School, was not a stranger to much. Bailey served on the Camden Board of Selectmen from 1972 to 1977 and then again from 1980 to 1982.
He was a member of the town's fire department from 1976 through 1988, and director of the parks and recreation department from 1987 to 1992, and since 1984 served as the town dam agent, reserve officer for the police department, and inland harbormaster for Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Union.
Camden Police Chief Randy Gagne, who grew up in Camden, has known Bailey since he was a child. Bailey was affiliated with the police department for more than 25 years and Gagne has been on the force for 24 years.
Gagne said Bailey was a wealth of information that will never be replaced. Bailey knew Megunticook Lake like no other, and Gagne said Bailey could tell how much the lake would rise in correlation to how much rain the area received.
"He had a love for life like no one I've ever seen. He lived more in those four years (after his diagnosis) than most people live their whole life," Gagne said.
Bailey also had a creative side: serving as managing editor, outdoor editor and sports editor at The Camden Herald and Courier Publications, often filling pages of the newspapers with photographs of folks with their big catch, a moose, fox, bald eagle or other wild animal sighting. He continued to serve as outdoor editor for VillageSoup and Courier Publications until his death.
"Ken was one of the most wonderful human beings I have had the privilege of knowing. He was kind, understanding, compassionate, and above all, genuine. He accepted any personal or professional challenge, no matter how difficult, without hesitation. He led by example and his passion for the great outdoors was unequaled. He gave me my start in the media business 30 years ago with an internship at The Camden Herald. His wonderful sense of humor, unwavering positive attitude and even temperament will be missed. My respect for Ken is as high as for any person I've known. His long battle with illness demonstrated, on a daily basis, his courage, determination and love of life. He touched the lives of so many and for that he will never be forgotten," said Ken Waltz, Courier Publications LLC sports director.
Sharon Goodspeed James, who also worked with Bailey at The Camden Herald, said she first met "Kenny" — as she has always called him — in 1981 or 1982 when she was sent to do a human interest story on Bailey, who at the time was the owner of Hodgman's Shoe Store on Main Street in Camden.
She said the two hit it off and on the way out of the store, she made a crack about the job not being all that bad because he gets to measure women's feet and look at their legs all day.
"From that day on and to this day, he always called me 'Legs,' and I'm a grandmother now so I always loved that," Goodspeed James said.
One year for the annual Megunticook Lake Ice Out Contest, she said, Bailey dragged her and former circulation director Donna Culbertson out to Barrett's Cove and had them pose in their swimsuits, while they "froze their behinds off," for a photo for the newspaper.
"We all went our separate ways and we stayed in touch over the years. There will never be another guy like Ken, he was the sweetest guy. He loved Sandy and loved his kids,” Goodspeed James said.
Former co-worker Diane Norton said: “I was fortunate to work with Ken for many years at The Camden Herald and then Courier Publications. He was a versatile and talented writer and outdoorsman with a great sense of humor and ever-present smile. Most importantly, he was a caring friend to many and always managed to deflect concern for himself away while making those around him feel special.”
Bailey also is celebrated as the man who "hatched the brilliant idea" of the U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl, where the Ken Bailey Timing Shed now stands in his honor. He served as the voice of the nationals, announcing the teams and their times. He also served as coronation emcee for the Maine Lobster Festival for 22 years before retiring in 2007.
Bailey also was a Master Maine Guide and ran Wilderness Ways Guide Service since 1978 and served as the Executive Director and Lake Warden for the Megunticook Lake Watershed Association. On Narrows Road in Lincolnville, drivers and boaters alike can find the Ken Bailey Bridge, which spans the spot that Megunticook Lake and Norton Pond connect.
Hope town administrator Jon Duke said he has known Bailey his entire life. He said when he was 4 years old he first saw Bailey take the stage to emcee the Camden fireman's muster talent show and saw being on the stage can be an enjoyable place.
"As a local, Ken set the standard for all of us who didn't leave after high school but instead stayed in our hometown and try to make this area a better place to be," Duke wrote in an email.
As a kid standing on that stage with Bailey at Camden Opera House, heading over to the Snow Bowl to sign up for summer recreation at his office, being interviewed for an internship at The Camden Herald, or even getting a visit from the patrol boat on Megunticook Lake to make sure all the kids had their life jackets on, Bailey was there for all of it, Duke wrote.
Duke said it gave him great joy to honor Bailey by dedicating the Hope Annual Town Report to him just a month ago. Emotions rose to the surface that day for everyone at the town office, but it felt like the least that could be done to thank someone who has done so much for so many, he wrote. The flag at Hope Town Office is flying at half staff in Bailey's honor.
"Today, our area is a sadder place because there is a hole there that we cannot fill. Ken Bailey filled all those roles for us and they aren't making more Ken Baileys, but I'd like to think each of us who knew Ken are trying to take our own little piece and do our part to make our community better," Duke concluded.
In 2008, Bailey was named Townsperson of the Year by Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce. That same year, the Camden Annual Town Report was dedicated in his honor and in June of this year, Hope also dedicated its town report to Bailey.
Bailey is survived by his wife Sandy, two children — Aaron and Michelle — and several grandchildren.
"Ken's wonderful sense of humor, kindness, generosity of spirit and ability to touch the lives of everybody he knows has made him a Midcoast legend," Goodspeed James wrote in the dedication for Bailey in the 2012 Hope town report.
The Camden Herald Reporter Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.